Hunting the Long Beard

My first Long Beard

The eyes of outer space beamed down through the tree canopy, shouting out their heavenly messages.  Stoically, I leaned against a hard, medium size Southern Pine while listening to the fading night sounds.  Like others before, this tree would be my front row seat to the hunt’s many scenes and acts.  The stage was a small food plot located atop a gradual sloping hill.  I couldn’t see it through the darkness, but I knew it was there.

A slowly advancing dawn began to define leaves, branches, trees and forest.  Next, it awakened the morning musicians and stirred a pleasing breeze.  One of the morning’s first performers was a Barred Owl who blared his signature who-cooks-for-you vocals across the still woods.  The startling sound made my heart skip a beat and amplified the wave of excitement building inside.  There he goes again—and again.  Each time the owl shook the air’s molecules, I eagerly anticipated a reply from another bird—the Eastern Wild Turkey.  My quest.

The reply never came.  Where were they?  I knew there were birds in the area.  I had heard them the morning before.  According to my calculations, they would visit the food plot, scavenging for worms or grubs.  That long-bearded tom would have to stroll by, searching for another hot hen to add to his harem.  I could picture it just like a director storyboarding his next series of film shoots.  I seriously began to wonder if the leading actors would ever show.  Minutes passed in silence, and I thought it would be another fruitless morning.  Fruitless mornings were all too common.

Before giving up, I pulled out my slate call and let loose a few soft yelps.  Amazingly, a gobble—no, two gobbles—reverberated in the valley below.  My heart throbbed and muscles tensed.  I could hardly believe my ears.  This could be an opportunity to take my first turkey.  I had hunted these wary birds for many years, but had never taken one.  I had even hunted beside experts and witnessed their efforts go unrewarded.  Now, fortune seemed to be smiling down on me.

Turkey Fan

The thundering calls grew louder.  They were coming up the hill.  I issued another yelp, soliciting a growing stream of gobbles.  How many were there?  Was I calling too much?  Not enough?  Everything was happening so fast.  All of a sudden, the heated cries ceased.  The building excitement slammed into an unseen wall.  Did I do something wrong?  Maybe they saw me lay down my call.  Maybe I botched that last yelp.  Maybe the jig was up.  Maybe …

Minutes seemed like hours.  As disappointment seeped back in, I noticed movement.  Three oversized golf ball-shaped objects were floating through the forest.  My hands and arms moved in slow motion, like Steve Austin in the Six Million Dollar Man.  The left hand slowly lifted the barrel.  My right finger pushed off the safety, and I gripped the stock firmly.  The bluish and scarlet heads grew larger and larger.  The gobbling resumed with full force.  The middle head stopped and his two companions followed suit.  A long fibrous beard draped majestically to the ground.  The tom strutted proudly and pointed his keen vision toward my twenty dollar, plastic decoy perched securely in the food plot.  Now was my chance.

I brought the 12 gauge up, cancelling out the bird’s head with the bead.  The gun let loose its fury and a black massive heap lay flopping on the ground.  Dust, leaves and feathers formed an impressive cloud over the fallen Thanksgiving dinner.  The kill was clean and the suffering a mute point.  Once again, the Creator had shared His generous bounty.  The tom brought a wonderful feast to the Johnson’s kitchen table.  What seemed an impossible feat became for me a cherished memory.  I was no longer just a turkey hunter, but I had joined the ranks of turkey harvesters.  Thank God for the theater of the woods and giving us a part in it

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2 Responses to Hunting the Long Beard

  1. Mildred Aenchbacher says:

    How did the taste of the wild turkey differ from the ones we usually eat?

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