It was late morning, and we were climbing the third big ridge of the day.
Bob looked OK, but my other guest had a red face, a sure sign of fatigue. Still, we pushed on. They know the drill. We keep going until we find the birds.
We were going up a steep, rocky slope, careful as we went not to fall and, just before we reached the top, I saw movement up ahead. Five or six birds were moving along, feeding, maybe 35-yards away. Stop, I whispered, something above a whisper. I called but the birds seemed content to keep moving along, at a right angle, but still getting closer. I picked out the lead bird, a mature hen, and touched off a shot. She tumbled over, flapping, and that was when all hell broke loose.
Just off to my left, beyond a still-standing stone wall, a dozen birds took to the air. We never knew they were there.
Bob raised his shotgun, pulled the trigger and a bird came down. Scott also shot, but he was off, and the birds took off, scattering in all directions. I ran to my bird, now still. Bob found his bird, flapping the death flap, and dispatched the hen.
That was it for the two of us since the fall turkey limit is one bird. But Scott still had a tag, which he filled early the next day.
So on the second morning of the season, we all had birds and we still had another two days at camp. We slept late on the third day, hanging around camp. It is a rustic, old deer camp with dozens of antlers gracing the walls, set between two noisy streams almost a mile from the road.
This is scenic country, with a great, green ever-rising field running up from the camp toward south. Over the years, we have watched flocks of birds, several coyotes and a number of deer feeding along, usually right before dark.
All of this is based on memory, of course, and as fate would have it, there will be no gathering at our turkey camp this fall. I don’t have to tell you why. That thought has me troubled because, the fact is, Bob and I are in our early-70s and it is clear our days of pushing the big woods in late October or early November are numbered.
I am considering a three- or four-day stay at camp, alone. I will have to keep the old wood stove going, do all of the cooking and cleaning and listen as I talk to myself, going over the plans for each day as I rise.
No, I will not be pushing the big ridges alone. It will be too risky. I’ll venture maybe a quarter-mile from camp, pushing the small ridges and focusing on hunting in and around oak trees, trying to find or bust up a flock of turkeys. It looks like another great year for acorns, a primary food for wild turkeys in the fall.
I have recovered from serious surgery for a torn rotator cuff and have to be careful about movement in the woods on account of a bad right knee. That knee feels fine right now but I know one big fall could damage that knee or the shoulder for good.
Another drawback is the fact there is no cell service up that way. Any accident, any physical problems and it could be days before anyone would even know about it. But you know what? I am not going to roll over and give up turkey hunting or deer hunting because of old injuries. As long as I can carry myself on two legs, still have excellent vision and stamina, I will be out there.
The turkey season runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 8 in Wildlife Management Units F, K and N. The season in WMU B, D, G, H, I, J, L, M, O, P and Q runs Oct. 24-Nov. 1.
It won’t be the same, of course, hunting out of camp by myself. But in a strange way, I am looking forward to it. Despite hunting out of the camp in Pawlet for some 15 years during the spring turkey season, as well as the fall season, I have never spent a night at camp alone. Maybe I’ll learn something about the experience.
But I can tell you this much: No matter how things go, it will not be the same as hunting out of turkey camp, during the splendor of autumn, with friends or family.
Contact Dennis Jensen at email@example.com.