I Am the Seductress

Posted on May 12, 2020

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“It might be me you hear whispering the promises that sound so sweet.
They may be promises that will be broken.”
– Walt Hampton, Broken Promises

 

 

Everyone enjoys a good plot, the drama that sucks us in and keeps us on the edge of our seats. As the tension thickens, each page of the book is quickly turned; each new sequence in the movie further captivates and transports us into the unfolding story before us.

As with every good story that has the ability to spellbind the audience, there has to be an antithesis, good vs. evil, the law vs. crime, the predator vs. prey. And typically, as the drama unfolds, we begin to root for the underdog almost as if we have an ability to affect the ultimate outcome.

When it comes to turkey hunting, although there will be plenty of tenuous drama played out, we are primarily out to kill birds. Tom Kelly writes in his classic book, Tenth Legion, “…any participant in blood sports is an anachronism. Any man who hunts, hunts in order to kill, no matter what he says about it…regardless of the complexities, and despite the artificial rules the participants erect for one another, the ultimate aim of a blood sport is the death of a beast.” He goes on, “They approach the killing with anticipation and in the event the kill is successfully made, feel absolutely no remorse – only a sensation of satisfaction and fulfillment.”

On this morning, I found myself back in the same location I’d been the morning before. It was here where high hopes of immediate success were dashed when two very fine gentlemen gobblers strutted and gobbled for 30 minutes, within sight but out of shotgun range, and then just shut-up and walked off stage.

 

 

Hoping for a repeat performance, I set-up much closer to the proverbial stage. Once they began their morning crescendo of gobbling, I faintly yelped and purred in hopes of finding a gentleman caller. No deal. Instead of them duplicating yesterday’s performance, they pitched down into the valley where they continued to vocalize.
Some temptress hen obviously was more seductive than my flirtatious beckoning. Although I continued to plead with them to come, they only got further away with each departing gobble.

It was now decision time; these birds were heading out towards several fields to my left where they can see for a long way. Do I immediately go after them or give them some time to perhaps be in the woods out of eyesight of my movements? I opted to wait an hour and sat enjoying the orange sunrise appearing in front of me.

“At such a time,” writes Rutledge, “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 he is after; he merely uses his strategy in an attempt to outwit them at theirs.”

 

 

Up and off my duff, I covertly slunk down into the first field, and seeing no birds, I hastily made for the corner. Both fields run parallel to each other with a hedgerow stonewall separating the two. I placed a hen decoy out 15-yards with a full-fanned Tom 7-yards behind her. My ambush spot in the hedgerow was up against a double trunked maple with raspberry whips that aided in concealment. Within ten-minutes I began to call with my only response being from the songbirds buzzing overhead. And then…

The Chess Match Commences

In the far distance from behind me I heard a faint gobble. Immediately I responded with a very loud yelp. The gobbler responded. “Okay”, I thought, “he is at least somewhat interested.” Each time he would gobble I would respond in kind with a love language that hopefully he couldn’t resist. With each gobble he was definitely getting closer, but due to my position I was unable to see just how close. This back and forth went on for an hour before a second bird began gobbling from behind and to my left. So now I have two gobblers bellowing from behind me with no real urgency to close the distance.

 

 

What to do? What to do to sell this setup and really turn these guys on? I decided to gobble a couple of times in hopes of creating a little jealousy, and guess what? It worked. These two really ramped up their gobbling. In kind, I really hammered on the diaphragm call. Every time one of them would gobble I would cut them off with cutting and yelping.

