Friday morning brought freezing temperatures which left an ice crusted layer on top of the fluffy snow that was already on the ground–this made it nearly impossible to walk quietly into the woods. The noise was similar to the sound of wearing ball cleats on concrete. Every day we faced new challenges and shenanigans and this would not be the first thing that we had to deal with this day.
We actually split up on this morning since Richard has spotted a tom that was roosting in the opposite draw and hillside than the toms I was hunting. I was going to walk up a road that led to a coulee between two ridges. I had picked me out a tree and sat down, getting comfortable…well, as comfortable as one can get when you are sitting on a low stool just a few inches from snow. Just a few minutes after I was settled, a tom rattled the woods directly over my left shoulder and a second behind my right shoulder. They gobbles several more times within a 15 minute period and a jake had joined in.
The gobbling rippled through the woods and made the hair on my arms stand on end and the nape of my neck tingle. A gobble is an indescribable sound if you had to explain it to someone who had never heard a tom gobble. But a good sound…a really good sound at this point with all that we had faced the last three days. I made a few tree yelps and some soft purrs and received a response every time. Finally the calls were coming from the ground. They were walking back and forth on the ridge above me trying to out-gobble each other. I made a few calls and they came down off the ridge and were in a coulee just over the terrace in front of me. Unfortunately with the crusty top layer of frozen ice I would not have the opportunity to crawl to the terrace to see if I could possible take a shot at one.
The gobbling took place for a little while and finally they walked back up to the terrace and were in the field on the other side. There was no possible way for me to get to the top of the terrace with the snow, ice and slick rock. I waited until they were a good ways off and I got up and walked down to the bottom of that ridge. I sat at another tree base where I could see when Richard headed down the trail toward the truck. I heard some flapping and caught movement out of my right eye.
I watched a bird hit the ground hard. As soon as the bird got its barrens and was upright, I noticed it was all fluffed up, its neck was sunk into its body and its tail feathers were all chopped up. I guess that was the reason its landing was so radical. As I stared at this awkward looking bird that I assumed was a turkey I started to doubt my assumptions. It just sat there all fluffed up, neck drawn in and tail feathers, what was left of them, all slumped down. Surely this had to be a turkey hen, but was it. I had all but convinced myself that it must be a turkey buzzard when it started walking across the path in front of me. Slowly with its neck drawn in. It still did not look exactly like a turkey hen; no tail feathers. I watched it make itself across the clearing only for it to stop on the edge. I stared. I still could not make it out and the bird was only 15-18 yards from me. It just stood there with its eyes shallow, not looking around.
I slowly raised my binoculars to my eyes without the bird noticing me. I still could not make this out–now I am definitely no pro but I have seen my fair share of turkey hens up close and personal and this one had the color and the head and beak of a turkey, but not the neck and tail feathers. I stared through the binoculars waiting for it to move until my eyes started to water. I brought the binoculars down and that is when it happened. That birds neck grew from 2 inches to around 9 inches and she let out a Putt, Putt, Putt….Putt, Putt! She slowly walked away in the opposite direction just as unsure of me as I previously was of her. That hen definitely has seen better weeks…Murphy had not been to kind to her as well.
I actually went back to the truck to wait on Richard because it was not likely something would happen by in this particular spot; it was a fly down area and nothing to bring them into the area.
I finally heard Richard crunching down the trail in my direction. Wow!! This snow and ice thing was noisy. We met with Glenn around 10 a.m. after our morning hunt to go scout another ranch that had nearly five foot of snow that had fallen on it the evening of our arrival. He was told that it had not snowed any more since then and the snow was actually melting in the afternoon. Glenn jumped in the truck and he wanted to check two spots before we headed to the new ranch. We stopped in one area and Richard noticed that the truck information center flashed a message to check the “right rear tire” so he stopped the truck and checked it. Everything was fine with it then he checked the left rear tire and it was all but flat. Glenn directed us to a utility barn where Richard aired up the tire. In the meantime I had walked down to the cattle pen to get a picture of an old windmill and of a few baby calves.
I heard Richard yell for me and I answered and he said “Hurry up, jump in the truck. We have a tire with a hole in it.” I ran to the truck and I was about 15 yards from it and I could literally hear the air wheezing out of the tire. Just great!! Add that to the list of things that keep going wrong. Richard, Glenn and I jump in the truck and take off for the nearest town that is 20 minutes away. Glenn calls the tire shop so that they will wait on us and Richard drives diligently and rather fast trying to get there before the air was spent in that tire.
We drive into the edge of town and Richard pulls up to a stop sign and we hear a siren. I look out the back window and there is a sheriff truck behind us with lights on. Yep, speeding ticket!! Can this day get any worse?? After our not to brief encounter with the Sheriff deputy and her side kick we finally get to the tire store. The tire is completely flat at this point. It didn’t take but a few minutes to repair it and we were back on our way…well, our way to pay a speeding ticket to the county clerk’s office.
When we left the county clerk’s office we were on a mission to get to the new property that was dubbed “a sure bet”! Glenn told us that we really needed to be stealth going into this hunting area because if the birds get spooked they will not be back that day; which also meant they could roost somewhere else tomorrow that we could not easily get to. As we pull into the well manicured entrance Glenn tells Richard to drive very slow to a designated parking area because there are usually turkey EVERYWHERE on this property. As we approach a parking area, we notice a power truck on the power line about 20 yards from the parking area. We park and as we get out the power company truck starts backing the 40 yard distance to the drive to head out. The back-up siren was so loud if we could have heard over it, we would have definitely heard shock gobbles.
We stand there a few minutes waiting for the power company truck to clear the driveway and leave…only to have them turn up road system and head straight toward the woods to
We threw the towel in for the day–NOTHING was going in our favor. We decided to get the land owner and our hosts together and go out for dinner. Lewistown, Montana is a very small town with a limited number of restaurants but we decided on Bar 19 since they had steak on their menu. We had the best time visiting at dinner. These folks are truly genuine and were so kind to show their hospitality to us. It is a pleasure to find people in this world that are so kind and giving and especially those that support you, feel your ups and downs with you, cheers and encourages you, as well as celebrates in success. I am thankful for good friends and great people; I have been blessed to have so many that have touched my life.