Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For May 8th, 2009 Edition.
The date was Tuesday, April 21st about 8:00 a.m. and snow had been falling for 36 hours! As I crammed turkey hunting paraphernalia into my truck my mind kept insisting it was deer season and I should replace my shotgun with a rifle. But then again, April snowstorms are no strangers to Northern Wisconsin, and by 8:30 I was headed south for a 240-mile trip to Richland Country to hunt the wily turkey amidst the beautiful rolling landscape of Southwestern Wisconsin.
Snowflakes were my constant companions all the way to Merrill, which were replaced by raindrops until I reached Necedah. There the sky reluctantly began to display small patches of blue, which continued to increase in size all the way to my destination - Thorn Hollow - the home of my hosts, Duke and Sue Munger.
My adventures during the spring turkey season in this part of the state began four years earlier and rapidly became an annual event. Sure there are plenty of wild turkeys living in the area where I live, but half the fun of any hunting or fishing trip is the "going and being there." Besides, I would be sharing the experience with a long time friend and that adds a large bonus, resulting in "a good time being had by all", turkey or no turkey!
After unloading my gear and being ushered into a spare bedroom I chatted with my hosts and hunting companion prior to heading out to a familiar location at the far end of a hay field nestled between two mountains where I set up my blind. What a wonderful invention is the "pop-up" camouflaged hunting blind! Once removed from its carrying pouch the spring steel loaded fabric blinds simply "pop-up!" I will resist the temptation to verbally illustrate the sheer frustration and frequent expletives normally uttered when attempting to "un-pop" the blind and stuff in back into its carrying pouch!
Once my blind was staked in place I placed my two decoys, folding chair, camo vest, and a small bag containing my brand new "Ghillie Suit" inside, and all was ready for opening morning on the morrow!
Let me briefly explain what a Ghillie Suit is. The suit was originally designed for use by military snipers to conceal them from enemy eyes while they conduct their deadly deeds. The suit is made up of a baggy jacket and pants, hat and a length of material to wrap around your gun all covered with imitation grass, weeds and leaves, making the person who wears it look like a large ball of lose yarn or a giant hair ball. But if the wearer does not move and positions themselves in a natural outdoor environment, such as at the base of a large tree, they become almost invisible! Well - I had plans to use my new piece of turkey hunting equipment should the turkeys refuse to come within range of my pop-up blind!
I was awake well before my alarm clock was scheduled to jingle, and had the coffee pot plugged in by 4:30. Two hot cups wiped the residue left by the sandman from my eyes and awakened my nervous system. Two sandwiches and a Fiber-One bar I had placed in a zip-loc bag the night before was removed from the frig along with a chilled plastic bottle of water, which were stuffed in my fanny pack along with an assortment of turkey calls, 12 gauge turkey loads and a partial roll of toilet tissue. By 5:20 I was slowly shuffling along the edge of a hay field in 30-degree temperatures under a sky filled with twinkling stars towards whatever awaited me!
I was still well over a hundred yards from my blind when the first gobble of the morning shattered the pre-dawn stillness! Mixed emotions raced through my head as the gobble had originated at the top of Thorn Hollow Mountain only a hundred or so yards above the location of my blind. I liked the fact a gobbler was close by, but possibly too close and the bird might detect my approach via noise or sight and become aware of a human presence! I went into my best "pussy-foot" mode and made it to my pop-up undetected.
The original gobble increased to a chorus of three gobblers, all of them coming from the ridge above me. My pulse rate quickened and the morning chill miraculously disappeared! After nearly twenty minutes of listening to gobbling serenades the sound of turkeys coming down from their nighttime roost reached my ears. I clucked my best hen love song on my box call, which obviously fell on deaf turkey ears as the gobbling sound soon faded into the distance. It was time to put "Plan B" into operation!
I pulled the jacket of my Ghillie Suit over my camo jacket, buckled my fanny pack around my middle and with shotgun in hand began a very difficult climb up the steep slope of Thorn Hollow Mountain. Thirty winded minutes later I arrived at the mountains crest, located a small windfall to hide behind, and sat down to wait. My watch indicated the time to be 7:00 a.m.
During the next hour I was visited by three deer, the lead doe of which walked casually within twenty feet of me before scenting human scent and freezing in place. With wild eyes the doe searched the surrounding forest for the intruder without ever seeing me. For three of four minutes the bewildered doe searched in vane for the source of the scent before finally loping away probably wondering how a human could possibly become invisible!
Dozens of gray and fox squirrels scurried across the leaf covered forest floor carrying walnuts and acorns without ever a hint that man was present in their living room! The Ghillie really worked, but the ultimate test still had to be conducted. The test began a few minutes before eight!
Muffled gobbling reached my ears from behind the next minor ridge a hundred yards to the east. I stroked my box call several times and was rewarded by a loud chorus from the returning gobblers. Again my pulse rate quickened and I shifted my position behind the windfall to provide maximum concealment from the rapidly approaching gobblers!
Old Sol's rays were just beginning to highlight the crest of the eastern ridge when the three amigos hove into view! What an indelible sight it impregnated on my memory! Three strutting black blobs, tails fanned and feathers fluffed silhouetted by the rising sun created an image generally only seen on a National Geographic Special!
The lead bird, which was by far the smallest, definitely had a destination in mind as he made a beeline for the south- facing slope of the ridge and quickly disappeared. I expected his two pals to follow and increased the frequency and volume of my lovesick hen call! And possibly by Divine Intervention - my calling had its desired effect!
The two adult toms hesitated, turned and while strutting and gobbling headed in my direction! The next forty-five minutes were the longest forty-five minutes of my life. Highly cautious and suspicious, due to the fact the boys could not see the hen that was singing her love song, they were reluctant to zoom over and introduce themselves.
Kneeling behind my meager concealment, the feeling in my knees and legs slowly ebbed from my body. As the two gobblers slowly narrowed the distance between us my apprehension grew concerning my ability to rise from my hiding spot to shoot without being detected by critters possessing uncanny eyesight!
My break occurred when the birds were well within range and both bird's heads were behind large trees. I rose on shaky legs and was just bringing my shotgun to my shoulder when one of the toms stuck his head out from behind the tree and spotted my movement. But the target I needed was presented and the roar of my 12-gauge echoed through the forest.
Surprisingly the second tom strolled into the open and walked over to look at the prostrate form of his pal. He seemed at ease with my presence and only reluctantly walked away after I verbally insulted his intelligence!
As the lucky gobble walked away I was sure I heard him giggling and mumbling to himself that now all the local hens were his! What a lucky turkey - and that includes the hunter!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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