Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hunting is a Headache

Have you ever done something and moments later thumped yourself in the noggin for doing it?  Have you done it more than once in the same day?
My primary job required me to work opening day of turkey season.  I hate working Saturdays.  However, I had Monday off, and with some smooth talking to my wife, I was allowed to go hunt turkey in my favorite spot.  Ok, it was not the so much the smooth talking as it was me slaving on housework and yard work in order to get the day away for good behavior.
I primarily bow hunt and had never taken a turkey, although I have hunted them for several years.  There are a number of reasons, but I will stick to the fact I usually only get to go once each year.  It seems my wife and two oldest kids happen to enjoy their birthdays in April.  This prohibits many of my weekends from being available to hunt.  Turkey season is primarily in April.
I departed Sunday evening and was sleeping in the truck at Pisgah National Forest so I could be ready for the long beards Monday morning.  The campsite I parked in was just a few hundred yards from the field I would be hunting.  Believe it or not, sleeping in the truck was not half bad.  I last remember looking at the clock on the dash at 11:30pm before dozing into a deep restful slumber.  Around 11:45pm I woke refreshed and ready.  This continued in fifteen minute intervals until around 3am.  The chilly air woke me next.  Everything was a little fuzzy and out of focus, but I did make out 3:30 on the clock.  After starting the truck in order to turn the heat on for a bit, rubbing my face and eyes, and stretching I glanced back at the clock once again.  5:30!  I had to get to the field!
I positioned my blind where a field, a track of woods, and a path all met.  I set up three hen decoys, one in the field, one in the path, and the other where it could be seen from both the field and the path.  I situated myself in the blind, took some measurements with the rangefinder and waited.  Soon I heard several crows cawing, so I made a few hen clucks with my mouth call.  No response.  For the next few hours I would alternate between calling and playing Angry Birds on my muted cell phone.  I had to do something.  There was nothing going on in the field and this could be my only day to hunt turkey this season.  I concluded I could get my things together and make it to another field on the opposite side of the mountain and still have a chance.  I unzipped the back of the blind and walked out to the decoy in the field.  Then I noticed something.  Of course, it is hard NOT to notice a tom, puffed up in full strut less than 40 yards from you.  In less than a second, the turkey let down his puffed chest and fanned tail, and stuck his head as high in the air as possible.  Then it was just legs and dust.  I got up too early and had a tom coming down the tree line in full strut heading straight to my decoys.  All I could do was mumble and thump myself in the noggin.
Ok, the turkeys are there, they just are not gobbling.  I got back in the blind and waited.  I played Angry Birds.  I clucked.  Played more Angry Bird.  Clucked again.  Aha!  There was a hen about 30 yards down the path.  This was a good sign.  I pulled out my camera and videoed her for a few minutes.  The hen started down the path away from my blind and decoys.  No problem, I clucked another sequence.  Out of my peripheral vision to my right, I saw another turkey.  A tom.   Running toward the retreating hen.  It was likely to my right the entire time and I did not notice because I was videoing the hen.  I shook my head, and thumped myself in the noggin.
I waited a bit again.  By this time I am tired of Angry Birds, so I went to Android Marketplace to find something else to occupy my patience.  No service.  Angry Birds it was.  Around 11:30am I decided it was time to pick up and try the other field for the afternoon.  I grabbed my bow, seat, and bag and carried them to the truck.  I walked back up to the field, folded and packed the blind in its bag and turned.  Down the path was another tom.  He did not take off like the others.  He stood there, obviously waiting to see if I would thump myself in the noggin.  I did.  He ran off to laugh at me with the others.
By this point, I was a little disgusted with turkey.  Knowing there are no guarantees when hunting, I planned ahead.  Trout season started the week before, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission had stocked the creek I was hunting near.  I removed the trusty fly rod and headed toward the water.  I could easily see many, many trout.  For the next hour I perfectly landed the lure in the creek where the fish were.  The NCWRC must have done a great job feeding the trout at the hatchery, because they were not interested in what I had to offer at all.  Hey, I had my bow, and I had a bowfishing arrow in the truck!
“Catch anything?” came an unfamiliar and somewhat startling voice.
“Uh, no officer.”  The wildlife officer did the courtesy check of my license and gear.  All was good.  We discussed the different areas of the forest where you could fish and what type of equipment you were allowed to use.  This particular section, he told me was single hook lures only.  Hmmm.  Arrows do not have any hooks…
I received a thump on my noggin.  It was the officer.  I must have been thinking out loud.
So, I bid farewell to the officer and headed to the drug store.  All those thumps to the noggin had given me a pulsating headache!
Learn from your mistakes...Whoever said that probably had a turkey and some trout and was gloating to a poor wretch like me.  Regardless, a bad Monday hunting is still better than working on a Saturday.
Bill Howard is a Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Instructor , a Wildlife Representative and BCRS Program Chairman for the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, and an avid outdoorsman.  Please forward any pictures or stories you would like shared to


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