"The Mountaintop"

Old Man Winter, with a former might and icy bite that shocks your breathe away, had surrendered and given way to the genesis of Spring. Morning thunder announced his demise. Looking out my office window, the geese were taking turns executing graceful skid landings on the pond as they performed their mating dances and squabbled over hierarchies. A great blue heron fluffed and folded his wings, gracefully stepping in the periphery of sagging dead cattails.

This visual drama held me spellbound, but my thoughts were somewhere else because Spring held new meaning this year. I was going turkey hunting.

The bright April sun made the freeway asphalt sparkle like black diamond sandpaper, as my seventh hour of driving ticked away. The stereo pounded out my favorite rock as I yammered on the cell phone and munched Teriyaki jerky with a cold coffee chaser. Par usual, I was loaded with far more hunting gear than I really needed, but being a "what if" kind of person, I always liked to be prepared for every variable. Okay okay, so I'm an anal fanatic obsessive, but I'm not alone. All my turkey hunting friends had been going crazy for the last two weeks. Since this was my first turkey hunt, I was an outsider looking in at their frenzy. As a tax accountant with April 15th being just two days past, I didn't have the mental energy to psych myself either. Oh, I had methodically accumulated most of the required turkey hunting accoutrements, but the anticipation and thrill of this sport still seemed somewhat foreign to me. I am not one to emotionalize things or attain excitement vicariously through the passions of others. I'm not a good faker, and I need to embrace an experience myself. And besides, how could the pursuit of any critter compare to my love for whitetail deer, bear, or duck hunting? I was going to find out.

I pulled into the tiny Kansas town, where our lavender painted motel sat at the junction of two cattle truck routes. Representing five States, our six member hunting group was organized by Blaine, a friend and business associate from Ohio. He and his buddy Terry, were on a mission to see that I got a turkey. We assembled for scouting by 10am, and by 4pm we were all out hunting in our respective areas. We hunted hard, and by the second day, two in the group had each harvested nice gobblers. The second evening I took a stand alone, and finally had the guts to practice my diaphragm call. To my astonishment, four gobblers pursuing a hen came racing by me at 60 yards, stopping twice when I called again. I saw 16 turkeys that night and nearly called one within range at final legal light. My curiosity and excitement were mounting.

By the third day, it was pouring rain. We trudged a half mile through various muddy fields and took a stand under oak trees at the edge of an old corn field over sown with wheat. Blaine started calling, and within an hour, five gobblers answered and came through the woods, stopping at the field edge 15 yards to our right. Obviously educated to decoys, they spooked and did a hasty retreat back into the woods. I shoot both left and right handed, and began the slow motion process of switching to shoulder for a left handed shot. The gobblers made a second appearance, only to retreat again. By now, 25 minutes had elapsed, and the fever pitch of my excitement was starting to make me burn inside. Our intended prey made their third appearance at the field edge and I was ready. I steadied my shotgun, elbows on knees, with the lead turkey's lower neck in my site picture. The first birds stepped into the clear, and I began to slowly squeeze the trigger, just as I had done a few days before when patterning my shotguns up at my hunting shack in Minnesota. My first turkey hunt and I was ready to get a turkey! My heart rate was aerobic, but I willed myself still. Steady, steady, I pulled the trigger and CLICK.