It’s Happening Fast

Before eight chimes on the Monday-morning tall clock — gray sky, heavy air, cup of coffee in hand and headed for my customary parlor reading station by the window — it walloped me like an open, clammy palm across the puss from Mother Superior. Ah yes, that first overpowering fragrance of spring lilac, a sweet harbinger of summer. So uplifting a scent to brighten a new day, a new week.

Four hours later, exiting my truck for our daily mile or two walk through upper hayfields and around the perimeter of lower floodplain marsh, large riverside apple displaying its white-blossomed coat, I was immediately greeted by visual stimuli. This time it was a new, invigorating, sea of deep yellow dandelions pulsating in the same strong south breeze that had earlier delivered lilac to my nostrils. Again, what a splendid way to start a walk, sensory stimulation everywhere to unleash effusion. The dogs seemed energized, even liberated by the bright yellow carpet complemented so nicely by a verdant clover underbody like only nature can match it, a rich sight indeed. Stunning. Fresh. New. Inspiring.

It doesn’t stop there. I cooked my first batch of local asparagus from the Hatfield/Whately line Saturday evening for dinner guests. Plus, upon retuning from my Monday-morning romp with the dogs, there was sister-in-law Jan from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on her knees collecting our first cut of rhubarb from a small patch at the barn’s sunny southwest corner. Oh how sweet that first cut of rhubarb, even if it does occur before you can mix it with native strawberries. No problem. That tasty alternative will soon ripen. But rhubarb crisps and pies are just fine without strawberries, thank you. Some even prefer it.

And, oh yeah, how can I forget yet another long overdue sign of spring that appeared? Yes, last Thursday, finally my first neighborhood turkey sighting, a solitary hen, about 11 a.m. A small drab bird, it was walking south in snappy caution, head and neck extended toward a neighbor’s gray, knoll-top colonial home. On my way home a few minutes later, there it was again, scratching under the same home’s front-yard apple tree. She must have had a nearby nest temporarily covered with loose brush for a quick feeding maneuver. I knew I’d bump into a turkey sooner or later but was actually starting to wonder. I’m confident there will be more.

Next day, Friday morning about 9, sitting comfortably in the front parlor talking to an overnight guest — an old Vietnam triage nurse and college friend of my wife’s — a gray Ford pickup truck pulled into the yard. Hunting buddy Killer was passing by on his way up the hill turkey hunting. He walked the sidewalk up to the open window, sheepishly apologized through the screen for invading my privacy and, smoking a butt, asked me to come outside. He wanted a quick tutorial on the art of making an old Lynch box call sound like a love-infested hen turkey.

The box, his late uncle’s, was in great shape, looked like cedar, maybe walnut. He had never used it and wanted to give it a try. Desperate, he wanted to offer a new voice to silent turkeys in a habitat where he had yet to hear so much as a gobble, despite twice running into a boss gobbler on his way into the woods, shotgun slung over his shoulder, hands occupied by decoys. He had solved the problem of being unable to quickly shoulder a shotgun with his hands full of decoys by tying them to a backpack for transport. Now he wanted a little primer in the art of getting a box call to mimic the sounds of an amorous hen in waiting, sounds that may just lure in a big lonely boss man with long beard and spurs.

Unfamiliar with his rubber-banded contraption, I fiddled around with it from different angles, got it singing a sweet, seductive song, and handed it back to him for further instruction. Just then, departing guest Marylou exited my home and requested a little lesson of her own, which, of course, produced a suggestive, humorous narrative to explain precisely what a caller is trying to accomplish with a series of yelps, clucks and purrs. Hey, you’re apt to have a lot of flexibility when dealing with an old Vietnam triage nurse, even if she did rise to the rank of lieutenant colonel before recently retiring from the Air Force Reserves. Trust me, she can handle gutter talk with aplomb. Been there, done that. Seen a little of everything. Can handle about anything to the horrors of bloody, mangled young death. And when the conversation touches the right chord, she can even contribute, and then some.

A beautiful, cool, bright sunny morning had me in a playful mood. So, I figured it was high time to get my old hunting buddy cranked up.

“Hey, by the way Killer,” I interjected, “with a proud retired Air Force lieutenant colonel here with us on this fine spring day, what again was your classification as an military marksman?” I asked.

“Expert,” he replied with a gleam.

“See that,” I told her, “here with us today is a man who could cut it on the rifle range. He just never liked to follow orders.”

They both laughed, he in full agreement with my assessment, her understanding those who aren’t cut out for the military. Then she was gone, off to Quincy in her Subaru sedan, he up the hill in his truck on a turkey mission.

I hadn’t seen the last of my buddy. Just after noontime, me sitting on my John Deere tractor to start mowing the lawn for the first time this year, my buddy was back, his day of hunting complete. He parked in my driveway, exited his truck and quickly approached, saying, “I can see you’re busy and don’t want to hold you up but … I have to share with you a little conversation I just had.”

I disengaged the mower blades and idled the engine down to hear his tale, which I trusted would be either amusing, interesting or both. As it turned out, the story was, more than anything else, a confirmation of something he had told me earlier. Finished hunting and on his way to his vehicle parked on the side of the road, a shiny black SUV had pulled up to a stop and the driver hit the switch to slide down the tinted passenger-side window. The man, an expert turkey hunter with whom my pal and I are both familiar, wanted to inquire as to what my buddy had been seeing, if anything, while hunting.

“Well,” he said to me, clearing his throat, “I wasn’t going to lie to the man. I told him I’d been out for two weeks and hadn’t heard a freakin’ gobble. He wasn’t surprised. He said he hadn’t heard one, either. He hadn’t been out at the crack of dawn because of a new puppy. But he’s surrounded by turkeys daily, was up early enough to hear gobbles and hadn’t heard a one.”

Hmmmmm?

I can’t say I doubt either of them for a millisecond. On the other hand, I do believe that due diligence could put a gobbler in their game bags regardless of whether there’s gobbling. Silent approaches are not rare. They’re just not nearly as exciting as big boss toms sounding off with earth-rattling enthusiasm as they race toward hunters’ romantic invitations.

All hunters must learn that sometimes it’s necessary to settle for boring yet successful alternatives.

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