“It’s your shot.”
These are not the typical words I’m used to hearing coming out of the mouth of a hunting partner. At the time, I didn’t know Mat that well. We met at a rattlesnake clinic for our young hunting pups a few years back and stayed in touch through the magic of the interwebs.
Just minutes earlier we were in the middle of a full swing conversation when the squawking of a Tom pierced the air.
Our trot goes to a full gallop as we hear his rival answer the call.
We find ourselves on top of a myriad of house sized boulders looking down on what looks like a civil war reenactment between the two birds.
“Should we let them duke it out before dropping the axe?” I ask.
“Nah, rip an arrow at the closer one.” Comes Mat’s reply.
I peer up from behind my hiding place and get my rangefinder on him. He’s at the edge of my comfort zone. Being that I haven’t been able to put a turkey down in the past two years, this guy is marked for death.
I half squat to keep my cover and let my pin settle on his vitals. Twenty-nine and a half inches of anger is released in the air. The arrow sizzles through the heavy evening, marked for its target.
Over his back and safely into the pine needles. My nemesis animal struts off along with my hope of breaking the cycle.
One Frustrated Year Later
I’m on the phone with Mat discussing this year’s opener.
“It’s your show buddy, I blew it last year. Let’s see what that new Benelli of yours can offer them.” I say to Mat.
“Sounds good. Let’s meet up around noon and we’ll walk in.” Comes his reply.
I debate bringing my bow or just my camera and calls. What the hell, I might need something to club the bird with if Mat wounds him.
We walk into a silent woods. Mid-day not being known for its hot action, we settle into a hiding spot perched up on a small cliff. We have a perfect view of three merging openings in the woods.
Turkey shit abounds and we deem it as good a spot as any. Decoys go up, we plop down on a massive rock and attempt radio silence.
That lasts a whole three and a half minutes before we’re babbling like two teenage girls.
The conversation turns to what it always turns to between two passionate bird dog owners: Quantum physics.
“Since there was nothing before the “Big Bang”, how the hell can it be called that? “Big” is a relative term, big compared to what? Before that there was nothing so big is really subjective here. The use of that adjective is suspect to say the least.” I continue to surmise during my part of the lecture. (* see footnote)
I swear these birds love to listen in to our conversations. It’s only during these full blown tirades that they ever make their presence known to me.
“Incoming.” Mat mouths and he pops a squat and I duck behind him with my camera.
They come in hot. Three, what we assume are hens at first, make a beeline for Mat’s Jake he has set up not 40 yards out.
All three give it to him at once. The gobbles instantly tell us that we have the sex wrong. I don’t believe turkeys as of yet have gender identity issues, so I think we have them marked.
They puff up and bark at him like junkyard dogs. All bark and no bite however. They’re afraid of the plastic impersonator that sits motionless in front of them.
“Must be young Jakes, they’re scared shitless of my decoy!” Mat giggles.
“Should I shoot the one with the small beard?” He asks.
The bird looks like a high school student desperate to grow out his mustache to impress the ladies.
“Up to you man. As long as you don’t mind teenaged blood on your hands.” Is the only response I can think of.
They walk within ten yards, taking no notice of the camo clad humans a few steps away.
I remember going through puberty and how it blinded me to everything but one thing. I can’t fault them for being oblivious to danger lurking within a stone’s throw away.
They move on with purpose, heading down the hill.
We stand up and laugh to each other when they are out of sight. After all, we don’t want to damage their frail teenage egos.
“Did you see them run from my decoy?” Mat said, “What a bunch of sissies!”
“Should we follow them to see what their dinner plans are?” I ask.
“Maybe they’ll lead us to something bigger,” Mat replies.
And with that, we herd up our decoys and head down the hill in hot pursuit.
We see them move from tree to tree like soldiers advancing the line, ducking in and out of cover. But still they take no notice of their pursuers.
Mat throws out a call out and immediately gets a response. We work around a boulder with me in the lead.
As my head peers around the granite monolith, there unfolds before me the perfect shot. Three ducks lined up in a row. The center one sporting about a three inch beard. I signal to Mat that their are three below me.
“Shoot the damn bird!” he mouths.
I contemplate the shot. This will end my season early, but it’s been three years of doing everything but walking into the grocery store and shooting a frozen one to land one of these guys with my bow.
An image pops back in my head of these guys backing off from the decoy.
“God hates as coward,” I justify.
I’m anchored. The arrow cuts through the air and lands with that unmistakeable ‘thwunk’.
“Thunder chicken down,” I say to Mat as he approaches.
“Damn, I wanted to film that!” he says as he pats me on the shoulder.
“And advertise to the world that I’m a lousy shot like last year?” comes my response.
“Lousy shot is relative, lousy shot compared to who? That adjective is suspect.” is Mat’s response. (** see footnote)
My own words being thrown back into face… I like this guy.
* Disclaimer: This never happened. Not the “Big” Bang, that happened. What didn’t happen was this conversation intending to make me look smart.
** See above note to understand my understanding of Mat’s understanding of quantum physics is completely reliant on a conversation that never happened.