Dr. Dolittle could talk to the animals. However, I can only listen.
I expected to hear that turkey gobble last Saturday morning. I didn’t anticipate hearing him 20 yards behind me. The first gobble was loud and guttural, sounding more like the scary devil voice in the movie The Exorcist than a wild turkey. I fought the desire to swivel my head like Linda Blair to look at him.
Wes and I had been playing musical roost sites with this bird for several days, splitting up so we could cover more ground. It was dark when I crept along the edge of the field to find a big oak to nestle against. I figured this would be a hot piece of real estate, certain that gobbler would sound off from one of the huge trees flanking the creek, a safe distance from where I planned to set up.
Untested theories at that hour of the morning can get you in trouble. In retrospect, I can clearly see I should have at least tossed out a barred owl call before getting into position.
For the next 45 minutes, this bird punished my ears by gobbling about every 60 seconds while I remained as motionless as someone standing in line at the DMV. The beautiful thing about being human is the ability to cling to hope, even when chances are slim the outcome will be good. Just maybe, I thought to myself, he will land on the far side of the field, and I can call him back.
Finally, satisfied he had broadcast his intentions throughout the countryside, the gobbler clattered off the roost and sailed over my head, across the creek. I would have been completely heartbroken except for the fact at least he didn’t poop on me during his departure.
In retrospect, it was a thrilling experience and a reminder of the faux pas of being overconfident about where a bird is roosted.
Later that same day, I was propped up against another tree, doing a little calling and listening for birds. I heard footsteps shuffling through the leaves to my left. Since my encounter with a Georgia bruin last spring, my first thought is often, “Oh God, please don’t let that be a bear,” though I know that’s unlikely where I hunt in South Carolina. A furious stamping noise from a thicket about 40 or 50 yards away verified the visitor was a white-tailed deer. The stiff-legged stomp was quickly followed by a loud, nasally blowing sound. And another. Because the sun was already low on the horizon, I started hoping this clown would bound off before it scared away every wild turkey in the woods. He or she apparently hoped I would scamper away, too, because the chorus of stamping and blowing went on for several more minutes.
I finally accepted by fate. I collected my calls, pulled Henny Penny’s stake out of the ground, tucked her in my vest and started my long hike back to the truck.
There’s always another day. And I hope the fact that I listened more than talked (or called) will help make me a better woods woman. I’m already more appreciative of the gifts I receive as a hunter.