I was 48 hours late for the start of Ohio’s spring wild turkey-hunting season.
That’s never happened before, not in Ohio at least. Punctual to a fault in arriving early on the season’s opener, I always say. Or did, at least up until this year, the 25th Ohio spring turkey season for which I’ve been a participant.
Sure the weather on Monday’s season opener was far from tolerable. Heavy with cold and flexed by a wind that bent the will to participate, I had a ready-made excuse to avoid the opener.
It was going to be too raw of a day to expect much in the way of hearing a male turkey gobble much less kill one,
I successfully argued with myself.
Uh-huh, as the opening day statistics later revealed. In Ashtabula County - where I ALWAYS begin the season’s start - hunters killed 93 turkeys. That beat last year’s opening day take of 70 birds.
Actually, the weather was a convenient truth that provided cover for the real reason for my absence in the turkey woods on Monday.
After three months and multiple visits with various specialists I’m no more closer to a resolution as to why my joints never cease aching and my strength as vaporized.
In any event, the 48 hours after opening day saw me anchored to the same woodlot I’ve voluntarily chained myself to for the past dozen and more spring turkey seasons.
I did correct my positioning, however, and advanced another 50 yards to a better location. My back slapped against the same tree from which several years ago I had watched a string of jakes snake through the woods until they were close enough for me to shoot the lead bird.
Only there were no lead bird marshaling a troupe of his mates this morning.
Once - and only once - I heard a hen turkey, her half-spirited yelps seemingly not building much enthusiasm in her nor confidence in me.
Except for the always-omnipresent roaring of Canada geese that regularly fly overhead the woods were relaxed, not having to recognize the vocal talents of other bird life.
Still, the woodlot was far from being void of game. A hen woodduck rushed through the trees, as agile as any ruffed grouse. Somewhere in one of those tree exists a hollowed-out cavity being sub-leased to the woodduck.
And out ahead too was a train of deer; doe, I suspect, given the way one of the animals was displaying her well-developed pregnancy.
The deer strolled to within 15 yards of me, munching on the newly hatched leafs that grew from the forest’s tenderest and shortest trees.
Cautious not to flinch, I also keep a watch on the squadron of deer. If nothing else they were providing an interesting show during and otherwise unproductive sit.
Eventually they became nervous, trying to wrap their senses around the whatever-it-is perceived threat just a few paces away. That’s when they turned to starboard and walked stiff-legged back to where they came from.
After an hour of hunting this way I became antsy enough to want to move. Not within the same woodlot but several miles to the west. It was there last year when I was bamboozled by a jake and missed it clean when the bird came up out of a ravine and stopped less than 10 yards away.
The way I figured it, there’s no reason to discount this spot. After all, the landowner had given me and me alone permission to hunt the small woodlot so I wasn’t worried about competition from another hunter.
And a muddy half-hearted trail traced itself on the face of this woodland patch the way a poorly drawn tattoo mars a person’s form.
The foot path could not take a direct route through the woodlot, however. Bumps in the terrain and temporary/vernal splotches of water made it imperative that the trail wag back and forth even as it moved forward.
Near the location where I had called in the jake was a puddle of giant white trilliums. The wildflowers were pooled at the edge of the ravine where the 2011 bird snookered me.
Exactly how this cluster of wildflowers had avoided becoming snack food for the woodlot’s many deer is anyone’s guess. All that I know is that the deer candy was still available.
Not so any turkeys. The turn-around location was a bust. So too was the retreat back along the trail.
Stopping along the trail every 50 yards or so I did my best by uncorking my mouth call and talk like some lovesick hen turkey. There would be no response.
By the time I had made my way back to the vehicle the sun’s growing warmth was more robust and the back-country road more dusty. I was tired.
Of course I could - and easily, did - argue that the day went pretty much perfectly, filled with hope made warm by the promise that maybe tomorrow will be a perfect-plus adventure.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn