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Far up on the wooded ridge where the first blue-gray hint of daylight glows, the gobbler echoes, and your heart sinks. "Too late," you mutter to yourself. It is only 4:45 A.M., but the full moon is setting behind you, the woods are already light enough that you can find your way with a flashlight. What to do? Settle down here where there are a few oaks with big bases big enough to shield your back and make a setup? Or climb on, closer to the top of the hill where you thought, while listening last evening, there must be a really big tom?

< /center> The sudden "rat tat tat" mating call of a woodpecker, like the hinge on an ancient, rusty barnyard gate, startles you so badly that you jump. Then, seconds apart, to your left and right, two more high-pitched gobbles help you make up your mind; "Set up right here, and the sooner the better."

Sitting with your back to the oak, in full camouflage, including mask and gloves, you feel comfortable and invisible, yet boxed in by darkness. The fluttering of wings just overhead startles you again, and you think of October mornings in the swamp when the red-winged blackbird almost brushed your head as they flittered through the alders you where hinding under. Now a third and yet a fourth gobbler sound nearby, echoing the roar of the first one you heard from up on the hill.

< /center> The soft "chur chur chur" tree call of a hen almost over your head breaks your nostalgic reveric. You try to remember to control the duck hunter instinct that tells you to use your call, the deer hunting instinct that tells you to stand up. You are a spring turkey hunter now, and anything you do by instinct will probibly be wrong. The fluttering of small birds increases, as do bird call that you never heard in the fall hunting. You vow you are going to memorize them, and try to identify them to record.

< /center> Your excitement mounts as you hear the unmistakable sound of her flapping, sailing down, then landing with a thud. Off to your right you catch both sight and sound as another bird leaves its tree. You tell yourself to focus, concentrate on the big tom up on the hill. You almost feel as through you can will him down.

< /center> The hen seems to be scratching and feeding, but not calling as you wish she would do. Is it time to call? With your slate call you give a soft little "scree scree scree." It is answered immediately from high on the hill, but all is silent from the two birds at your level. Twice more what seems to be the same gobbler calls, each time closer. You hope she doesen't come over to investigate.

Suddenly you realize that you have your shotgun across your knee, it is pointing in the wrong way; To raise it, you must swing it to the direction where the tom is appearently strutting just out of sight, and moving the shotgun will give you away. Time sees to stand still. You wish you could mouth-call. You try the next best thing, your tiny pluger box call on the ground under your right hand. Your hand shakes as you give three soft squeaks.

. You forgot the hen. Suddenly she is there, twelve feet away, cranking her head to see where the sound came from. She circles you at that twelve-foot radious and on the second round say "puck! puck! puck!" Then she leaves in a straight line, saying "puck! puck! puck!" for all to hear.

< /center> The woods are suddenly silently, until a towhee starts to scold you."chewink chewink," or as a school yard tease might say,"Ya ya, you struck out again." The towhee leaves, the little bird starts to sing again, and you take more notice of them. A tiny yellow-throated one you have never seen before is only feet away from your face. He seems to be talking to you, saying, "Don't feel bad, look and listen to all the beauty around you.

< /center> Then the clear, beautiful, flutelike song of the hermit thrush comes from within a shadow blow in bloom twenty feet away. The beauty of the spring woods and a sip of coffee from your thermos raises your spirits; you are almost glad you didn't get that tom and end your season so abruptly. Far off you hear a gobble. You pick up your gear, sling your gun on your shoulder, and move slowly in that direction.

Before you begin to hunt wild turkey, learn all you can about them; Attend seminars, listen to calling taps, watch videotapes, ask questions of experienced hunters, observe turkey in their natural environment. In most types of hunting, the hunt is more important then the kill. This is particularly true in wild turkey hunting. For this reason, and the fact that turkey hunters are made, not born, you must get out and experience hunting to really learn. It is my hope that these pages will teach you what others had to learn by mistake, opening your life to hours and days of rewarding experience.

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Rick's Hunting Lodge