A box of memories
With the ice fishing season drawing to a close, I found myself in the basement the other day trying to put up my stuff from last year — gear from the fall turkey season, the firearms deer season and the muzzle loading season.
Yeah, I know. It’s kind of late to be messing with hunting gear, but I’m not the most organized guy around.
While packing away an assortment of turkey gear, I found that I have picked up an awful lot of “stuff” over the years, much of which I haven’t used for more than a decade, if ever.
I pulled down an old milk carton from a shelf, then rummaged through the stuff, things that I have collected over the years of turkey hunting. I found a strange mixture of gear, as well as some other items.
I pulled out and counted six box calls and three slate calls. Slate chalk, a barred owl call and a crow call were also found.
Insect repellent, two head nets, the jaw of a whitetail deer (I have no idea what that was doing in the box) and a range-finder were also found.
I noticed a large, wooden cigar box and opened it to find a surprising number of beards — beards of jake birds and mature birds with beards that measured as much as 10¼ inch. I opened an old shoe box and discovered the legs of about a dozen birds.
(I like to take the legs of a turkey, break the bone at the joint about 6 inches above the spur, then set the turkey’s leg — with the claws splayed — in a window sill for a few weeks. Later, when the leg is removed, the leg stiffens and stands on its own. You can do all sorts of neat stuff with these legs. A nephew of mine made a sweet pen holder by hollowing out the end of one leg, then presented it to my brother Tom. He loves it and displays it at his work bench.)
In another cigar box I found the broken shell of a wild turkey. I can vividly remember the day I found that shell.
It was early in the spring turkey hunt, perhaps 20 years ago. I was crossing a wide field when I heard the distinct sound of a gobbler, hundreds of yards away, up on a ridge. I broke into a run until I neared the edge of the woods.
At that point, I slipped a diaphragm call into my mouth. I took one or two steps and, only feet away, a hen turkey erupted from a small brush pile, took to flight and crossed the open field.
I feared the worst. A closer look confirmed my fears. I had frightened the hen off her nest — a nest that revealed 16 gorgeous eggs.
I immediately left that place, hoping that the hen would return to her nest, and then went after that tom. About 20 minutes later, I had a mature bird over my shoulder. On the way back to the truck, I thought about grabbing the camera to take a few shots of the nest and eggs, then decided against it.
I had already done enough. I knew, from discussions with biologists, that hens that are jarred from their nests by predators will sometime, or not, return to complete the hatching of their young.
Later, in early June, I went back to the place and was relieved to find the broken eggs all about. They were not scattered, as if by a predator, and I reasoned that the hen had returned to complete her task of nesting.
There were other vivid memories in that box as well.
The second box call I ever purchased, an H.S. Strut box call, sat in a corner. My first box call was an identical call that, one morning many years ago, was rendered useless, thanks to a slippery slope.
It was opening day and I was working up a very steep hill. The going was a bit slippery. I was wearing an old pair of camouflaged pants that had the big cargo pockets going up each side. I carried my box call in one of those pockets. As I got about halfway up, I heard a gobbler, up near the top of the hill, and I quickened my pace.
Moments later, I slipped on a large chunk of icy slate and went down with a thud. I heard a distinct crunching sound and suspected the worst: When I pulled that box call from my pocket, it was crushed beyond repair.
Believe it or not, I killed that bird as well. It was a jake, the biggest 1-year-old bird I ever tagged. He weighed in at 17½ pounds.
So here I sit, thinking of May 1, the opening day of the spring turkey season, almost two months away.
But the memories — oh those memories — stay fresh in my mind.