(Originally posted in 2013.)
On Monday, April 1st, wild turkey season opens here. Every year I have at least one hunter that stops by and asks if they can hunt for wild turkeys on my property, and every year I say no. Not because I am opposed to hunting, but because I do not own the property we live on, I just rent, and my lease specifically says, “No hunting allowed.”
I know why my landlord has made that stipulation, and I agree with her. We are too close to the road, and we have neighbors that have homes that could be shot. So, I have not violated the rental agreement, much to the chagrin of local hunters.
As I walked out today to feed the animals I could hear the turkeys in the field across the road. I watched as they flew over to my yard and walked past my house and up the hill. I listened. I listened for “the sound,” and once again remembered that “the sound” was not going to be made.
I looked down to where the man cave used to stand. The man cave was gone, not just the cave but the entire home. Movers had moved it during the week and all that was left was a concrete slab. To be honest it hurt. That house was the last physical remnant I had of him.
I turned away from where his home stood and fed our two dogs and seven cats. After the animals were fed I sat on my deck drinking coffee and I began to remember the last time Old Man and I sat and drank coffee during wild turkey hunting season, and the story he told me.
It was 1962. Old Man lived and worked at a lumber mill in Sweet Home, Oregon, which is close to the Santiam Pass. On one of his breaks he had seen a flock of wild turkeys walk by lumberyard. He saw a huge Tom turkey and he wanted it. According to Old Man’s recollection the Tom looked like it weighed around 40 pounds. It would be a good meal for his wife and three children.
Old Man was 26 years old at that time. Usually when he went hunting it was with his best friend Bob. Bob was about the same age as Old Man. He also had a wife and three children. They both loved hunting, and they both loved their beer. The following Saturday morning they decided to head up on the pass and find that Tom turkey.
Old Man and Bob loaded up one of Old Mans hunting dogs in “Bertha,” that was the name Old Man called his 1977 brown, beat-up, full sized Ford pick-up, their guns and of course an ice chest with a 24 pack of Hamms beer.
By mid-morning and 12 beers later, they had not seen the turkey. Of course the way Old Man described it they really had not done much hunting. Mostly they just sat on the tailgate of the pick-up, drank beer and shared previous hunting stories. According to Old Man even if they had seen the turkey there was not much they could have done about it. They both were two sheets to the wind, and their hand eye coordination was compromised to say the least. Maybe if the turkey had walked up to them and stood 10 feet away from them they might have been able to kill it.
As I sit here today writing this I cannot help but be amazed that no one got shot. The idea of two grown men, 24 cans of beer and two loaded shotguns is unnerving to me to say the least.
While they were sitting on the tailgate of Bertha, Old Man heard a noise in the brush about 50 yards from where they were sitting. He grabbed his gun, and staggered toward the noise. At this point in his story he stopped and said,
“Kid, did you know Tom turkey’s attack if they feel threatened? They do, and it is like being in a horror movie. As I walked through the brush, I came face to face with the turkey. There were noises coming out of his mouth I had never heard before, and the look in his eyes, I just about wet myself. I would like to think it was the look of the turkey, which was causing that reaction, but then again maybe it was the beer. I really don’t know.”
He went on to say,
“I did learn one important lesson that day though. Running from a turkey doesn’t help. They can fly! I came running out of the brush yelling for Bob to kill the turkey. He was still sitting on the tailgate drinking his beer. As I was yelling for him to kill it, I remembered he had been drinking, and the turkey was right behind me. Not only had he been drinking he was laughing hysterically. At that moment I realized if he pulled the trigger on the gun I was going to get hit with buckshot. You ever have been hit by buckshot, Kid? It hurts it hurts real bad! I went from yelling, “kill it” to “don’t shoot, put your gun down!”
“I was able to get back into the truck cab. The turkey flew onto the hood of the truck and just sat there watching me. I don’t know how long he sat there, but long enough for me to sober up. Not only sober up, but to swear off turkey hunting.”
“I was lucky that day. The turkey didn’t get me, and Bob didn’t shoot me. All in all it was a good day.”
At this point I was laughing. I could envision him trying to run back to the truck drunk and scared. I could see the pickup with the tailgate down and his friend sitting on it laughing uncontrollably. I could see it all in the form of small mini movie running in my head.
Yet all at once I stopped laughing when a thought ran through my mind. I looked at Old Man and calmly asked,
“You said buckshot hurts, it hurts real bad. What do you mean by that?”
I waited for the story; instead he grinned, took a sip of his coffee, rubbed these two sticks together, which mimicked a turkey’s call, and changed the subject. I wish he had told me that buckshot story, but he never did.
I am willing to bet alcohol was involved that time as well. Just one question though, what body part was involved?