Opening day came fast, like seemingly everything as we get older. Just the weekend before, though not in my hunting area, I had seen turkeys in an open meadow at first light. That tipped my decision to select the waterhole in the lower, more open juniper terrain, instead of the tank located in the pines. I snuck in before first light, wedged the folding chair tight against a bush that shielded the soon rising sun, and optimistically looked and listened. On fall turkey hunts, one can dare a rifle shot, so it was the combo resting across my legs, waiting for action.
Certainly about two hours into it, this game became very old! Nothing, not a single big critter of any kind showed. Smaller birds and my 10x30 binoculars became my friends. Flycatchers, finches and mainly jays provided at least some sort of distraction. At one time I witnessed a deadly attack as a sparrow hawk dove deep into a rather thick bush to grab a songbird. At least there was one successful hunter at this waterhole! But hey, some ten years ago I had bagged a hen here, so be patient dammit. That’s what I explained to my rear end which by now began to beg for mercy, longing for some old-fashioned walking, even standing up, just anything other than pressure of 200+ pounds wedging against cheap canvas.
Relief was on the way. Around 10 AM I had to change my position to remain obscured in the shadow. A few hours later I had arrived at the other side of this tank, to keep vegetation between me and the sun. By then, however, I had enough of this sitting BS, so I folded the dreadful chair, stuffed it under some brush for possible future use, and had all but stepped out of the shade when I detected a deer moving through an opening in the distant bushes. That changed everything. Is now the time for wild and free creatures to come to water? Maybe I ought to hunt smart, instead of hard. Sandwich, snack and juice at the Toyota, parked some three-quarter miles uphill, would have to wait. I would sit the day out at this waterhole, come hell or high . . . I mean turkey. The shadows slowly grew longer, and so did my face. Admittedly, that late in the day my focus wasn’t sharp on ambushing turkeys anymore.
And of course, just then, around 4:30 p.m., it happened (yes, if you did the math, that’s more than ten long hours of waiting). My mind was full of doubt, drifting, idling, and my body was ill positioned for all eventualities. Movement behind my right shoulder suddenly drew every string of attention. Probably to offset his oh-so-ugly head, the tom was dressed in the prettiest black, brown and gray outfit, with obvious beard dangling, as he hesitantly stepped out of the bushes, not even fifteen steps away, followed by at least four more flock members. With the barrels of my combo so typically pointed away from them I had no better choice than to freeze. A shoulder holster containing my .410 Contender with #6 pellets in its 3” chamber would have been so handy at that moment! Oh well, hunting is not perfect. The birds hopefully would proceed to the water’s edge, thus significantly lessening the angle I would have to move the barrels through.
That worked for exactly four steps, when the leader looked my way, and did not like what he saw. Or at least his senses pushed the caution button as this tom stopped and stared, then turned and slowly began to retreat. Damn!
Now I slowly and gently rotated the combo and turned my body towards them. That just made the bunch more eager to get back. The gun lost this snail race.
By the time I had it trained on the big birds, they were behind bushes again. I had to get off the chair, make a few steps. I detected their heads and outlines behind cover, but could not find them in the scope because the setting sun made everything bright. Talk about bright . . . it would have been a bright idea to have thoroughly cleaned the optics before the hunt!
Sure, all #6s in the Rottweil ounce and a quarter 12 gauge shell, left behind by my brother after his last elk hunt visit, were just eager to be unleashed. But shotgunning was out, too risky to slay more than my tag was issued for. Their heads were too closely staggered in the bushes, and how many could I not even see?
Just when frustration peaked, a single turkey walked through an opening, now some seventy paces up the slope. It took about two seconds to mount the gun, aim and squeeze the front trigger. Sierra’s 130gr Single Shot 7mm, downloaded with 26 grains of IMR4227, found the big bird! He seemed to collapse, wings flapping frantically, as he disappeared behind junipers to the left. Thrashing and flopping continued for a few seconds, then eerie silence. I reloaded the 7x65R chamber, and soon found the tom, expired.
With an apology to my rear end, and a smirk on my face the messy and tedious job of plucking was almost a joy. At least I was standing, and even shuffling my feet. The bullet had hit him in the spine just inches above his butt, exited through the right thigh, and clipped that wing. He might go 10 pounds, but I swear he weighed as much as a range cow by the time my right hand got him to the SUV.
All that boring sitting had resulted in a Thanksgiving beast. Thank you, indeed!
Julie began her hunt the next morning. We occupied the same waterhole again, since I had denied them access the day before. None showed. We tried again in the afternoon, and none showed.
Then I remembered seeing them many seasons ago under the power line late in the afternoon, probably on their way to roost. We relocated, walked the power line road. My ego swelled when indeed a big dark bird popped up ahead of us, unfortunately over 150 paces ahead. Julie launched lead from the 7mm08, and barely missed. We heard, but did not see them Sunday.
Thursday, the last day of the season, was earmarked for one more try at turkeys. Glenn was able to come along, having mostly beaten back an untimely (is there any other kind?) illness. To make it short, we all saw turkeys, both Julie and Glenn had a shot late in the afternoon while waiting in ambush at separate waterholes. Unfortunately both shots were far, over a hundred paces, and the turkey are still there to talk about it.
It is now past Thanksgiving. David offered to deep-fry my wild turkey. A mere forty minutes in bubbling oil made him brown and delicious! Real turkey taste, noticeably richer than what your grocer’s freezer offers. Hope we’ll get drawn again in 2005!
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