For most of you, this blog may be worthless. For many of you have no desire to learn about the writing process from me, much less anyone else. But I do feel as if there is some relevance, on the NEBRASKAland blog, of how a story comes together for at least one of us. For Farrar, Fowler, and the rest who write for us all do this different, but here’s how it works for one person.
Below are my notes thus far for the turkey essay that will appear in our April 2011 magazine. I have already gathered my photo selects, which have been shot over the past two years from a multitude of hunts. For me, a person who doesn’t claim themselves as a “photographer,” I shoot for variety. Close-up, landscape, people, motion, bird, gun, and a different angle are just a few that I have gathered. Plus, I have looked at all of our freelancer images and have also pulled one from Bill Hager of a turkey standing in a road gobbling. It speaks to the message in my last blog.
Sometime before gathering images, of which we will use 6 to 8, I started writing notes. Ideas that don’t make a lot of sense in the beginning, but will hopefully make more sense as I continue to write. These are those notes. I hope to have more in the coming days. I’ll keep you posted.
Working title: Chasing the Idiot Savant
1) Strutting turkey in green grass
2) Turkey in woods
3) Closeup of Matt’s 870
4) Bag shot of bird on the ground
5) Closeup of feathers from Jeff’s bird in 2010
6) Kelsea scratching on slate call
7) Schellpeper in ghillie suit
8) Matt buried in cover
I walked into fisheries biologist Daryl Bauer’s office the other day, asking him when we might get a chance to catch a walleye or two together. “Let me be honest with you Kurrus, I have turkey on the brain right now. I’ll fish later.”
Turkey on the brain. There’s probably know better way to explain the spring turkey hunting phenomenon. Yes, I hear cackling in my sleep during goose season, but everywhere I turn during the spring, it sounds like another hen clucking. Or another tom busting out the guttural, echoing call that can strike fear in almost any hunter.
Dawn for show, noon for dough, I’ve been told about turkey hunting. If you want to hear birds, listen to their attempts to call together their harem of ladies before coming off of the roost. However, go during this time and find yourself alone for quite awhile if he’s with hens. The phrase “one in the hand is better than two in the bush” has never been more poignant. He may talk back to you, but rarely is he going to come your way if he’s already got a date with him.
Come midday, however, and the tom turkey tends to get a little bit more lonely. He’s prone to be by himself for, at some point, hens begin to break away to lay eggs. And the tom is suddenly left insecure and alone. This time of the day, with sweat covering the turkey hunter’s face, is when magic usually happens.
Most deer hunters will be empty-pocketed. A rare few will carry a grunt call to their stand; and even rarer few will roll a bleet can in the woods, and the most rare will have a set of rattling antlers with them. The duck hunter is very similar. Most carry a standard call that should have been blown more during the off-season, a rare few will carry a pintail whistle or a goose call. But that’s about it. Yet the turkey hunter, one can simply see the carrying capacity of a turkey hunter by the additional number of pockets that his vest has. This number varies, but it is extremely rare for a turkey hunter not to have a box call, a slate call with at least two strikers, a mouth call, some sort of gobble call, another mouth call that’s a bit more high pitched, another mouth call that’s a little more low pitched.
Camouflage is also imperative, and a lot of it. While nearly everyone has seen turkeys standing roadside in Nebraska, car after car whizzing back as they feed without a care in the world, a turkey hunter has seen that same species spot you at 500 yards after you scratched your nose with your camouflaged-covered hand.
“I saw some turkeys the other day when I was hunting,” a friend told me recently. “Yeah, they didn’t see me, but they just slowly eased away from me as I watched them in the field. It was strange. They were walking right toward me until they started fading.” I didn’t have the heart to tell my friend that he had been made.
Guns. Because for many turkey hunters, this passion is the closest thing to them every going to war. The shotgun market has picked up on this phenomenon in recent years, as “turkey” guns look much more tactical than before, appearing more like a home intruder piece of weaponry than a turkey gun. Plus, the tactical hunter also dresses in a ghillie suit, which has been around for over 100 years but outdoor companies advertise them as if they just began to appear in recent times.
The other day I was crawling on the ground through the muddy woods after a recent storm. I was soaked to the bone, losing half of my turkey calling accoutrements in the process. Yet I didn’t care. The tom on the other side of the hill (for they are always on the other side of the hill) was responding to me repeatedly, and he was my sole mission. I wasn’t even sure I was on my land anymore. I was so focused, so driven, that I would have crawled across I-80 if I thought it would have kept me from being detected. Later, I decided that if I had crawled across someone else’s land that I would have simply apologized, told them that I was deeply sorry, and that my only excuse was that I got caught up in the moment.
