We hunters spend so much time in the woods studying the habits of critters, we’re virtually guaranteed to cross paths with exactly the animal we’re seeking when hunting season finally arrives.
Or, so we tell you. And ourselves.
The truth, of course, is much different from that. Wild animals are (guess what?) wild. And as such, they’re a bit unpredictable. Therefore (I tell myself, in yet another effort to rationalize my annual deer-hunting failures), it makes perfect sense that come November, these wild animals don’t do anything that I expect they might.
Truth be told, due to a heavy course load during my return to being a full-time student, I didn’t get to spend any time scouting before this year’s hunting began. Didn’t take a step in the woods until a week before the residents-only opener. Not that I got to hunt on that day, either.
Still, I was optimistic when I finally headed into the woods the next week.
And there to greet me as I pulled onto the road that leads to my (sometimes) happy hunting grounds: A pair of healthy-looking tom turkeys, both of which marched lazily across the road, 5 yards in front of my truck.
According to the calendar, it was still wild turkey season — the last day of the season, in fact. But these “wild” animals seemed pretty comfortable, and I’d swear they knew there was nothing I could do to harm them.
First, they were standing right next to a house. Second, I didn’t have a shotgun, which would have been my required weapon if I had been turkey hunting. And third? Well, I think when I scrambled to grab my phone in a vain attempt to snap a photo, the birds might have chuckled a bit.
Wrong place. Wrong time. Wrong weapon. Just plain wrong.
That has remained the theme of my deer season thus far, and apparently I’m not alone. A cousin told me that he had a steady stream of deer coming to his game camera in one location, and was sure he’d be able to bag one of several bucks that kept stopping by (during daylight hours!) and posing.
Then the season arrived. And the bucks haven’t been back since.
On my second Saturday in the woods, the turkeys were back, standing on the side of the road in nearly the same place they’d greeted me a week earlier.
Again, they took their time waddling across the road. Again, I tried to get a photo. Again, I ended up with next-to-nothing — a distant pic of the second bird just before it vanished. And again, I’d swear the turkeys were laughing as they walked into the woods.
Ah, well. That day I did experience a bit of success (or something that I chose to define as successful): I set up a ground blind, and established at least one semi-dry spot to hunker down for the rest of the season.
But since then, I swear the animals have begun to get a bit brazen. You might even say they’re taunting me. OK. You might not say that. But me? I’d certainly say that. And I am.
A few days ago, while relaxing at home, I looked out the window into my side yard and saw that we had visitors. Or invaders. There on a hillside, just 30 yards from my door, were four wild turkeys. That’s not uncommon. But their behavior was. They were, as near as I could tell, playing tag. Or something like that. The burly birds took turns chasing after one another, with first one, then the next, running after their pals. They’d dart 20 yards one way, then regroup, then run 20 yards the other way.
Finally, after a minute or so of that, a couple took wing, flying across the busy road that I live on. Two of the birds decided to hoof it instead, and their decisions to remain on the ground nearly turned them into roadkill. Luckily for them, an approaching car slowed and swerved, narrowly avoiding a collision. While those birds had clearly been taunting me, I’m also quite certain that they were not laughing as they hot-footed it into the safety of the ditch.
But the turkeys don’t have to taunt. They’ve got other animal friends who can pick up the slack, I’m learning.
Just last night, as I took a dog out for a brief walk, I looked across the road toward my mother’s house as my sister turned into the driveway for a visit.
There, in front of her headlights, was a stampede of deer. Two … four … six … “at least eight,” my sister reported. All within rifle range, during hunting season.
Except for a few things, this might have made for a great hunting story: It was after dark … and they were within 100 yards of a house … and hunting with firearms is prohibited in this neighborhood.
All of which serves to sum up this season for me so far: Wrong place. Wrong time.