Friday, April 24, 2015

Unpredictable Tom

They say when the dogwoods begin to bloom, the bass start biting. It brings about another sign as well, and it has nothing to do with fish.

It is the middle of April. This is when that one hunting season that is off on its own, comes around. Yes, this particular hunting season is similar to the outer planets of the solar system. While dove season leads to deer season, which in turn leads to fox and squirrel and raccoon and duck seasons, turkey season becomes our primary focus. Of course, the focus includes the anguish that goes along with turkey hunting.

Do not get me wrong, turkey season does not burden the hunter with such things as breaking through inches of ice just to get to a blind in the middle of a swamp so you can get the opportunity to try and determine what kind of bird is flying at supersonic speeds at the break of dawn in the fog. No, turkey season brings along the burden of trying not to step on a snake, while setting up a blind on the edge of a field beside a swamp land of hardwoods just so you can get the opportunity to try and imitate a hen and listen to a tom gobble mere feet away from you yet never see him.

Oh, and while you do pick up your decoys in both cases afterwards, duck hunting may require tossing dozens in the back of a boat while turkey hunting only consists of two or three decoys. But turkey hunting makes up for the slack time as you pick off the hundreds of ticks that have found refuge in your camouflage wardrobe while you were sitting with your back against a tree in a perfectly still position.

Like the saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

The problem with that is on public land, it may seem like everyone is doing it. Some are doing it right. Some are doing it wrong. The ones doing it wrong likely sit within a few yards of you not even realizing you are there. Or they continuously over-call thinking your Jake decoy is a tom on the other side of the field from them. Hey, we all have to learn though, right?

The birds have a mind of their own, and just like a teenager hitting puberty, you never know where their mind may be. Too many times I have had the perfect hunt ruined by a bird with the brain of, well, a bird.

I have worked them to within 100 yards after being nearly a half mile away, only for them to hen-up. I have packed my things after not even getting one response from a call after hours and hours of hunting, and on my return trip from the truck to get the last few things such as the blind and stool, run a tom off that was within feet of the blind.

I have been sitting in preparation for a tom coming around the back side of the blind at ten yards, finger shaking nervously on the trigger release of my bow, to see the beard drag the ground as he flew by the window of the blind. Yes, the beating of the wings startled me as much as anything, well, except for the 400 pound bear that followed the tom by the window at ten yards distance.

A friend of mine, one of the people that got me interested in hunting with a bow and hunting turkeys, once left his blind after five hours of hunting with complete silence around him. He was taking a smoke break. Just after he lit his cigarette, three hens landed in front of him from a roost behind him, with a tom in tow. He had his shotgun with him and he was as shocked as the tom was. That bird is now mounted in his den.

It is funny that a bird with the head of a vulture can be so beautiful. But maybe it is only beautiful for the chase. Tom seems to be the one that keeps telling me no, which makes me obsess over him more and more. One day Tom. One day the anguish will end.

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