Thursday, June 14

Tom Foolery

  I considered deep sixing the alarm clock as it read four a.m. and beckoned me to rise. Despite the pre-dawn wake up, I was excited to see the sun rise on my first turkey hunt.

A Woolworth's Reduced Price Gem

  My hunting partner received a permit for a managed hunt at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is a 27,000 acre refuge, which was created as a safe haven for migrating ducks and geese on the Atlantic Flyway, and still provides valuable habitat for many wetlands animals, including the elusive Sika Deer.

  We scouted the night before and, of four possible areas in our 1,800 acres hunting tract, we found a forest of mature pines and limited ground cover. As we left the area, the Wildfowl Ninja and his sister confirmed that this was the place to be. They commented that the six turkeys we had seen earlier in a nearby field was a harbinger of the next day's hunt.

  The moon was bright as we unloaded our gear from my truck and stepped through the high grass under the clear skies. Doused in DEET, we meandered on our 100 degree compass bearing to the forest and set up with our backs against a fallen pine. We both deployed ground blinds to cover our movement and provide further concealment. Then we waited....the rising sun illuminated our blinds and the tornadic spiral of mosquitoes a foot from my head. My partner had a Thermacell; I was covered in a fine layer of DEET (least my clothes were). The sun rose and changed from red to bright yellow, as we called and listened.

  As I soaked in the solitude of the area, I felt much more a part of the forest. I entered as an interloper, but now I had blended into my pine needle hide and comfortably surveyed my temporary home. But I have always felt comfortable outdoors, so this was no different, but my attention to concealment and quiet movement attenuated my feeling that at that moment there was nowhere else on the earth I would rather be. I guess that is my definition of “living in the moment”: knowing that not only was my location where I wanted to be, but more importantly where I had to be, as it was contributing to my development as an outdoorsman.

  The day warmed and we heard nary a yelp, or gobble. We packed up and surveyed a few other areas, calling intermittently.

  As we packed the truck and commented that we were in the best spot and just had no luck, I still knew that it was a 50/50 chance it would be successful. If I was behind my desk that day, the probability is zero.

Post script: Riding my bicycle this morning, I came upon a hen and eight poults. They were about 20 yards away and I was slowing, but still bearing down. As I got closer, they began to take flight, following their mother across my path and over a stand of pines. 10 yards from contact, I see a tom take flight and shock gobbles as he passes within 15 feet of my handlebars. Then out of nowhere, the last chick, no bigger than my fist, pops up and arcs within 3 feet of my bike. As it passed, we made solid split second eye contact and its confident gaze said it all. “Whad you looking at?”