SD04133 A Revelation in Loss and Turkeys

Day after day, up at 3:30 am, back at 10:00 pm, hiking up and down miles of steep plains hills of NorthWest South Dakota, searching for a hint of gobbler action.  Glassing and glassing the hills, canvassing the ravines and draws, walking miles and miles a day without success.  Feeling it in the legs, the Gluteus Maximus, the arms, the back, the neck, the pretty much everything, including places I didn’t even know I have.  Despite mass quantities of ibuprofen, every step feels like lead weights are dragging me down into the barren ground.  Yet I press on, determined to harvest a bird.

Sure there are the occasional spot and stalks across country mixed in there, the ones that seem to be leading up to a perfect execution in calling prowess.  The occasions where, after hours of crawling and calling and entertaining turkey ritual and dance, the birds are finally lured toward my decoys –only 100 yards away.  The ones where, after hours of crawling and calling and entertaining the ritual and dance, my efforts are only to be foiled on their final approach by lightening speed coyotes that arrive out of nowhere, determined to run the birds in the opposite direction.  Not once, not twice, but three times!  Yet I press on, determined to harvest a bird, now adding coyotes to the hit list.

And then this afternoon, I follow a new draw down to the bottom.  It’s a lovely, slow walk through scrub oaks and buck brush, laced with pheasants, a few deer, and even a porcupine.  No gobbles though.  Dead silent.   Still, I keep meandering along the draw to the bottom until reaching the old railroad road.  I walk about a mile down it, stopping to listen and glass along the way.  No gobbles.  But it’s early, and I know there were birds here before.  So, I decide to wait it out.  Two and a half hours go very slowly when one is sitting in a cluster of bushes and small trees, filled with wood ticks.  Killing ticks with small branches and flat rocks can become quite the recreational activity.  It can make two and a half hours feel like ten years.  Especially without one iota of turkey talk.  So at 7:15 I decide to stand up and stretch.

“Gobblegobblegobblegobblegobble!”  Holy hanna that sounds close!  Coming from my right! I freeze in anticipation.  No time for binoculars. 

“Gobblegobblegobblegobblegobble!”  OH my goodness he is getting closer!  I bet he is coming right to me!

“Gobblegobblegobblegobblegobble!”  Out of the corner of my eye  I see him walking right on down the railroad road.  Right down to me.  He’s all alone.  I have waited a long time for this.  It has been a long day.  A long bunch of days!  Finally.  Here he is, and it was meant to be!

 “Gobblegobblegobblegobblegobble!”   As he is shielded by thick brush I raise my gun into position and take a deep breath.  And another.  I want this to be perfect.  Wait….wait……here he comes…..wait til he gets to the little clearing in the brush to shoot through….one more step….focus, focus…aiming…aiming…

BOOOMMMM!  My 20 gauge expels a perfectly placed 4shot shell through the brush.

The bird jumps up and gracefully lands in the same spot. 

And stands there.

What? I am dumbfounded.   What?  He takes a couple steps to the side, and casually looks around.  He looks like he is supposed to be meeting someone.   Hell yeah, it’s me.

BOOOMMMM!  My 20 gauge expels another perfectly placed 4shot shell through the brush.

He glances side to side, eyeballs into the brush I’m in, then opens up and flaps his great wings two times, turns around, lifts off the ground in slow motion, and simply glides across a huge field and over the tree line.

“Noooohhhhhhhhhh!”

Without hesitation I leap out from around the little trees, dash up the bank, over the railroad road, and start running across the field, crying out,

“You are MINE!  You are MINE DAMMIT!  ARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!   You are supposed to be mine!” 

Half way across the field I am getting winded, I’m hot, sweat running down my forehead into my eyes, burning, I feel tears welling up and I stop running.  I stand in the field now crying out;

“Dammit I waited for you!  I waited for you, it was supposed to be!”   I drop to the ground, sobbing.  “How can you just fly away?  How can you just leave me?  Ohhhhh God!  I just can’t do this alone anymore!”  Now I am a bawling baby in the middle of the open field. 

We were supposed to be.  Hours pass as I cry and cry and cry in that field.  All that waiting.  All that patient waiting for just the right time.  The perfect circumstances for us to finally connect.  It was so meant to be!  How could he just fly off like that?  How could he leave me like that?

But that bird is now long gone.  Gone forever. 

Exhausted, I lift my head up, look around me and wipe the tears away on my sleeve.  The hills areSDTurkey2013 013 cast golden from the setting sun.  There is a soft breeze. The grass is flowing like rippling water.  Songbirds are flitting about and chirping.  I am surrounded by rugged beauty.  I am surrounded by challenge and opportunity.  Life.  There is so much to be thankful for even though he is gone.  I realize none of this is about the turkey.  He was simply the messenger, sent to tell me something. 

The only thing to do now, is to get up off my ass, brush myself off, and go find another bird.

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