Turkey season ends with a thud

Let me set the stage for my final turkey hunt of the spring season: The alarm jangled at 3:30 a.m. I got dressed, made a pot of coffee, tossed my gear in the pickup and headed off to meet Clarence Dies near his north Wilson County home. An hour later Clarence hopped in and we...
May 14, 2013
Clarence Dies and turkey  Photo: Submitted

Clarence Dies took this turkey in northeast Wilson County. Dies said it has a very rare reddish coloration, called erythrism by biologists, caused by certain pigments in the feathers that are missing. This bird showed redness only in the wing and tail fan. Small for turkeys in this area, it weighed just 15 1/2 pounds, but had one-inch spurs and an 8 1/2-inch beard. Dies took it at 18 yards.
Phillip Balding and turkey  Photo: Submitted

Phillip Balding took this 25-pound turkey with one-inch spurs and 10-inch beard on his Watertown farm.

 

Let me set the stage for my final turkey hunt of the spring season:

The alarm jangled at 3:30 a.m.

I got dressed, made a pot of coffee, tossed my gear in the pickup and headed off to meet Clarence Dies near his north Wilson County home.

An hour later Clarence hopped in and we drove on to the Trousdale farm of Larry Davenport who has been gracious enough to allow us to hunt on his land.

We parked near Larry’s barn and headed out across a pasture in the dark. Larry raises cows. Lots of cows. Walking across a cow pasture in the dark can be hazardous for new boots.

We crossed a fence and waded through dripping knee-high hay.

A little further on, thoroughly soaked, we wriggled into a brushy fence row in the corner of a newly-ploughed field.

It was full of briars.

As dawn peeked over the horizon, Clarence began to yelp. Not about the briars; he was helping on his turkey call. He is famous for his Three Tracks box calls, which can make a big gobbler come running with his tongue hanging out.

Clarence had already bagged his four-gobbler limit and was content just to accompany me and do the calling.

My wife Mary Frances said I was nuts to get up at 3:30 go shoot a turkey.

She said Clarence was even nuttier to get up at 3:30 just to go watch me.

Clarence’s wife Laura agreed.

But there we sat, as Clarence yelped like a desperate turkey housewife.

After about three hours the sun burned off the heavy fog that rolled in off the river.

We heard a faint gobble at one point, off in the distance.

I wiggled around and found some fresh briars.

Clarence changed calls, using one that made a high-pitched soprano sound.

A wood duck came in and lit on a puddle behind us.

A buzzard circled overhead, perhaps having got a whiff of our boots.

Suddenly Clarence whispered, “Turkey!”

Across the ploughed field came a hen.

Behind the hen came a huge gobbler. Every few steps it would stop, fan its tailfeathers and strut like the lucky guy on the Bachelorettes TV show.

I heard someone start beating a tom-tom. I realized it was my heart.

The hen fed on past us. The big Tom trailed along behind her.

The sun gleamed off his coal-black feathers.

I eased my 12-gauge up on my left knee, steadied the barrel, clicked off the safety.

The gobbler was 40 yards away. Thirty-five. Thirty. Twenty-five.

This is what turkey hunters live for. Dream about. Roll out of bed at 3:30 a.m. for. What Hemingway called The Moment of Truth.

I held the bead of the gun on the bobbing white head -- while mentally computing the 40 some-odd hours and 400 miles of driving I had invested in this shot -- and squeezed the trigger.

“Blam!”

I missed.

 

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