Another friend of mine, who is afraid of snakes, spiders, and the dark, has foregone all of these fears.
Do you want a cure for (a list of phobias)
Acarophobia- Fear of itching or of the insects that cause itching.
Achluophobia- Fear of darkness. Agliophobia- Fear of pain. Agrizoophobia- Fear of wild animals.’
Turkey hunting is a cure of many phobias including, but not limited to, _____________. Well, turkey hunting is not the cure for this. The pursuit of turkeys once a turkey has not committed himself to you, that is where miracles happen. Ambulophobia- Fear of walking. Amychophobia- Fear of scratches or being scratched. Anablephobia- Fear of looking up. Anginophobia- Fear of angina, choking or narrowness. Angrophobia – Fear of anger or of becoming angry. Arachnephobia or Arachnophobia- Fear of spiders. Atelophobia- Fear of imperfection. Atychiphobia- Fear of failure. Autodysomophobia- Fear of one that has a vile odor. Automysophobia- Fear of being dirty.
Autophobia- Fear of being alone or of oneself. Bacteriophobia- Fear of bacteria. Basophobia or Basiphobia- Inability to stand. Fear of walking or falling. Bathmophobia- Fear of stairs or steep slopes. Batrachophobia- Fear of amphibians, such as frogs, newts, salamanders, etc. Botanophobia- Fear of plants. Bromidrosiphobia or Bromidrophobia- Fear of body smells. Brontophobia- Fear of thunder and lightning.
Bufonophobia- Fear of toads. Claustrophobia- Fear of confined spaces.
Cleithrophobia or Cleisiophobia- Fear of being locked in an enclosed place. Decidophobia- Fear of making decisions. Dementophobia- Fear of insanity. Dendrophobia- Fear of trees. Dermatophobia- Fear of skin lesions.
Dermatosiophobia or Dermatophobia or Dermatopathophobia- Fear of skin disease. Entomophobia- Fear of insects.
Eosophobia- Fear of dawn or daylight. Eremophobia- Fear of being oneself or of lonliness. Gephyrophobia or Gephydrophobia or Gephysrophobia- Fear of crossing bridges. Helminthophobia- Fear of being infested with worms. Herpetophobia- Fear of reptiles or creepy, crawly things. Homichlophobia- Fear of fog. Hoplophobia- Fear of firearms. Hydrophobia- Fear of water or of rabies.
Hydrophobophobia- Fear of rabies. Hylophobia- Fear of forests.
All we see is black and red when a bird is in full strut. It is not until after we shoot a bird that we begin to notice the intricacies of their feather pattern. The various shades of white, brown, and black.
However, it’s also about a father introducing this new sport to his son…
When Gretna resident Richard Johnson told his son Nolan that they would be turkey hunting soon, 6-year old Nolan bombarded dad with questions: “How close will they be? Can I put on my camouflage again? Have you ever shot a turkey?”
I witnessed some of their first trips in the field together, laughing at how many times young Nolan wanted to be carried by his dad when he heard a turkey. Despite the distance between Nolan and the gobbling birds, Nolan wasn’t comfortable with standing on the same playing field as the toms. “What are you going to do when you have to shoot one?” his dad told him.
But a brief shrug and toothy grin from the young boy changed concern into a lack of concern. Whatever happened, Richard seemed to decide, was going to happen.
It was on the day of their first hunt together that I understood why turkey hunting is set up so perfectly for persons of all ages. Nolan was able to call, talk to his dad, move to various spots, and hear birds even before good light. Plus, the temperature was cool but not too cool, and would warm but become not too warm.
And because turkeys are, well turkeys, they stood a chance at getting a shot at a bird.
Most animals that we see on a day-to-day basis have seemingly gotten use to vehicles, tractors, and people. Right up to the point that a person removes themselves from their car and approaches. Talk to _________ at Platte River State Park, __________ at Mahoney State Park, or _____________ at Fontenelle Forest Nature Center in Bellevue, and they will all tell you that they have seen, more than once, a turkey peck at a glass window, trying to _______ a fight with the reflective turkey that they are staring at.
But step into the field very far, and a hunter will camouflage themselves from head to toe, possibly even using face paint, in an attempt to lure a turkey within shotgun range.
I have a very large friend, in the 6 foot 5, 350 range, that is afraid of no man, big or small. However, snakes, rats, raccoons, possums, spiders, and the dark scare him beyond words. So after his first year of turkey hunting, during which he crawled along the forest floor, swam across critter-infested creeks, and arrived in the woods sometimes near 4 AM in an attempt to get close to a roosting tree, I knew there had to be something to this type of hunting. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in the woods,” he said, “and I never fired a single shot at a bird.”