Thursday, May 11, 2006

The tom slip

My West Virginia turkey hunt-unload the mother-in-law trip proved to be slightly unsuccessful.

No turkeys of the bearded type were had, but the mother dearest was returned to her doorstep in fine order after a very shaky trip. Turns out my truck's front end is in u-joint and tie-rod disrepair. This, in turn, has created cupped tires because my alignment is way off and forever wacked until I make the necessary repairs. This could be awhile because the first estimate I had done tallies more than $500.

When I asked the mechanic how long I could wait, he said, "Oh, geez, until winter." Winter it is. Damn truck.

Anyway, the first morning in the woods found me weary from my trip and slightly disappointed because of the quiet from the surrounding ridges. I went to my old reliable state land spot, which is usually vacant of hunters and loaded with gobblers. But, sadly, not that Friday morning (May 5).

Ended up running into another hunter, who at that time was kicking around for mushrooms near the parking lot. (I now wonder if he was looking for "mushrooms" inside my truck when I happened upon him.) He said he thought the season should come in earlier than the April 24th opening date. The same thing the Wal-Mart clerk told me when I was buying my license. However, the "mushroom" picker was successful, claiming he shot a two-year-old bird with an 8-inch beard. (I'd take that one.)

The next morning, Saturday, May 6, I hit my friend's in Marion County where I've killed three birds over the years. Wasn't sure if my friends were back from their winter home in Arizona but it seemed like they weren't. Saw a strange car parked outside the new gate he installed. Figured it was another hunter. Kind of bummed me out but I perked up when crow cawed and the sky above rang out in a huge gobble. "Right above me," I murmurred to myself. And off I went. It's tough to manuever on a bird like that with light breaking. He's already a million eyes looking for you or whatever it is walking below him. And then, he's straight up the ridge with the best view, and a bear of a climb away at that. No way to be quiet or discreet. So I think he busted me going in. It happens. Part of the hunting game. Time to worry about it is when it happens time after time. Then you have to revise your strategy.

Looking back on it now, I went the way I figured the "other hunter" probably wasn't, which was the most visible to Mr. Tom. Well, the other hunter parked at the gate, turned out to be the landowner who couldn't get past the gate because it malfunctioned.

And it happened on the last hunt I went on behind my house in St. Clair County, Mich. This time it was when I was leaving rather than coming. Had a hot gobbler across the river answering my box call at sunrise. I waited three hours. He never appeared. At one point, I think I heard a gobble from behind my position about 150 yards away.

Guess he crossed where I wasn't.

I did follow up on my hunch by calling a couple of times in the vicinity I last thought I heard him. Nothing. Got up and took two steps toward my house and woof, woof, thack, thack, thack. Up it went from the main trail straight through the wooded canopy.

The turkey retreat. And the hunter retreat. I went back and hit the rack for a few more hours of sleep before work.


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