Thursday, May 01, 2008

Putting For thThe Effort

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Wild turkeys are sometimes hard to figure. Just about the time you feel really savvy about your knowledge of these fine game birds, they throw you a hard-breaking curve ball, sweeping down and away, and there you are, shotgun across your knees, and no birds to talk to.

Granted, the 30 minutes before sun-up this morning left something to be desired. I knew where the birds were supposed to be, and even though I could smell rain in the damp early-morning cold air and the wind was gusting hard to 20 miles-per-hour, I still felt there was a fair chance of talking a bird to the shotgun.

That’s what thinking did for me. The hunt was over before it began, and none of us knew it. The birds weren’t home. Nobody lives there anymore. It’s time for a change of address but nobody told me about them leaving down like a big-money bail skip.

The wind was gusting, and that never bodes well for hunting, but turkeys unlike deer, can’t smell humans. No danger of being winded by them, but even though I was present for my date with destiny, the gobblers forgot to show up.

There weren’t any hens moving around, and the only birds I heard were crows cawing at daybreak as they always do, and a chickadee that landed on a branch near my right ear and happily serenaded me for five minutes before flitting off.

I hoped the chickadee had something going on but this hunter was set up where I’ve called birds before, and I knew where they roosted, but I never called this morning. My Ben Lee Twin Hen box call, signed by the old legendary master long before his premature death, was at hand. Another great box call made and signed by the famed Dick Kirby was there, and a soft little slate call by Dean Stratton was ready. One of Rick Reed’s new box calls was ready for use.

Hell, if that wasn’t enough, I had a Knight & Hale diaphragm call stuck in my mouth. As it turned out, I could have left them all in my turkey vest for all the good they did me.

It’s the wind and weather, I thought. It’s going to rain on my parade this morning, and I toughed it out in my early morning spot, and when nothing happened and no birds mouthed off, I gathered my calls and went hiking as a light rain fell.

I covered other locations in this mile-square section where I’ve had previous success. I’d cover several hundred yards, set down, let the woods mellow out, and try some soft yelps. Nothing hard and frantic, but just some nice easy yelps that could be heard for 200 yards.

Nothing. I sat back at one point in a soft drizzle, and then went to check some strutting areas when nothing happened. Nada. The birds weren’t in the woods, and they had disappeared from the open field edges when they normally are seen strutting by 8 a.m., and other than a lone deer, the fields were barren and empty.

OK, so the bred hens are probably on their nest, and Tommy and his bearded buddies should be looking for some receptive hens, and I covered more ground. Check out some clover fields in this particular area that were planted for deer and turkeys, and they too were as empty as my sleep-deprived brain.

I kept at it for another hour, and had to quit because of an appointment in town. It was one I didn’t want to miss, and somehow, I got the message that these birds wouldn’t cooperate on this day.

The rain came harder as I trudged over the hills and through the woods, and I stopped just long enough to slip my good box calls into a plastic bag to prevent water damage. I don’t mind getting wet, but would hate to ruin a good call that means more to me than a turkey gobbler.

I can’t say as I collect turkey calls but I have several from great call makers that I know and respect, and in some cases they are only signed. In other cases, like those wonderful calls made by the legendary Dick Kirby, formerly of Quaker Boy Calls, the artwork he draws on his box calls is breathtakingly beautiful and his signature a welcome addition.

My calls stored, I continued to hike, stop, idle away several minutes being motionless and silent, and calling with my diaphragm. Not once, while sitting or walking, did a gobbler sound off or a hen yelp.

The switch had been turned off, and either the birds were snoozing on a limb or had left my hunting area. I’ll try it again tomorrow if the heavy rain holds off, and if tomorrow is a repeat of today, I’m off for a totally different location.

I’ve seen this situation before, and it is often weather related. That’s why it gets another chance, but if that doesn’t work, we turn to Plan B, which is one of my backup hotspots. One hopes at least for a lukewarm reception tomorrow rather than a repeat of today’s cold shoulder.

One can always hope.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/01 at 06:56 PM
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