As I sat on a Coombsville hillside last Sunday morning during those precious pre-dawn moments, I was embraced by the arrival of both springtime and the wild turkey hunting season.
First off, let me just tell you that I did not bag a turkey. However, that didn’t stop me from getting reacquainted with nature during my favorite time of the year.
It was truly a day for the birds — just about every species of resident wild game bird you can think of made an appearance to mark the occasion.
A greenhead mallard cruised up the canyon, calling for his mate. In the calm waters of the pond below me, three drake wood ducks swam in circles around a single hen, each competing for her attention.
From what seemed like miles away I could hear a pair of Canada geese announcing their approach, their honks growing ever louder by the second. When they finally arrived in the canyon with their full volume echoing in the hillsides, a raucous, ground-shaking response came from the trees across the lake from me. It seemed that on every single branch of every oak tree on that hill sat a turkey!
Following a lengthy discussion of gobbles and clucks among the dozens and dozens of turkey voices, the fly-down finally began. A crew of six or seven jakes flew across first and lit in a meadow just 20 yards from me, but on the other side of a deer fence. Although they were still on the same property, with my crossbow I wouldn’t have been able to get an accurate shot through the 6-inch squares in the fence’s wires.
Besides, I was holding out for the big tom, the one with the 10-plus-inch beard dragging on the ground that the landowner had told me about.
After a while, one of the jakes with a barely-visible beard found his way through to my side of the fence and began running around frantically. He ran up the hill behind me and then reversed course to run back down and right past my hiding spot. He passed so close that I almost could have reached out and grabbed him with my bare hands!
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Still, I waited for that trophy bird to show himself.
At long last, the big bird joined the flock on the ground. He and a couple of hens landed about 30 yards in front of me, downhill but behind a tree. He strutted there for quite a while, moving tantalizingly back and forth but always remaining blocked by tree branches.
Eventually, the big tom and the rest of the flock moved off over the hill in the opposite direction from me. That was it for my turkey excitement!
I lingered in my spot a while longer just to see if any of the toms might circle back in my direction. During my wait, a hummingbird buzzed over to inspect this odd-looking lump sitting next to a tree trunk. The bird hovered within a couple of feet of my face, gave me a good looking-over, and then buzzed away just as quickly.
I picked up on Mother Nature’s hint that my hunt was over for the day. Before leaving, I took a short hike up to the far corner of the property where the feeder stream entered the lake. I watched a flock of quail lift out of a vineyard and land nearby on the sturdy vines of a wild blackberry patch. Even though I saw them in advance, the explosive sound of their liftoff still gave me a jolt!
There’s just something about a clear, springtime morning that captivates me. Even if I had known in advance that I would be going home without a turkey that day, I still would not have missed it!
Guy Carl is a CPA and partner with BDCo Accountants and Advisors in St. Helena (www.bdcocpa.com). Contact Guy at GC.firstname.lastname@example.org