High on That Hill: A Turkey Hunting Story
Josh Wolfe 04.11.14
Arthur Farrell sat rocking on the front porch of his cabin on his small farm in southern Tennessee. The evening was overcast with a few rain clouds lurking in the gray plume of Tuesday’s final hours. Tree frogs croaked in wonderful harmony around him, a misty fog lingered in the valley below, and a mourning dove cooed just off the front stoop where they fed on sunflower seeds Arthur had put out. Most importantly, a big, mature gobbler in all his glory presented himself to the world (and a lucky hen) on a hillside just to the west.
Arthur had just been about to take a ride in his old pickup truck when he spotted the bird standing on the hillside. With binoculars and Tennessee’s finest in hand, he dropped down into the rocking chair. Like a young boy feeling his first crush, Arthur simply could not take his eyes off of that gobbler. Oh, how he loves to watch them spit and drum and carry on. The hen meandered about in the field below the tom and couldn’t seem to care less about his presence. He didn’t mind.
The show ended shortly before sundown when the hen took leave of the field and headed into a cedar thicket just off to the south. The ol’ gobbler clicked his heels, rubbed his wings together, and followed in hot pursuit. Arthur gave himself pretty good odds that he’d be back in that same field on the morrow.
Four forty-five arrived mighty early. The bell tower alarm wisped Arthur right out of some small European town and into the upright position on the edge of the leather couch he likes to sleep on. After a quick cup of coffee (too quick, he burned his tongue and dealt with the bare tingly feeling for the remainder of the day), a bagel half, and a glass of water, he quickly dressed, assembled his gear (gun, vest, hen, and jake decoys), and headed off into the lingering darkness. The early morning was clear and cool; the sky so clear that the Milky Way shone among the bright stars. To the west, the direction he walked, Mars burned hot and red in its close passing of the Earth that only happens every so often. Arthur made a mental note to remember that the morning of Monday, April 14, would be when you can see Mars the best. He’d be up before sunrise anyway.
The journey to the tree he’d picked the previous evening was to be a long one. Down the hill and into the darkness he went before having to unshoulder his Mossberg and decoy, laying them both on the other side of the barbed wire fence he then crawled under. Then, down the gravel road (Rocky Top), onto the pavement and south towards a dirt (really mud after all the rain) road that ran down towards a section of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) land. He crossed the first field quickly, coming to a deep creek bed where he slipped and slid through the slick mud and into the shallow water below. Luckily, Arthur landed on his feet with all limbs and bits of equipment in tact. He then turned back north, a route that would take him right behind his neighbor’s house where dogs seemed to constantly bark. For the moment they were silent, but as he crossed yet another fence, an uproar of furious barks hailed from the house.
With little warning, they were upon him. He only had the chance to see two black specks streak across the field before snarling and growling disrupted the otherwise quiet morning. Arthur’s hackles stood up and his blood ran cold, but he kept his head. In fact, forever thinking of the task at hand, he wanted to avoid the situation while not ultimately spooking the turkey high up the hill sitting on his roost. Taking his flashlight and pointing it directly into the eyes of the lead dog brought it to a halt just feet away. In one swift motion Arthur raised his arms above his head, emitted a long, low growl, and stomped towards the two dogs. He couldn’t help but laugh as the two specks streaked back across the field towards the house.
He crossed one last fence where the final leg lay before him: a 500-yard walk straight up hill. He’d entered the field as far to the north as possible to approach on the opposite side from which the turkey roosted.
Day broke beautifully. He looked east in time to see the red sun emerge over the horizon right through his carport, as if the sun and house were one. The world awoke in its usual way—the squirrels barking and the birds singing. The only bird not singing was the one he was after. Minutes turned to hours and he was finally ready to give up his post when movement caught his eye. Just to the south, right where he expected, the old tom emerged from the cedar thicket. He began straying to the right but Arthur redirected his attention with a few soft yelps from his diaphragm call. The old bird saw that jake hanging loose in his territory and made a beeline for his head. Arthur’s shot stopped him in his tracks and the morning continued on.
Several times Arthur had started to get up and leave, and would have but for the sole belief that if he was just patient, something good might come of it—and it did. The walk back to the house was just as long and a bit more weighted, though no dogs appeared to contend with. Back in his rocking chair, Arthur reflected. A great day indeed! But if he’d only had someone to share it with…