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Thursday, 28 April 2011




The turkey hunters are on their way home. The two youngsters left around five this morning with their little boy; Jeff & Marge are leaving around . I’ll miss them – but they’ve left me a fabulous souvenir, an eighteen-pound tom (or cock bird). Jed shot it, gave it to me, and then was kind enough to take it out to the wood-pile and dress it for me. I’ve dressed chickens and pheasants, but never anything that big – and he managed it far more adeptly than I would’ve done. It’s now in the freezer, till I have someone to share it with.

So that’s the first photo: young Jed with the bird. While he was dressing it he explained that, like Matt, he was in the National Guard – and that’s why, like Matt five or six years ago, he’s wound up in Afghanistan. He’s been out there liaising with the police in Kabul, training them. He says he’s in the safer part, well away from the fighting. He flies back out next week, and returns home for good in July when he’s looking to go to college and take courses in business studies, and then maybe open his own bar.

Some time around late afternoon I was working in the trailer when Katy knocked on the door. Did I want to go on a turkey hunt? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Well, I certainly do – at least I do when I’m out hunting gobblers. They rigged me up in a camouflage jacket, matching hat and a kind of face covering - not unlike the veil I expect to be wearing when the bugs start gathering. Just leaves a little gap for you to peer through – so now I know why they all had black stuff smudged around their eyes.

We drove off slowly, through the woods towards the river. ‘They’re not far from here,’ Jed said.  He’d been out having a recce earlier and had seen two or three toms and a bunch of hen birds. I was worried that the truck would scare them away. ‘No,’ he said. ‘they see the vehicle and they think we’re out feeding the cattle – and they’re always interested in cattle food. It’s when we’re on foot that they get wary.’

So here we are – as in the photo - hiding amongst the trees, and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. The birds are visible, okay. They’re just around the corner, pecking away in the dead grass, but showing no sign whatsoever of coming our way. So out comes Jed’s caller, a crafty little device that imitates the sound a hen might make when she’s feeling romantic. Trouble is, the toms already have all the hen action they can handle. They’re just not up for any more.

If I read Jed’s hand signals correctly – we’re being as quiet as mice here – he’s considering a flanking movement. Here’s my chance to volunteer and be a hero. Why don’t I walk away from them, I suggest, get around the back of that hill, and approach them from the far side. Jed graciously concedes that that might work.

Ha! And again, ha! Even as I moved stealthily south, silent as a panther, the birds scattered to the north. The circle I then had to describe was, in the end, the thick end of a mile. I did eventually get on the right side of them, but by this time they’d crested a rise, done a quick risk assessment and decided there was nothing to be ashamed of in being… chicken. They flew right across the river, and settled down for a good laugh.

Despite it all, I was invited to eat supper with the family. Big tender beef steaks, from a farmer friend back home in the eastern part of the state. Jeff was concerned that he had yet to bag a turkey, but Jed had an idea.  He’d been out again, just before sundown, and had found where they were roosting in the trees. So that’s where Jeff set off for, about four thirty this morning.

I was out around seven when I heard two shots, and half an hour later there’s Jeff trudging up the road with a 21-pound bird on his back. It’s already dressed, packed away in a cooler and loaded in the truck, somewhere amongst the baggage, the trash and the ATV. The leftover food they’re donating to a hungry writer.

Today I’ll move back into the red house and have a long soak in a very hot bath. Tomorrow it’s the round-up and branding over at Kitty’s dad’s place. Real cowboy action.