Opening day of the 2014 turkey season in Tennessee dawned gloomy and overcast. Rainfall was imminent. There was just no doubt looking toward the sky as to that fact. I reluctantly donned my raingear, packed my grub and other hunting essentials, mounted up on my trusty four-wheeler and headed to the mountains.
Once atop the mountain, thanks to modern technology, I was able to gather quite a bit of weather intelligence. My buddy, Brian, was about 25 miles south of me on an even higher summit. Via text messages, he reported heavy fog, 20 yards of visibility and rain. Cousins Big Sherpa and Cub were northeast of me about 11 miles. They reported rain as well.
Meanwhile, as I watched the storm brewing in the distance, songbirds were in rare form after daybreak. Sweeter singing I’ve never heard. The woods were absolutely alive with avian melody. Clouds parted and gathered. Mist came and went. It wasn’t long until big old drops of rain were pelting down and making my rain suit pop. A hush came over the songbirds. I went scurrying to a nearby cliff line.
Quickly, I got settled beneath a nice, sheltered, rock overhang. Dry leaves were thick and comfy. I had plenty to eat, nowhere else to be and the peaceful cadence of a straight-down rain on the forest was as peaceful as the birdsong had been just moments before. I glassed the area before me intermittently, as I knew turkeys liked to come to this place on such days.
At about 10:20 a.m., out of the corners of my sleepy eyes, I detected a bright, flickering flash that lasted a couple of seconds, it seemed. I knew it was coming. I really did. But I jumped in spite of myself. I was jolted by one of the loudest, longest rolling claps of thunder I’ve ever heard. It made the timber tremble and shook boulders. Nary a tom turkey shock gobbled in response. However, as I reflect back, I may have inadvertently drowned them out with my shout of sheer terror.
When a lull in the deluge occurred, I struck out walking. I made about a 3-mile jaunt through the woods, suspecting a big gobbler was lurking behind every tree. The more I walked, the more soaked I became. It was coming down by the buckets full, I tell ya’.
As I completed my loop and came back to the cliff I’d become too bored to sit under, with the turkey-frequenting area facing it, guess what was there? Yep. Hens and gobblers were everywhere. But I was no longer sitting beneath the cliff, high and dry, in shotgun harvest range. No, now I was a pathetic, rain-soaked, haggard being far out of gun range with multiple pairs of turkey eyes glued to my every movement. Needless to say, I didn’t tag a gobbler on opening day.
The next morning broke frosty cold and windy. I snuggled back down beneath the covers and pulled Yvonne up tight. Warmth and comfort won the tug-of-war between meat gathering hunter and domesticated “husbandthingee.” I freely admit it. I’m losing my outdoor edge as the years are rolling by.
The call of the wild returned later in the morning after a big breakfast, the frost dissipated and the wind lay still. I thought of a place where I could just imagine a turkey emerging to strut as the weather turned for the better. Turkey chasers have these psychotic thoughts this time of year. We can’t help it. Everything is thought of in terms of turkey “goins’ on.”
In a short while, I was sitting in that spot. I knew I needed to sit patiently in spite of my strong roaming instinct. I made a few lonely hen yelps on my box call and the show was on. For once in a thousand times, my inklings paid off. Yvonne will be fixing turkey and all the trimmings on a day in the very near future. I’m not, or never will be, a competent turkey hunter. Try as I may, they just plain outplay me in the chess game of the woods. I’m just like the proverbial blind hog that finds an acorn now and then. One thing is for sure though. All the time spent out in the Creator’s Great Cathedral of the Outdoors is therapy for this country feller’s soul.
Mark J. Tidwell is librarian of the town of Jellico. His column appears regularly on the Outdoors page of the LaFollette Press.