Spring gobbler season will soon end. On this late April day, however, the season blooms with promise.
My breath billows out like on a winter morn. I am chilled to the bone, but something inside tells me this is the spot as I stand by James Patrick Nolen, a legend of many hunting seasons. His time is short now, but we are here in these woods in search of a battle-worn tom, perhaps for the last time.
Redbirds sing a sweet melody as the sky displays a hint of orange to the east. And somewhere in the distance, a chorus of bard owls belt out the familiar refrain: “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.”
Gobble, obble, obble, thundered an old tom, out of the dark woods beyond. Today will be like none other, yet he will assemble his harem and partake in nature’s spring mating ritual as he struts, drums, gobbles and attracts any willing hen.
His legacy will live on for another generation as he has sired many young gobblers.
And if he is really good, he will become a legend in the minds of many hunters. Maybe he’ll become another Gabriel, a legendary tom in his lineage. It matters not to us, only that he is here, and we are ready.
The thunderbird screams from his lofty perch again as my mind travels back in time to the woods and waters of my youth. J.P. Nolen taught me the ways of an outdoorsman and how to live and hunt ducks, dove, deer and squirrels, but we never went on a turkey hunt.
Alas, there were no turkeys in his youth, and barely enough to hunt years later. But now, in his waning years, it is my dream to call in a trophy gobbler for the “Old Master” hunter.
But time waits for no man.
I purred, yelped and clucked in the direction of the roosted tom — yelp, yelp, yelp, purr, purr-cluck.
Boom! Our spring dream hunt suddenly came to a thunderous end by a poacher who’d snuck in and blasted the bird from his roost.
Stunned, we sat in silence wondering what to do. Rage pulsed through me as I tried to regain my composure and salvage our morning.
Our last springtime hunt couldn’t end like this. There would be other days for me, but few if any for him.
I knew there were other gobblers within hearing distance of the old monarch. They sat on their perches silent, trembling, even fearing another whipping at the spurs of the king, if they dared a gobble in response.
Yelp, yelp, yelp came the spring pleadings of a nearby hen thirty minutes after the untimely poaching incident.
I challenged her with a feisty response of sultry hen talk with my natural voice calls.
Ka, ka, ka, ka, put, put, put, put. She responded in kind and quickly appeared in front of us yelping, and purring incessantly, searching for the unseen suitor.
As I challenged her yet again, she was beside herself in anger. She continued to yelp, cluck and purr aggravatingly, as any enraged female would respond to an adversary.
In the midst of it all, the rhythm of nature resumed, and a magnificent spring morning returned to normalcy after the shotgun blast shattered the peace.
It was all a little much for the hen, however, and her enraged yelping reached a crescendo in a fly up cackle as she soared into the branches of an oak. She proceeded to cut, cackle and putt, with fighting purrs mixed in for good measure as she pleaded for the unseen adversary to show herself.
If there was another gobbler within earshot surely, he would be tempted by such passionate love pleading.
Suddenly the sound of wingbeats, fighting purrs and half gobbles filled the spring morning as a gobbler battle erupted nearby.
“Get ready, he’s coming in now Paw Paw,” I said.
Seconds later, several birds burst into view with a bearded tom strutting behind. The coal black monarch made a beeline towards us with love on his mind.
Almost simultaneously, the bird screeched to a halt about 40 yards out and thundered a voluminous gobble.
James Patrick Nolen’s Remington Sportsman 58 roared in triumph, as the gobbler crumpled to earth.
It was a fitting end to a magnificent spring morning as the gobbler passed on his legacy and fulfilled the circle of life. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, for we are all born to die, but what happens in between makes all the difference.
We’d tasted defeat from the hands of a poacher, but the bittersweet moment was fleeting, and we ultimately savored the sweet taste of victory with a gobbler of our own as another lifetime memory was shared. In the process, we had also secured our Thanksgiving turkey, just a bit early.
Call Mike Giles at 601-917-3898 or email email@example.com.