Thursday, April 12, 2012

Peacocks and Wild Turkey

Wild turkeys are dumb!  They are the only bird I know that can fly, but can't figure out how to get past a fence!  They will run up and down it franticly because they can't get past's 4 feet high, there is boundless sky above it, they have wings, but they can't cross.  The only bird I've seen fly, bigger than a turkey, is a peacock.  My great uncle Elden Waite had some property on the south side of the Grande Ronde Valley that he was kind enough to let me hunt on.  It had a few scattered pheasants, lots of quail, huns if you could find them, enough rock chucks to keep my .22 barrel hot all day, pigeons in the barn, and, at one time, before some trespassers shot them, a flock of least I think that is what they are called........nope, I just looked it up, it's a muster.  I used italics for the same reason everyone uses look smarter than I really am!  In the verbal.....ha ha, sorry oral language we use quotes with our fingers to look smarter..........or just really annoying!

So, there was a muster of peacocks on uncle Elden's place until scum shot them, and I was almost a scum the day dad took me hunting up there for the first time!  It was my first year of bird hunting and we were looking for something to shoot at......I don't think dad thought I'd hit anything any more than I did, thats why I say "shoot at".   We hunted the foothills SE of the old homestead circling down and around into the barnyard.  We were almost to the buildings (remember I'm hunting, I have a loaded gun and a severe blood lust!) when a bird, big enough to block out the sun, with REALLY long tail feathers (think rooster pheasant here) gets up (meaning flushed-from-the-tall-grass-at-my-feet) and landed in the Hawthorn bush in front of me.  I struggled to get the gun to my shoulder because I was small, weak, and trying not to crap myself..........IT SCARED THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF ME!  I remember my dad yelling not to shoot, so I didn't.  I also knew enough to realize, after the shock of it all, that I wasn't looking at a bird I'd come to kill.  So, we headed to the barn to wait for one of the wild pigeons to offer up its life to Mr. Stevens.  Finally, a lone pigeon landed on top of one of the buildings.  Being a true sportsman, I slipped out of the building we were hiding in and sluiced it off the peak of the old barn with that trusty, old Stevens 20 gauge, bolt-action shotgun; my first kill with it.  It was a sweet victory!

We hunted up and around the old rock wall, headed north, until I flushed a small covey of huns, hitting one lightly.  We followed it to where it landed and finally got it.  My first kill on the wing; another small victory and another notch in my belt.  We drove home along the marsh, down Pierce Rd, towards B & K auto, finding a pen raised rooster crouched near the road, in weeds that just didn't quite cover him.  Dad handed me his 12 gauge and I shot his head off.  I didn't even get out of the back of the truck; I just decapitated him right there.  It was a glorious day.

That was 1982.  Since then I have killed more pheasants, quail, chukar, ducks, grouse, and huns than I can count.  I've killed deer, elk, antelope, bears, a cougar, coyotes, squirrels, some cats, a few cows, some pigs, chickens, and sheep, as well as lots of things I can't mention or my mom will beat me!  I've done it all.  I've outsmarted quite a few animals that, in their own right, were pretty sneaky.  Given the average intelligence of a turkey, this would be easy.  WRONG!  My first attempt at turkeys, I'm referring to a season, not an outing, was horrid.  I didn't have one chance at a turkey all year.  I didn't even find a tom on public ground; I did hear one at a distance, but that was it.  My friend, an experienced and highly successful turkey hunter, took us out, said he had a guaranteed tom for us, which it was, right up until the landowner drove up scaring off the one chance we had all season.

We didn't have wild turkeys in NE Oregon when I was inadvertently hunting a muster of peacocks on my great uncle's place.  Turkey hunting wasn't even interesting to me.  I remember getting my Outdoor Life magazine each spring with all the turkey articles and wanting to cry.  I hated turkey season, I wanted big mule deer bucks, elk bugling, and water buffalo charging from the thick, deep grass of Africa.  I wanted Jack O'Connor shooting Dall Sheep and caribou in the north, I wanted steelhead articles, spring bear, and I wanted to be outside hunting shed antlers.  Why would anyone want to chase a turkey around?

When we moved to Oregon from Wyoming I knew our hunting opportunities would pale in comparison.  Deer hunting is embarrassing here.  The deer numbers are so low, the average size of bucks so small, and the difficulty in drawing tags so great that I worried about giving my kids a chance to love what I love.  So turkey hunting was a new avenue of success, or so I thought, and anyway you get a tag with the purchase of your sportsman's pack.

 But this is a new year.  I did a little preseason scouting, I bought some calls and practiced, and I had a network of knowledgeable people to draw from.  As it turned out the network paid off.  I didn't really find much scouting; it was a little frustrating; a reminder of last years season; but a friend called to say he'd found me some turkeys if I was interested.  I happily took down the information and we planned our hunt.

This hunt was kinda special because we had Mr. Hall, the super-duper-4th-grade-teacher with us.  He came to Oregon for spring break and stopped to steelhead fish with us; we took him turkey hunting as well.  We took off a little late; work was a disaster and I couldn't leave when I had planned to.  So our first spot was taken.  We made fast tracks to our back-up spot and I spotted the turkeys almost immediately.  We piled from the Yukon, hustling up the hill and made a quick set up.  Nothing happened. Finally I heard the toms gobbling at my yelps.  We moved up the hill to intercept them but our second set up was still a little too far out.  We made a mad, quiet dash to close the distance and I got the decoy set up (Sweet Sally) and rolled out of the shooting lane none too soon.   There were 3 or 4 toms that came in.  Tyler and Corey were split and I was laying safely between them; Mr. Hall was behind a Ponderosa watching close by.  The turkeys came to the decoy, checked her out, turned to walk away when the boys started burning some powder.  We had got two!  It was pretty sweet stuff!  High fives, hugs, pictures and lots and lots of smiles.  It was a lot of fun sharing our first turkey kill with Mr. Hall, the creator of the true Thanks Giving Dinner.  For those of you not familiar, its a chance for kids to bring all sorts of interesting game to eat as a dinner at school around our national holiday.  Tyler LOVED it; of course he eats bugs, raw fish eggs with a little gut attached, and Kim's burned chilli without flinching!  

This is Mr. Hall and his awesome wife Kay-law-nee; in this picture they are at the Portland Temple on their way to our house.  Thanks Mr. Hall!