Against all odds, and despite a couple of unpredictably predictable miscues, Hunting Buddy and I had quite a time May 3, the opening day of the state’s wild turkey hunting season.
We saw birds. We talked to birds. We watched birds vanish into the woods. And eventually, we found one that agreed to come home to dinner.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is, after all, a hunting story. As such, getting there is more than half the fun. Even if you eventually end up knee-deep in turkey feathers. Even if you end up thinking your neighbors think you’re crazy. Even if.
So, let’s start at the beginning. Not the waking up (everyone has to wake up early to turkey hunt, after all). And not when the owl hooted in the pre-dawn gloom (although that was pretty cool, too).
No, let’s move forward an hour or two, to the point at which both Hunting Buddy and I had begun wondering if we weren’t in for yet another of those days.
You know those days, I bet.
The animals don’t show up. You sit on the cold ground and swat black flies. You hear the distant reports of shotguns, and convince yourself that a hunter a couple miles away has stolen the bird that, eventually, might possibly have wandered into range of your own shotgun.
And then, one of those days turned into something else entirely.
The lowdown turkey thieves had not stolen our bird. In fact, our bird — or birds, as it turned out — were right behind us.
And they wanted to talk.
Man, did they want to talk.
Unfortunately, they did not want to court our very attractive hen turkey decoy. And unfortunately, they did not want to venture within shotgun range.
But they talked. And talked. And talked. Right up until they decided my efforts with a mouth call left something to be desired.
But I was lucky. I was prepared. I moved on to Plan B: The foolproof (or so they say) Extreme Dimensions electronic calling system.
With a push of a button, I could yelp like a girl. I could gobble like a boy. I could scratch for food. I could flap my turkey wings and fly to the ground. And I could crow like … well, like a crow.
Remember that last part.
These calls are manufactured in Hampden by a fellow Brewer High School graduate, Peter Brown, and are impressive. Plug in interchangeable computer chips, and your call can talk turkey … or deer … or moose … or coyote.
Which would have been really cool if I had replaced my batteries after deer season last fall.
So, a couple of hours into our morning, Hunting Buddy and I sat in the forest, staring at a not-too-distant loudspeaker that had come down with a case of battery-induced laryngitis.
Being Hunting Buddy’s self-appointed mentor, (and being eager to blame something on someone else) I made an executive decision.
“Sneak up there and bring that speaker back,” I whispered. “And don’t scare off the turkeys.”
After switching out the batteries and laying the speaker at my feet, I leaned back against my tree, smiled and pushed a button. My speaker yelped, just like a girl turkey.
And in the distance, the boy turkeys gobbled their approval.
At this point, I’d love to tell you that through superb calling and amazing patience and skill, Hunting Buddy and I were able to convince those birds into walking back into view.
I’d like to tell you that we fired two perfectly synchronized shots, and that each of us bagged a bird, and that we staged a seven-course, two-turkey barbecue feast that our neighbors are still raving about.
Unfortunately, I can’t. Those birds never returned. They just stood out there, somewhere, and gobbled. Deep down, I think they were making fun of us.
Fortunately, another bird had other ideas.
For about 10 minutes, we worked the new arrival. We yelped softly. He gobbled … and walked closer. Then he worked his away around us, always just outside of range. Then he stepped close enough, but ended up behind a blowdown.
And then, I did a very bad thing.
Ever so slowly, I reached for the remote control to the (theoretically) foolproof Extreme Dimensions call. Slowly, I felt with my gloved hand for the proper button, the one that would issue a soft, plaintive, seductive “yelp.”
The yelp that would urge the bird onward. Toward us. Toward the tagging station. Toward my table.
I pushed the button. The wrong button.
And my (theoretically) foolproof call did exactly what I asked of it: It blasted the digital voice of a crow.
The turkey, as you might imagine, was not impressed. Neither was I.
Hunting Buddy, however, thought it was hilarious.
Eventually, after Hunting Buddy stopped laughing, I found the right button. Eventually, I yelped. And eventually, the turkey hopped up onto the blowdown, stood proudly, and volunteered for dinner duty.
All of which explains why, last Monday afternoon, I ended up in my backyard, which I had transformed into … well … let’s call it a turkey preparation area.
Which, if you were standing in my neighbor’s backyard last Monday, explains why you might have looked up and seen me standing there, knee-deep in feathers … with every knife I own lined up neatly on a table. It explains the large, dead bird on that table … and the hastily printed Internet instructions on field dressing and skinning a turkey held down by paper weights that looked a lot like knives.
And it explains the bush-loppers.
OK. Maybe it doesn’t explain the bush-loppers.
But it does explain the marinated turkey breasts you may have smelled when I grilled them Tuesday evening.
And it certainly explains why I’ve been smiling ever since.
I do love it when a plan comes together, you see. Or something like that.