Outdoors Column: The Turkey Hike

Damon and Dale started their hunt bright and early in their blind in the long hayfield. The air was cool and crisp and the stars were shining brightly as they settled in to wait for the turkeys to fly down from their roosts. They chatted quietly as the night sounds around them slowly changed to the noises made by the animals that rule the day. They knew their blind was in a good spot when just before daybreak, a Tom turkey gobbled from the roost less than a hundred yards away.


The blind was set in a corner, timber on two sides and open hay field on the other two. Sometimes turkeys will fly down directly into open grassy areas and start feeding. Other times, they will come off the roost and scratch around in the timber, looking for acorns or grubs. Either way, the hunters should be in good position.


Damon was acting as a guide. He has hunted turkeys for years and has harvested numbers of them. In his job as a lineman for a power company, he has the opportunity to observe turkeys on almost a daily basis. His job also keeps him in shape. Dale has never hunted turkeys before. In his job in a management position, he does not get the physical activity Damon does.


Damon called a few times before the turkeys left the roost. This is done so the ones on the roost think another bird is already on the ground and found a good place to eat. Sometimes this technique causes the whole flock to leave their roosting tree and fly right down on the hunters. Sometimes, it does nothing at all. When the birds flew down from their roost, they went in the opposite direction they were supposed to. Damon spent a fair amount of time making his best love calls, trying to lure the old gobbler back up the hill. The gobbler seemed quite content to stay with his flock of hens on the far side of the timber on Strawberry Hill.


Damon is not the most patient person. After an hour or so not being able to move the birds at all, he decided they should go after them. To him, circling around up and down ditches and hills for a mile or so to get behind them is just a nice walk. Dale had no idea what was in store. By the time they had circumnavigated half the farm, Dale thought he was going to die. A few ticks were snacking on him and blood oozed from scratches from rose bushes. His breath came in short gasps as they got into position to call the flock. Dale was in front while Damon stayed back a few yards to call. He hoped the gobbler would come to the call, drawing him within range for Dale. After a few calls, a hen appeared seemingly from nowhere, spotted Dale, and ran up the hill to the flock which made the whole group scurry into the timber.


The two intrepid hunters attempted to stalk the flock through the timber. The last they saw of them was when they came out of the woods at the edge of the long hayfield. The hunted birds were just moving past the blind Damon and Dale had left a couple hours earlier. All they had to show for their efforts was a nice hike and a tour of the farm.