I’m no stranger to the woods. I grew up running free in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky. I knew those hills like the back of my hand. I can take you to the Indian Caves where many arrowheads have been found. I can show you the property lines before and after the mining and I can tell you the name of every landmark on my homeplace. I spent much of last weekend roaming the same ground I grew up on. Unlike my childhood adventures that were full of imagination and entertainment, I was bored out of my mind and just wanted it to end….this weekend was for the birds.
Turkey season in KY is for some a very exciting time. Some folk love them some turkey hunting. (Y’all, brace yourself for what I am about to say.) I do not like turkey hunting. I had a less than optimal turkey hunting experience once and never really cared to go back. But this year, I decided I needed to harvest one. You should see people’s reactions when I say I have never killed a turkey! It’s like unbelievable that I, Erin Stump, have never laid the smack down on some jelly headed gobble box! Sad thing is, I ain’t even upset about it. BUT, I set out this year to lay one down. I bought a new shotgun. Don’t know if y’all heard that ordeal, but its an article in itself! I learned to use a diaphragm call. Again, you missed out if you didn’t see those videos. I’ve studied the vitals of the animal. I have prepared as much as one could prepare, I guess. And still, no bird.
Opening morning doubled as the day of my Wildlife Women Mud and Mascara event that I had been planning for months. I headed out that morning with the husband, a friend and my new lil’ Stoegie to a very promising piece of property. It was windy. We walked and walked and walked. I saw a duck, but it wasn’t duck season. Heard a gobble or two, saw a hen but that was about it. I was so preoccupied with my event that afternoon, I didn’t mind not harvesting the elusive Thunder Chicken opening morning. I shook off the morning and went on about my day.
Fast forward to the second weekend of turkey season. We pack up the herd of Stumplings and head two hours southeast where I am sure to knock down an ol’ Tom. There’s been countless turkeys killed on this property. We knew the roosting trees. We knew the flight pattern. Hell, my sister even clued us in on the owls hollering in the early morning hours. It was a flawless plan of attack. haha. What hunt is ever flawless?
Like clockwork, the owls raise a ruckus and the morning darkness is literally shattered with gobbles! I tell you, it was gobbles in every direction! So, we isolated one bird and moved towards him. Peaked the pasture and there was a poacher. Well, technically, he wasn’t trespassing. But he was set up to shoot across property lines. We ended up closing in the gap with that gobbler at about 40 yards. The only thing standing between us and that bird was a barbed wire fence that he absolutely wasn’t crossing. As his calls moved on, we made a decision that probably cost me a turkey but was so much more satisfying to me as a hunter. We tore our own tail feathers to make sure that other feller didn’t get a shot on that gobbler. An ol’ Tom turkey couldn’t have strutted any prouder than I did knowing that we had kept that man from harvesting a turkey on MY family farm.
The day continued at about noon we got on a hot one! Man, was he hot! We set up fast and he was coming in faster! Decoy, check. Cameras on, check. Set up to shoot in the direction he was coming in at, check! Bird comes in at a completely different spot, sees you and flies away, check. I swear these damn birds can see you change your mind! OVER IT!!! UGH. We set out to roost them that evening but the woods were as silent at a morgue. So we called it a day and hit up the local Mexican joint with my sisters!
Sunday came early. Unlike Saturday, the owls were quieter. Everything was quieter. The air was warmer and I could smell rain moving in. We walked a lot. We called a lot. Finally, we just sat down in an onion patch. There were gobbles coming from the next holler over. So close, but so far away. So, we sat. We called. And just as I was about to say done, there was a sudden cluck. It was close. LIKE SUPER CLOSE. Now, I’m not real sure what happened next, but I am sure it was rated R. Just out of sight, I am pretty sure we overheard a hen talking turkey to her lover. I think I even blushed a little!
With a two hour commute ahead of us, we called it a day. We took the long way out of the mountains. Cut down some trespasser’s ladder. Saw some beautiful wildflowers and drank from a natural spring. We were covered in the smell of wild onions and crawling with ticks. And, I was empty handed with no feathers in my band. Folks keep telling me, it’s cause I ain’t killed one that I don’t seek the rush of the drum in his gobble… I keep telling them, turkey hunting is for the birds.