This past Saturday destroyed a perfectly good blog post for me.
I had drafted and nearly completed a masterpiece of self-deprecating satire, and I was just hours away from putting the finishing touches on it before releasing that pinnacle of comedy onto the world.
You see, up until just two days ago, all the signs of spring had been meaningless, primarily because I had not heard a gobbler, nor had I seen a strutting tom turkey to that point. I had a thesis that all the other signs of spring, such as the chirping birds, warming days, rainy afternoons, and the return of migrating waterfowl had all been illusions and trickery forged by Mother Nature herself given the remarkable absence of gobbling, strutting turkeys. Friday night I had almost pressed “Post” to put it on the site.
Instead I went to bed early, for the next morning I rose early. I drove out to pick up my brother, with the intention of an early morning scout in the retreating dark of a spring dawn. We drove for a while into Oro township before I pulled over and turned off the car. We sat for roughly five minutes before stealthily opening our doors and sneaking up to the gate of a property we frequently hunt. It was just breaking dawn, and a few crows were already making a racket. I blasted a few notes on a barred owl call and listened. Nothing. I called again, and as I craned an ear, I heard him far off in front and well to my left.
A turkey gobbled from a treetop.
I owled once more and he gobbled again. My brother whispered that he too had heard it in the distance and we backed out quietly. We drove a hundred yards up the road and once more stopped the car. Once again we sat in the car for a few minutes before slipping out; this time I barked on a crow call. My calling fired up other crows and with my second string of ‘caws’ I heard the same turkey again sound off from his roost. Once more we slipped easily back into the vehicle and moved on.
One spot to hunt, one gobbler. It was the first time I’d heard a tom since the end of May 2014, and it made me happy, much like hearing the voice of an old friend on the telephone would have.
We looped around in a country laneway, and made north up Highway 26 to a piece of Crown forest not far from the village of Midhurst. I had heard turkeys there in 2014, but had not made a visual at that time. As we approached the spot I planned to do some locator calls from, I looked left and saw a string of hens being trailed by a nice hefty gobbler in strut, all less than a hundred yards from the roadside. As I slowed slightly, the hens began to slide off into thicker woods so I drove onwards, not wanting to spook the scene.
Two spots, two gobblers. I had not seen a strutter since I shot one on the Victoria Day weekend of 2014. I was buzzing with excitement while lamenting the demise of well-composed blog post about not encountering birds yet in 2015.
We pressed onward into Springwater Township and walked into a massive tract of Crown forest I had scouted on top maps, but that I hadn’t yet put boots on the ground in. I crow called once more and for the first time on the morning I could not trigger a gobbler to sing. Another Crown forest near Clearview township yielded a similar result.
So we were batting .500 for the morning and I was in no mood to complain about it.
In truth, I don’t have exclusive use of any of the properties in question, and I’ll certainly have to compete with others on the Crown land sites, but all those logistic and scheduling conundrums meant nothing really, because I was back in the game with wild turkeys. Seeing and hearing birds helped with the anxiety I’d been having about my 2015 season prospects, and later messages from my cousin on the Bruce Peninsula confirmed that there was a line on gobblers up there as well. A picture of a half-dozen strutting toms that he texted my way whet my appetite for the upcoming hunts in late April and throughout all of May.
So the more I thought about, the more I was okay with having to pitch that other masterfully-crafted blog post. Because writing about hunting is all well and good, and it is in fact one of my only marketable skills.
But actually getting out there and experiencing the spring mornings and hearing the music of a world being reborn out of a coma-like winter beats the ‘tap-tap’ of a keyboard any day.