|Firearms - Shotguns|
by Jill Christensen
Staff Writer, Georgia
How does a big ole fat tom turkey disappear behind a two-inch sapling?
<< --- photo of me taken same year as this story
It had been a long morning's hunt. He had removed his boots and socks and waded across a with me on his shoulders carrying the guns. We had scrabbled up a briar-covered cliff and hunted hard in the swamp on the other side of the creek. Though it had been bitterly cold weather, the sand carried to higher ground by the flood of the century was covered everywhere with delicate white lilies. He photographed me among them with my shotgun, Southern Belle.
I checked my gun again, something I do every chance I get on a multi-setup hunt like that day. It wouldn't do to be running around cross-country, especially with a hunting buddy, with a round in the chamber. Five minutes later we were running flat out after another tom. I grabbed my hat back from a greedy twig, almost slid down a steep hill to the swamp, where the bamboo was taller than me and dry spots few. He got ahead of me and I was looking where to put my feet when I heard him whisper urgently, "Come on!" I stepped shy of the next hillock. A muddy root grabbed one foot, I lost my balance, and then I was in the muck over my boots and sinking. So much for rushing a swamp, I thought. I grabbed some bamboo and grasses and pulled myself out. "What happened!" he said, not waiting for the answer.
We reached dry ground and the swamp opened up into small hardwoods. The sun was streaming through them offering welcome warmth. We set up, and I tried out my brand new Lynch box call. Surprisingly, my squeaky efforts prompted a distant gobble. Was that across the creek, where we had come from?
We doubled back, but circled the swamp. Back to the creek. Off with the boots and socks. He slid down the bank and motioned me back onto his shoulders. He / we almost went under when he stepped in a hole. This time I had limbs and footholds rather than briars. We were soon on the run after the gobbler. Suddenly he thundered, close, and we froze. We didn't see anything and had to set up so we eased to the ground and low-crawled to a big water oak. He set up to my right and we stuck our makeshift blind up in front of our feet. In the nick of time, too, because here came a hen, yelping curiously as she approached us from my left. She came in so fast that my hand was in midair and my gun still unloaded. She walked right out in front of us and looked straight at me from ten feet away. I was certain she knew exactly which Realtree pattern I was wearing. She turned her head then and I slipped the round into the chamber and eased the gun closed. Click. Even more curious now, and unafraid, the hen walked even closer, and tilted her head to study me. I did not move. Had she extended her neck like turkeys do whan they walk, her beak would have been just over the blind. I tried not to blink as a mosquito, who hadn't heard that mosquitos only come out when it is warm, dined on the bridge of my nose, which was unfortunately accessible above my facemask. The hen yelped at me one more time, then lost interest and wandered off.
A gobbler thundered from the same direction the hen had come. Mental checklist. Gun loaded, I'm covered from the gobbler's direction. Ease safety off. I saw him. He threaded quickly through a stand of small pines, headed straight for us. I seated the gun in my shoulder pocket and waited. He disappeared behind a sapling. We waited. Nothing. Ten minutes. Fifteen. He wasn't coming. My partner and I looked at each other.
"How did he DO that?" I asked.