You see, nothing happens until it sells. I needed to convince the birds that I was indeed a love-sick hen desperately wanting romantic company. This is best described by my late friend, Walt Hampton when he writes in his book, Broken Promises:

“I am your grim reaper; I am the liar and the whore, hidden in plain sight, whispering promises in your own language I never intend to keep, beguiling you to come and get your due; and you are the foolish, arrogant king that believes those lies and comes to be serviced by the wench, to dominate and humiliate the female that dares to give you invitation, and I will reach in and snatch the life out of you so fast you could not know what has happened, you know only your claws digging and clasping the cold mountain dirt, as your wings beat the earth in a furious and futile flopping, and your neck snakes your torn and broken head back and forth on the bloody leaves, trying in vain to catch up to the life that has already fled, and hold to the world that you will never see again. I am the sudden death of the animal world, the two-legged creature that will never understand your evolutionary connection with this thing we call life; I will be merciful only in my quick delivery of your demise, for me the act only the finality of the entire experience and it must be delivered ruthlessly, a wanton, planned and premeditated hot-blooded murder.”

 

Now further questions arise in my head (you have lots of time to think when hunting turkeys): Can they see the dummies? Do they look realistic? Thankfully, my hen would move slightly left and then right each time the breeze struck her. In fact, it was admirable at how well an inanimate blow up dummy was performing seemingly on cue. All I could do at this point is remain motionless and continue to try and sell the charade to a pair of males I’d yet to lay eyes on.

For those that are uninformed as to some of the self-imposed discomforts related in outsmarting a wise old bird, allow me to articulate. I’d been seated without being able to move for nearly two-hours. I’m staring out into an empty field, save the two decoys, which by now were old news. My mouth was a bit dry from the continuous calling on the diaphragm and both my back and butt began screaming that a position change was long overdue. And the absolute worst part was not being able to see what I was hearing, especially when the gobbling would stop. The temptation to move and take a look was ever prevalent, but mind over matter, my head overruled my body’s desire to succumb. I remained motionless.

The silence was now killing me; it had been 15 long minutes since I last heard a gobble. More questions, “Did they lose interest and depart?” “Are they coming in silent?” “Has this drawn out skirmish all been for naught?”

The written words of Rutledge remind me, “Unless I am mistaken, it is the long, sweet pleading quality of the first note that usually does the work. I had no answer; but, as every experienced hunter knows, a wild turkey will often come silently to a call. Some answer and come. Some answer and do not come. Some do not answer and come. Some never answer and never come. Some come running; some flying; some walking fast; some stealing along furtively.”

 

 

And then, out of the corner of my left eye it seemed like there was something black that wasn’t there a moment ago. I dared not swivel my head even an inch. “Was it a gobbler or is it just my imagination,” I thought. Finally, the suspense was broken with the tell-tale sound of a turned-on gobbler spitting-and drumming.

If a Tom could move any slower, I’d not seen one before now. He was creeping at the pace even a snail could easily outdo. With all the air of a suave, debonair, well-seasoned gentleman, the fully fanned long beard with a head as red as a fire engine sidled into view at a mere 10-yards distance. Along with him, came his larger partner, who was also puffed out in his entire glorious splendor.

 

 

My first thought was, “Can I get them both lined up and kill them with a single blast?” That notion was quickly dismissed as I told myself, “One in the hand is better than two in the bush, Bernier.” As the first bird fixated on the fully fanned dummy, I slowly raised my gun, found his head in the peep and folded him at 10-paces. As soon as he dropped, the spent shell was extracted, another round pumped in and his partner was folded with the second shot at 15-paces.

Wow! At this point two hours worth of built up tension, excitement and yes, exhilaration was released. And yes, for a few minutes following this saga, I was indeed shaking a bit. I hope that feeling never wanes or goes away, for if does, it might be time for me to take up another activity.

Not nearly as difficult as dragging out a buck, but it was indeed a labor intensive challenge carrying out 40-pounds of turkey ¾ of a mile. However, it was toil of great satisfaction.

 

 

Henry Edwards Davis stated in his memoirs, “To become a successful turkey hunter requires long experience, infinite patience, a good knowledge of woodcraft and the range to be hunted, keen eyesight, hunting sense, the ability to shoot and a thorough understanding of the ways, wiles and habits of these wary birds.” Throw in the drama and uncertainty of the outcome and you have all the makings for what is sure to be an epic experience.

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Posted in: Turkey