Paying the Turkey Gods

First day out this spring, the turkey gods (or whoever is charge of these things) gave me a classic high noon run and gun hunt, which ended with me shooting a 3-year-old gobbler as he strutted on a log.

Apparently there’s no such thing as a free lunchtime gobbler. This week, the turkey gods have been collecting. It turns out the price for a thrilling five-minute hunt is higher than I thought.

First they took my graphite striker. One minute I was scratching away with it on a glass call. I set the striker down, looked for it a few minutes later and it was gone. Vanished.

They got my rangefinder. I knew where I left it, and hiked back to look, and it, too, was gone.

Then they gave me pinkeye, that socially stigmatic ailment of the Great Unwashed. I woke up with my shooting eye swollen, stinging and its vision blurred. Tears streamed down my cheek and my nose ran like a faucet. I hunted as best I could, then went to see a doctor. He diagnosed it as allergic conjunctivitis (yep, pinkeye) a reaction to an especially bad tree pollen year . ”Have you been spending a lot of time in the woods?” he asked. Who knew trees gave you pinkeye?

Not content to take my striker and rangefinder and give me pinkeye, the turkey gods gave me Gary.

About 9:00 Thursday morning I was getting ready to put out a couple of decoys and sit at the edge of a huge winter wheat field I know turkeys like. Although this public area sees a lot of hunters, most are gone to work by 8:00 during the week, and it’s a bit of a walk to get to where I was. I didn’t expect to see anyone, but when I looked up, here came a bowhunter.

“Good morning.”

“I guess I screwed that up for you,” he said by way of greeting.

“Huh?”

“Didn’t you see that gobbler run away from me just now?”

His name was Gary, he looked to be in his mid-thirties. He had never hunted anything at all in his life until now, and he was going to be a turkey hunter. He was outfitted with a new bow, all new hunting clothes and a pocketful of maps. He was wandering around, "learning the area" and hoping to kill a bird, the chance of which, hunting with a bow and neither popup blind nor prior experience, was infinitesimally small unless he found one hung up in a fence. Meanwhile he was scaring my turkeys.

He asked me if I hunted here much. I had been at it for a several years, I allowed.

“Have you actually killed turkeys on this area?” he asked, as if killing a turkey was a feat akin to spotting Bigfoot.

“Yeah, I’ve shot birds here.”

“I’d be happy just to follow you around all day,” he said. I pretended not to hear that, and gave him words of general encouragement and some advice on calling and on good online maps of public areas.

He was a nice guy, but like any newcomer, completely clueless. He wondered, for instance, why I had set up in the shadows with the sun at my back because he had read on the internet that turkeys won’t walk anywhere with the sun in their eyes.

While we were standing in the open talking, the gobbler he had spooked emerged from a clump of willows 150 yards away and stood there looking at us for a minute. When we tried to ease back into the cover, the bird ran away.

I wished him luck and meant it, because everyone has to start sometime, although I'd prefer it wasn't in my hunting spots. Then I told him I was going to go try somewhere else on the area. "I'll see you around here for sure," he said. "I'm taking all next week off to hunt!"
The turkey gods have an evil sense of humor.