Season D, May 4 to 8, of turkey hunting 2022 had arrived. I was so ready for some down time after an arduous tax season of sitting at a desk for 3-1/2 months. My cabin was calling, and my licenses and gear were at the ready. I picked early May figuring it would be warmer by then, but winter went late this year. I got my decoys set up and got on stand well before legal light to begin calling. What I hadn’t counted on was the 32 degrees temperature at 5 a.m. I get hypothermia quite easily.
The thing about having a high pain threshold is that I don’t feel that uncomfortable when I get chilled. After three hours however, I was a bit wobbly and getting foggy headed from being cold. I heard no gobbles and didn’t even see a deer in the field that morning. So, I decided to do a little run and gun on the 3/4th-mile walk back to my cabin to wake my legs up. About 200 yards into my walk, I heard multiple gobbles in the distance, but I was in open woods with no set-up nearby. I spotted a log pile where we had cleared some downed trees and made a beeline for it. The only place to sit and hide was on an uprooted root ball of a large downed tree, and I had to straddle it to hide myself. I started with my mouth call and the toms immediately called back. They were getting closer.
I was doing my best love-sick hen call. Then I heard another hen call and saw a boss hen 50 yards behind me, and another hen the other direction. Both were trying to figure out who was doing all that calling to their boyfriends in the distance. I figured the gobblers would come over the rise of the oak ridge in the distance, where a brush pile and thicket 60 yards away obscured their view of me.
Then I saw red heads and some fanning in the distance, two toms and two jakes. The hens either side of me were yelping intermittently and getting very close to busting me as I pretended to be a log. My straddle position on the dirt ball was starting to give me a cramp. The lyrics from the band Stealers Wheel popped into my head, “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, Here I am stuck in the middle with you.” There was one soccer-ball-sized hole in the brush 60 feet from me and the gobblers were heading for it. If they stopped, I could pull off a shot. I slowly shouldered my Benelli Super-90 and clicked off the safety.
Hen 1 caught my movement and stopped. I froze. She started to do alarms putts and her gal pal in the distance took notice and also stopped. The gobblers were clueless and kept on coming, right toward that hole in the brush. I aimed, took a shot, and missed. They folded and scattered airborne back from whence they came. Needless to say, my adrenalin had conquered my hypothermia. I figured what the heck, and I started to call again. Sure enough, they started to come back my way again! It’s true, gobblers have no brains in the spring. The hens knew I was no log and were long gone. I was ready to get a redemption shot. Then: Silence.
In my peripheral vision I caught movement coming my way at 80 yards, threading its way through the trees down the oak ridge. I did a slo-mo head turn and saw it: a gray-white wolf, nose to the ground following my scent trail - 60 yards, then 40 yards. My heart was pounding out of my chest. The wolf couldn’t see me. I could not see its whole body, just the head, muzzle, mane and chest coming my way. At 20 yards I shouldered my 12 gauge again. The wolf spotted my movement rose its head from my scent trail, looked me square in the eye and stopped. I was so rattled I had to look down to find my safety to click it off. Looking up, the wolf was gone. He probably thought I was a bit frisky for a log and bolted. For the first 50 yards back to my cabin, I stumbled like a drunk from the adrenalin in my bloodstream.
Shortly after turkey season ended May 31st I drove up our driveway in Isle and there in the turnaround was a 22-pound gobbler in full strut, spittin’ and a drummin’, dragging his 12-inch beard as he courted a nearby hen. I had to laugh. It was actually a lot more fun NOT getting a turkey this year.
Linda Dahlen is an Isle resident and contributing writer.