°A northerner all my life, I’m not usually one to do a bunch of complaining, but MOTHER … it’s cold out there! Even with all the right gear to wear to stay warm, the last few days here in Minnesota have been a pain. Mostly, I’m sitting inside stoking the wood stove and letting the ol’ Labrador Huck lay on my feet. Yet he needs to go outside now and then to relieve himself, there’s mail to fetch, more firewood to haul, and sometimes I need to just breathe some fresh air—no matter how blessed cold it is.
Each time I start piling on the layers to go outside or begin peeling them off after a short trek outdoors, I just keep telling myself, “Spring is coming. Spring is coming.” That leads to the same pleasant daydream of turkeys and warmth. …
Green. Green. Green. Everything is green. I’m settled in against the trunk of a Ponderosa pine in South Dakota’s northern Black Hills. My hen decoy is a couple dozen yards away in a small ridge top meadow. The sun is shining brightly. The sky is blue like you only see in the mountains. There’s a light breeze; just enough to make it comfortable to hike in the 70° temperature.
So far, only hens have drifted by. We chat together by me making my very best effort to mimic them exactly. Suddenly, like thunder just over the ridge, a tom gobbles. He’s on the prowl.
Quickly I shift my behind on the seat cushion to face the sound and bring the gun into nearly shooting position on my knees. I make the slightest clucks on the diaphragm call that’s already in my mouth, and the gobbler responds instantly. He’s coming on.
My heart goes into overdrive. My mouth is dry. Suddenly that red head appears above the ridge. It disappears and reappears several times as the tom picks his way toward me. Then I can see all of him. He’s a big boy, especially for a Merriam’s.
He see’s the decoy below him. His head goes white, and he expands like a balloon carefully being filled with helium. He dances in a small circle seeking to impress this new, strange lady.
I work up a little saliva and carefully yelp softly. The tom drops his head forward and pounds out a double gobble. He’s hot.
Over the next 40 minutes, the gobbler works his way across the green meadow. Start. Stop, Strut. Gobble. Dance. Start. Stop.
My neck, shoulders, arms … and especially butt … ache. If I move, it’s over. How can he not hear my heart beating? Why doesn’t he just come on?
Then he’s at the decoy. My cheek welds just a bit more snugly against the stock, and …
Darn it Huck! You need to go out again? Alright, let’s go … I need to get up and get some water anyway … funny, my mouth is so dry.