Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Superhunt's Lil' Drummer Boy"

This past weekend was my old high school hunting partner's "Superhunt Weekend".  It's an annual turkey hunt we have each year, whose numbers have grown by way of college buddies and the like.  The wrap up of the weekend as a whole can be read by clicking this link: The Buff Pad.

I'd love to be able to talk about the woods coming alive with thundering gobblers on a crisp spring morning, but I can't.  Truth is, I heard but a handful of gobbles, and it was hot.  There were times I questioned my sanity, as I'm not much of a "sitter".  In the end, Thrash killed the bird I'm about to write about.  In the end, I am convinced that patience will kill more turkeys than any camoflage, call, decoy or choke tube...but, that doesn't make it any easier on your rear end.

The story starts innocently enough, and laden with the promise for fine hunts.  Things pretty much go south at the alarm on the first morning.  I had killed a gobbler the previous week, seen another, and heard several on daddy's place.  As such, I figured this would be a great time to end Foster's "gobble-less" Superhunt streak - it's like 5 years in a row.  Anticipation was high as we entered the turkey woods that morning.  That started melting away as 6:30 faded into 7:30 and not a peep was heard.  We were still sitting (common theme) at 8 o'clock when the decision to run and gun was made.  After about 2 hours worth of walking yielded nothing in the way of gobbling birds, we headed back to camp with our tails tucked - I was hoping for a nap.  Everyone had fairly similar mornings except BJ, who ended a long streak of "longbeardless" springs.

Well, to make a long story short - I didn't get my nap.  I did learn a few things about myself.  Given the walking Foster and I had just done, I no longer have the "let's see what's over the next hill, the grass is always greener" mentality.  And, even if the grass is greener, I no longer care to see it.

The other thing I learned about myself is that I'm getting too old for late nights and 4 a.m. wakeup calls.  I much prefer the 8 o'clock nights in such circumstances.

In any case and sans nap, around 10:30 we started pairing up for the mid day hunts.  I had a choice to make - go with Chunk and Foster on what was sure to be a "walkabout" of epic proportions or go with Thrash who has a reputation of being a true game closer when it comes to turkeys.  Plus, he knew the area a gobbler was hanging out in, which meant we had a specific area we were going to hunt.  No brainer, right?

Insert - pain and frustration here.

We entered the woods of the "Little Drummer Boy" around 10:45 on Saturday.  Seven hours later, we left his woods empty handed, but with a whole new appreciation for the simple things in life - bottled water, recliners, air conditioners, human interaction requiring more than hand signals, etc.  During that time, we were surrounded with constant drumming from LDB and the scratching of his hens contently feeding.  We actually saw a second longbeard about 45 minutes into the hunt, that actually had Thrash and I thinking "hey, this may  go well."  But, he didn't see the need to give us more than a glimpse about 65 yards away, through thick oaks and bay trees.  After that, all we heard was that awful drumming.

We actually moved on him about 4 times that afternoon, trying to close the gap.  And all the while - drumming.  Once, we actually stopped and sat down thinking (stupidly) "this is it, here he comes, get ready" only to have the drumming fade away as quickly as it started.

Late in the day, we moved one last time, and...sat to drumming.

The quote of the day came when Josh looked at me and said, "man, you hurtin'?"  The look I gave him must have sent the message "really, Josh" because he responded, "yeah, me too."

After yet another hour, Josh decided to crawl to a blow down and see just where this turkey was (no, we haven't seen him yet).  He was spotted in a small bit of shade, coming in and out of strut, watching his hens feed...did I mention he was drumming?  Meanwhile, I laid flat on the ground attempting to convince my ass it was okay to stop throbbing and it's rightful place, was in fact, much lower than where it felt like it was positioned - my shoulders.  One hen - the hero of the day if you asked me - got within feet of Josh, not really spooking but knowing something was just not quite right.  She quietly putted, and moved through the bay trees down at the creek's edge, taking the gobbler and other hens with her.  You could just feel that the suffering was finely over, as was the hunt, and that they were headed to roost.

That night over a very, very tall bourbon and water, we relived our little evening of purgatory.  Before turning in for the night we all paired up again and got our marching orders.  Thrash and I were to go back to hunt LDB again.

Let's stop right here.  Maybe I can adequately portray my thoughts on going back to hunt that confounded turkey.  You remember the scene in the old John Candy movie "The Great Outdoors" where Candy took on that Ol' 96'er, and ate it?  You remember when that greazy chef said "he ain't done yet" and Dan Akroyd's character was like "what do you mean not done, all that's left is grissle and fat"?  If so, you probably remember Candy's look of absolute horror at the thought of "more of the same"?  That pretty much describes my feelings on the matter - though, I failed to voice them.

The next morning, Thrash and I ate the grissle and fat.

Oh, he gobbled a bit on the limb alright, then upon pitching out of the tree, he shut up.  Well, saying he shut up is a bit extreme...there was that damn drumming to listen to.

How many times we both whispered, "get ready, he's coming" I have no clue, but the term "rice in China" comes to mind.

We had yet another brief respite rather early in the pain, I mean hunt.  Josh spotted him first, in full strut, strolling down through the timber...drumming.

His hens were right beside us, maybe 20 yards away.  They would have carried him all the way to us, but no, they sensed something wasn't right...not spook mind you, signifying a blown hunt.  Nope, they just wandered back where they came from, slowly.

I'm sure I could wax on poetic about this particular bird, let's face it, I like to do so.  But, to be honest, I just wanted this turkey to die.  Whether that death came at the hands of our Benelli's, a squad of Navy Seals, nuclear missle strike, or Darth Vader's light saber, I cared not - whatever was more painful.

At 1:30 Josh ended our hunt with a well placed shot - unfortunately, it was a quick death.

Walking out, I told Josh that on the last move to the bird, I had had all I could fact, I could hear my heartbeat in my rear end.

While not being one of those glorious hunts you hear about, it was a very valuable hunt to me.  I learned the value of patience and perserverence when hunting these birds...and, hopefully, gained a new hunting partner.

(Lef to Right) me, Keith "Buff Magic" Polk, Josh Thrash

Hope everyone has a great weekend.  I have to work, and then I'm gonna find an "easy" turkey to hunt...they make them right?


Keith said...

Nobody can pen a story like you my brother! The story of LBD will be told around the campfire for many moons;)

Unknown said...

I have to agree.....I am envious of Nigel's story telling talent, and especially his ability to hear drumming;-) Thanks for being patient buddy, and I owe you one!!

Unknown said...

Great read , sounds like a real test of patience. Way to stick to it..........Jode