Text Book – Double

Posted on May 30, 2017



Killing two birds with one stone is an English language idiom meaning “realising two goals through one action”, be it by accident or by foresight and planning.

Like the reverberations of a summer thunder storm, the echoes emanating from the continuous gobbling in the pre-dawn rolled across the atmosphere. The chorus of gobbles were close, perhaps too close, and I was a bit later in showing up than I should have been.

Why didn’t I put these stupid rain pants on at home? Standing next to my truck with one boot off, half a pant leg on, trying to keep my balance in the dark on uneven ground; all ingredients for a first-rate circus, of which I was quickly becoming the clown.



By the time I hit the field’s edge it was a whole lot brighter than I expected, light enough for a gobbler roosted in a nearby tree to see. Without anything to screen me, I just hurried to where I intended to set-up with the hope that the barber shop choir of bearded men weren’t looking.

The first rule of turkey hunting, simple as it is, is a big one, which will cost you nothing, yet pay off big more times than not, even if you don’t own a turkey call: Get to where you need to be prior to the birds without them knowing you are there, period! And here I am, a 15-year veteran of the sport bordering on missing that deadline on opening day.

It’s tough working under pressure, especially when it is self-induced. How many of you have ever taken care of a baby? Babies cry, and sometimes continuously for no apparent reason. I know this first-hand as I care for my newest grandson three days a week. It seems, just when I’m about to finish up a project I’ve been working on, he suddenly wakes up, begins fussing and demands immediate attention. Now you need to understand it is not the incessant fussing that is the problem, it is knowing that I would like to finish up and he needs my immediate and undivided attention that becomes the tension.



Well here I am, with trees full of raucous, gobbling birds less than 150-yards distant and I’m placing dummy decoys as quickly as I can under the weight of a lightening sky, which in my world translates the same as my grandson, the Peanut, crying for me. Stress!



“As a rule,” writes Archibald Rutledge, “when once a wild turkey has seen the hunter, why, it’s all off. If he makes you out, an old woodsman once said to me, he’ll quit the country; he’ll quit the world.”



Although it was not exactly how I wanted the dummies assembled, I decided it would have to do: a breeding hen with a Jake three feet off her rear flank and another hen approximately seven or so yards to the front of the pair. This set-up was about 15-yards from where I had carved out a hide away in the skunk grass. Setting my seat and getting sat down only revealed I was not positioned exactly as I would have liked. “What is going on this morning,” I thought. “The most basic elements to a turkey hunt seem to be extra burdensome so far today. I mean really, a task as simple as chair placement can’t be done with ease?” I did not dare to move it now, the witching hour had arrived, this would have to do.

“Calling,” Rutledge wrote, “is a thing to be learned rather than told of.” So, I sat in the first precious moments of opening day, trying to discern the temperature and disposition of the roosted boys, contemplating what exact sound I should make to entice them from their evening boudoir. Seldom in my career have I been in this situation, as I do not roost birds, I hunt them.

Almost hesitantly, I gave a few short purrs with a very low couple of the most seductive yelps I could muster, which is not easy having never been a girl or a hen. Apparently, my notes struck a chord as the boys responded with double and triple gobbles. Not wishing to be thought of as an easy catch, I waited another five minutes before breaking the silence with a few more salacious yelps, which only reinforced and enhanced the response I received from the crowd. It seems the men in black had company on the limb and the girls also began to yelp back at me.



I must acknowledge, like Rutledge, I still feel like I’m in kindergarten when it comes to the wild turkey and would agree whole-heartedly with him as he writes, “…if any man/(woman) would be a successful hunter, let him/(her) do at least two things; let him/(her) study painstakingly the character and habits of his/(her) game; and then let him/(her) be endlessly persistent. To understand your game, and to keep everlastingly at it-these help more than any other things I know.”

It now became a contest of hens vs. hunter. Each time they would yelp, I would come back with my best copycat rendition. As if the base wasn’t already fired up, this only put them over the edge. Literally, it sounded like there was over fifty gobblers (wishful thinking) in those pines and it was now beginning to elevate my heart rate.

Because I spend so much time around turkeys each spring leading up to the season – six-to-eight weeks photographing them – I have learned to master any heightened emotional impulses regardless of situation or distance. However, that didn’t seem to be the case this morning as my breaths were coming quickly with my heart pounding more rapidly than normal.

“Calm down, Bernier,” I lectured myself, “it’s a bird doing what comes natural, gobbling.”



And then, without warning, like stealth bombers the birds began to silently glide out of the trees hitting terra firma. First one, then two more, and along came four, and by the time the descent was complete I had 10 on the floor with all but four red heads. And then the show really began.

The six surrounded my ‘fake Jake’ separating him from the fake breeding hen. They danced, fanned, strutted, turned three deeper shades of red with a bit of spitting thrown in just because they could. This was all both gratifying and entertaining, but now I had a dilemma. I’m less than 30 minutes into a brand new season with six legal targets less than 15-yards in front of my gun. To make the decision even more difficult, I had never taken two birds with one shot, and equally, this is one of those rare instances where everything regarding the turkey’s behavior was text book; they had performed flawlessly in a way we all expectantly hope they do.



Rutledge poetically waxes, “At such a time, amid such beauty, the hunter does not always feel that the primary business of life is killing something; indeed, if more sportsmen would take hunting as a game instead of a battle, their victories would be sweeter, and their defeats easy to bear. A man should not fight the birds and animals he is after; he merely uses his strategy in an attempt to outwit them at theirs.”



With the theme from Jeopardy playing in my head I had to decide what to do. When the two best birds lined up, side-by-side, with their red noggins less than an inch apart, I was able to accomplish what I had only really thought about a few days prior: killing two birds with one stone.



When I rang my best gal up, just prior to 6 a.m. and informed her of my success, offering to watch the Peanut if she wanted to go to work, she responded, “Congratulations, wow! No, I think I’ll stay home and enjoy being Nana for the week. Great Job!”



“Despite their reputation for sentiment,” Ole Archibald opined, “women (especially wives) are very practical. They love game on their table, and they love a man who can put it there.”

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