Even if they weren’t going to hunt, I believe that at least once in their lives all people should be awakened and escorted under cover of darkness into the spring woods to hear a turkey gobble. The people might be cranky at first, and sleepy, but those feelings would evaporate when they heard the first gobble!
The first sight of a turkey ranks right up there with the sound of their gobbles in the dark. They just don’t seem to belong in the woods, with all that black against the bright greens of spring. Plus, when your butt is on the ground, they seem to tower over you, especially when someone calls them practically onto your lap. Yet, I had missed.
At lunch, as my hunting buddies joked about it, I smiled although inside I grew more steadily disappointed in myself. By the time I left for the two-day drive back to northern Maine, I was in the mood for regretful country music and painful introspection about my future as a turkey hunter.
I hoped to put most of the Route 90 miles behind me that day, yet try “hunting home” — find a place to stay, still in New York, where I’d have one last morning to hunt turkeys until legal shooting time ended. In the late afternoon, I drove while scanning the land on either side of the highway for a likely-looking spot. There are tons of exits on Interstate 90.
Something made me take the right one.
By then the sun was low in the sky, at an angle that turned the arcs of telephone wires silver between their poles. Long shadows lent preciousness to the ordinary things, like a swing set in a yard or an old wooden table at roadside, with boxes of strawberries for sale on the honor system. I could smell a first cutting of hay.
I pulled into the driveway of a dairy farm and the farmer and his wife welcomed me to hunt there before I even finished the request. The next morning I parked in their driveway and walked out to the spot I’d picked, hidden at the edge of the woods on a knoll overlooking a newly-planted cornfield as well as the farm house far below.
I shot a turkey that morning. Through the rest of the day and into the evening, I fought against sleep as I unraveled the long road home. It was dark when I pulled into a rest stop, where I planned a late supper along the lines of ginger ale with bag of chips, followed by sleeping in the truck.
My camouflage hat was an ice-breaker, and before long I was sharing a grill that was running out of space, crowded with a Virginia family’s hot dogs, a West Virginia man’s elk steaks and my turkey.
I guess it’s possible to find common ground on macadam pavement. I realized that “hunting home” was not just something you could do, but a place, made by people; because 10 hours from my driveway, I was somehow home.
Be sure to visit Sportsman’s Guide for a selection of turkey hunting gear.