Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


February 22, 2013

Outdoors: Trouble with turkey hunting

Confessions of a teary-eyed turkey hunter

— One doesn’t have to search far and wide to figure out how to blow a turkey hunt, simply find me; I’ve mastered the art! As Murphy’s Law suggests if it can happen, it has happened. Turkeys are a tough chase but even tougher for guys like me.

Crash Test Dummy! I am not very coordinated, or so my wife says. She competed in high level gymnastics for years and years, the balance beam being her strongest suit, so I often remark that her interpretation of good coordination is largely skewed. However, truth be known, she’s right, I’ve got two left feet and the problem is magnified three-fold in the woods!  

Looking back over my years in the turkey woods, my lack of coordination has cost me plenty, and it’s not just turkey hunting. Years ago, on my first waterfowl hunt, I stood to take my first ever shot at incoming ducks. Unfortunately, I had allowed my heels to sink into the mud. The shot knocked me down into my chair then rocked me back-first into the drink! My buddy (and former pastor), Chris Moody, just laughed and shook his head – this is the same guy who let our congregation know I was once chased out of a treestand by a raccoon; two hundred people simultaneously turned to look and laugh. Chris isn’t just my friend, he’s my opportunist!

One of my earliest turkey hunts found me in a ground blind, tucked into a seemingly stable chair. Unfortunately, when I shot I toppled backwards with such force that I hit the back wall of the ground blind and ripped the anchoring stakes out of the ground. One of the legs, I discovered, has been precariously perched on the edge of a hole in the ground beneath me. I’m not sure why I feel the need to incriminate myself; no one was there; there were no witnesses. It’s always been my little secret. I suppose this means I can confess all of my other turkey hunting train wrecks – and there are plenty, but please keep these confessions to yourselves; no one else needs to know I’m imperfect.

Color Me Busted! I learned early on that blaze orange is not appropriate attire for turkey hunting. I’m not advising you to not wear blaze orange, I’m simply suggesting you don’t wear all 400 inches! It’s been said by many that a turkey can see you blink at 50 yards; I believe it. They also see colors! I’m sure they laughed behind my back but they let me head out that morning in a blaze of orange glory! All of my fellow hunters scored great birds that morning. I never saw a thing!

Asleep at the Wheel! Sleep and I have a love/hate relationship. More often than not, I’m so excited about hunting in the morning I can’t sleep… then can’t stay awake on the hunt! I’m not alone. Hunters doze off throughout the nation and we all wake up the same, slowly. We don’t move. We simply open our eyes and scan the scene from left to right hoping we haven’t missed anything. Opening your eyes just in time to watch a great buck or doe disappear into the woods is nearly enough to make you cry!  Regardless of what you’ve heard, sleeping isn’t always good for you… or your hunting. Get to bed early. My pop always said it best, “This ain’t no rest home!”(God rest his soul).

Houston, I Have a Problem! Turkey hunting in Ballinger with good friend, Steve Muncy, is one of my favorite trips… but therein lies another secret.

Did you know it’s never a good idea to turkey hunt with your back exposed? No one told me; I should have fired my mentors! I hunted alone as sunlight melted into amber ripples atop the Colorado River’s drifting ribbon. I was tucked below the edge of a tilled field overlooking the river and had called for hours with no response. I tried everything, clucks, yelps, purrs, maybe even some made up stuff, nothing worked.

As last light set in, I hit another yelp run on the call then slowly turned my head to survey the area I had been watching. With my head at 90 degrees, I heard Earth burst her seams. Before I could move (or pass out) a tom used my back as launch pad has he lifted off of me and flew across the river! I’m still in therapy. Note to self: Ground blinds are great but if you’re out in the elements keep your back against a tree trunk wider than your shoulders; it helps cloak your movements and ensures you won’t be used to take flight.

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick! The truth is I didn’t have a big stick, I had better. My stick was a BowTech invasion CPX with upwards of 80 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. My big stick launched smaller sticks at 294 feet per second and I still couldn’t get it done – circling back to coordination here.

Crash Test Dummy Part II! During several spot-and-stalk hunts over eight maddening days in northwest Oklahoma, I tripped over tiny sticks at least a dozen times. It’s amazing how your body lunges itself forward with breakneck speed, perhaps in an attempt to get where it would have been if I wasn’t such a clutz! Either way, several inadvertent “launches” sent my pack one way, my bow another, and my arrow, still another. Sadly, it’s during those moments you realize two things:

1. Who your friends really are.

2. You had turkeys just on the other side of a brush pile 5 yards away!

 In the Flesh! I am a Christian, most know it, but I’m human and quite sure I got in the flesh more than once that year! Two trips totaling 1,600 miles and eight full days of turkey hunting (at least pretending) left me birdless and in dire need of another therapist.

So, what’s the takeaway? One of my favorite crooners, Alan Jackson, said it best in a song, “Walk on the rocks that I stumbled on.” Learn from my mistakes. Be wiser, stronger and more coordinated than me! Get tucked into an area that conceals you well and remember the importance of camouflage. Walk in and out of your hunting areas carefully and take your time on spot-and-stalk or run-and-gun pursuits. Enjoy God’s great outdoors and understand that hunting is just that, hunting, not killing.

More often than not you kill nothing but time and you have to be okay with it, even revel in the journey. Every hunter authors a story. Your first and last pages are great but mean nothing without a story in between.

Coming Clean ... Thanks for coming along for the ride. Like fishing, our hunting stories get embellished; the animals get bigger and so do the mishaps; it’s campfire 101! Truth be known, I’ve had some success turkey hunting and have taken some nice birds. I’ve learned through trial and error how to be an effective turkey hunter and enjoy sharing pockets of knowledge with new turkey hunters.

That said, a lot of what I mentioned above is fictional! I didn’t wear orange but I was used as a launch pad by a turkey that came in directly behind me! And, I am a clutz, no question about it! As for the rest, I’ll let you guess. As Popeye would say, “I ams what I ams and that’s all that I ams!”

Hunt hard, hunt often and learn to laugh at yourself!

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