Sunday, April 1, 2007

April Fools

April fools? To some, maybe.

True enough, you travel far and wide just to hear a bird gobble.

You wear sleep loss on your face, enjoy the banter of camp breakfasts, neurotically check your vest for hunting gear: ammo, turkey calls, face mask, penlight, and toilet paper.

You nearly close the deal on a tom turkey that does everything you want it to but get into range. You give up just when you should have sat still one minute longer, only to hear the putt-putt-putt of a bright-headed, beard-swinging gobbler legging it away to safety. You devise strategies, rethink what went wrong, sleep four hours a night, and pay dues.

Then the last morning of the hunt, all seems right. You've reached that point of contentment, a sort of twisted bliss, when you resolve it doesn't matter what happens that daybreak in Texas or Missouri or Wherever U.S.A. Your ego isn't an issue . . . getting out one more time is what it's all about. You savor it.

Heck, you like this set up, and when the wild turkey barks back once, then twice to your soft calling, you shut up, sit back, and wait. You're alone, as most of your buddies back at camp have tagged a bird. No forcing the issue this morning. "Pfft-dum" you hear somewhere nearby, easing that quarry closer with a cluck . . . and then, suddenly, there he is: tail in a full fan, chest pushed out, beard stiff, head bright, searching eye black and deep and intense. He's looking for you.

You click the safe off with a pinch, and even that sees the paranoid gobbler drop out of strut . . . looking, waiting long seconds, he pops back into full-fan glory. You savor all that a moment or two longer. Nothing is better than this . . .

Deal done. Longbeard down.

That night you let everybody else tell their stories twice. You, you have your own, and it's running over and over in your mind. You can't stop it, and wouldn't want to if you could.

--Steve Hickoff

(Merriam's gobbler/NWTF photo)