I was doing a good job of holding things together. Really I was.
A couple of weeks ago I saw my first strutting turkey of 2014. It was nice; a bit of an omen that spring was breaking through the tenacious, unrelenting grip of this frigid and nightmarish winter. It renewed my optimism for the speedy return of spring gobbler hunting, but I didn’t get too carried away. After all it was just one bird.
Then it got warmer, and the snowbanks at the foot of my driveway began to shrink. And I saw more birds, although another strutter eluded me. But seeing big groups of hens out picking in fields that were surrendering their soils for the first time since mid-November was still a pleasant sight. Numbers seemed strong and the hope was that plenty of birds survived to breed again this year. A few days later I went to the rural outskirts of Carp, Ontario for a work project and my nerves became slightly more jangled. Not only was the sky there almost black with raucous hordes of migrating geese, I saw big flocks of turkeys on numerous country blocks as I drove the area, and the fringe benefit was that I saw many, many more strutting birds. But these were birds I could not hunt, so the season still seemed distant and murky. It grew warmer still and my entire lawn became visible. I barbecued a sweet and delicious pork shoulder while I was wearing a t-shirt. Spring was here and I was planning a few drives down to likely hunting spots in Simcoe County so that I could scout out a wary old longbeard. My father, brother and I chatted about plans for the season and what locales we’d be hunting and when we’d be hunting them. It was all coming together according to plan.
Then the snow flew. Lots of it. Mercury plummeted. Roads became icy. Previously bare fields and pastures were dusted with a few more inches of the white stuff, and I was immediately disabused of all my hope, anticipation, and joy.
I went through the stereotypical cycle of loss and grief. At first I denied that such miserable weather was coming, after all meteorologists are just talking heads that are never correct ion their forecasts, right? Wrong.
Then I was mad and swore to everyone who would listen about how spring and summer were just going to skip Ontario this year. I subsequently bargained with the unseen deities worshiped by us many who chase gobblers that they would allow for less snow than forecast. My prayers went unheeded, as they always do.
Up until writing this piece, I was mired in depression and longing. I found myself trying to mollify my sadness with frequent trips to hunting stores, I nostalgically caressed my turkey calls, and thought of joyous times made up of early spring sunrises and the feathery burden of having a dead turkey slung over my left shoulder. I even found myself using pencils and notepads at work to make the practiced strokes of a hickory striker on a gritty slate. I was pitiful, just pitiful.
But today brought acceptance and closure because unless the sun explodes or the world otherwise ends, I’ll find myself hunting in less than two weeks. Yesterday evening I saw a flock of turkeys in close proximity to one of my favourite hunting haunts, and that brought renewed optimism. My hunting partner in British Columbia should be acquiring my license at just around the time this post goes into cyberspace; a trip of a lifetime so close that I can taste it.
Now I’m living by the Pollyanna principle again, blissfully ignorant to how flawed that approach may be. I’m feeling good about the upcoming season, and I’m relishing the reconnection with hunting partners that has been hibernating these last long winter months; in fact the only thing that has me down is that I can’t be turkey hunting every day of the upcoming season. The real-world boogeymen of work, family commitment, and maintaining legitimately meaningful relationships with loved ones have once again come back to derail my fantasy world of uninterrupted calling sessions in the woods and fields. But those painful realities do that every year. However, and I swear to heaven above that I mean it, if the weather this year so much as looks like it is going to be sideways on a day I plan on hunting, then I’m sure I’ll lose my mind.
Which is a short trip, given the lunacy that my turkey hunter’s brain lives with day to day.