Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Fake Jake

He's staring back at me. Two little beady eyes-plastic. A fake jake decoy balanced a bit off-kilter on a wood stake. Perhaps he's thinking it's been a bit boring this week during the hunt. Maybe.

The other two decoys, a fanned out “Pretty Boy” tom and feeding hen, pose silently, wiggling slightly in the cool morning wind. Unfortunately, that breeze is from the south, driving with it the fresh scent of recently spread manure, the smell, almost overwhelming. The decoys wonder why I'm not calling more. I've learned years ago that it can be overdone and any tom wandering in search of love nearby would have taken note if in earshot. So far in this week of hunting, they must be strolling around somewhere else.

Five hens fed here yesterday and as my logic works, where there are hens, there will be gobblers. That theory hasn't proven true to date this season, but I'll stick with it. Turkey hunting can change in a second-many hours spent glassy eyed staring at an empty field or dead oak leaf carpet in the woods can change instantly. I'm waiting..... Not a sign, seen or heard of my quarry these past few days. If just one single gobble would sound off, it would change this game directly, that's how this sport is and why I come back.

My slate call rings out another semi-accurate yelp, increasing in volume and echoing off the nearby tree trunk filled hillside. The decoys hardly notice. Nothing, no reply like I'd hoped from unseen male birds.

Arriving at the very first glow of the morning, I checked in earlier than my opening day, when I accidentally slept in and had to scoot out to the blind in broad daylight it seemed. Today was textbook-set up decoys in the pitch black darkness, hunker down quietly with a thermost of hot coffee and watch the orange east horizon grow brighter. From my vantage point the sunrise glows through parallel lines of trees with a gentle curve of a hilltop cutting them in half. Three or four deer trotted along the crest, silhouetted in the pre-dawn light. They'd exited a farm field and would soon end up in my lap, the wind against them this morning.

By 6:00, it seemed like I'd been here forever, but it hasn't-just impatient for daylight if not for some gobbling to keep up my interest. That's not to say it's boring.

At some predetermined time, mother nature sets off an alarm clock because the woods seem to come alive with every imaginable spring sound. In just a one or two minute time span (literally) I tallied the harmony of calls from an array of wildlife. A “boss” robin loudly defending her turf, bluebirds, coopers hawk, a pair of geese overhead, cranes rattle calling, squealing of wood ducks, squirrels chattering, barred owns dueling behind me. Crows started in with blue jays and a flicker. Cows, roosters and even a donkey, over a mile away, joined in the chorus. The turkey woods can be incredibly noisy for a brief time. I've listened to this ensemble many times before, sometimes even with turkey yelps, putts and gobbles tossed in the mix.

I scrape the wood dowel across the round slate surface again at the plastic jakes insistence. No reply.

The forest creatures seem to quiet down somewhat as the sun continues upward. I've noted that before too. Maybe the brightness of the day doesn't need all that sound or I can't distinguish the individual pieces and parts of the melody any longer.

The remaining coffee in my cup needs to be warmed up-I can't stand it luke warm. Steam drifts up as it's poured and warms my hands. It's supposed to get to 75 today, the warmest all spring, but it's starting out at 40 and cool. Long johns and stocking cap required.

The coopers hawks had constructed a stick nest high in the crotch of a tall oak tree nearby. I'd become aware when approaching too close and they sounded the grating “cak-cak-cak” of an alarm call. I tried to stay clear on my return trips through the woods. Most of the morning a game of harassment was played between the pair of hawks and some crows. Sometimes it's the crows dive bombing the perched accipiter, and other times it's the cooper on the big black birds tail, like a fighter through the close quarters of the trees. The game continues till one or the other tire. I suspect the crows move on to something else to amuse themselves.

The three acre field is now fully lit. One hen managed to wander out, scratching the manure for some breakfast (yes, I do think about what they eat). I call just for fun, and she glances in the direction of the
phony birds. I took it as her saying she wasn't interested in joining the trio. That thought was confirmed as she pecked her way back off the field and back into the brush. At least it was a turkey I muse.

The hi-way is a couple miles away, but the drone of vehicles seems to get louder-I hear few animals now. Everything seems to settle into the day with each passing morning minute. The only movement is from the deeks who wiggle back and forth (looking quite real I might add) but no game sees them. A raven lands in the field, inspects something, flips it up and flies off leaving me with no further entertainment.

I can't in good conscience leave-I call again, a series of louder then training off yelps. No answer. Another hour passes. The warming southern wind is picking up, ushering in the mid seventy degree day-much to warm for me to enjoy camo clad turkey hunting. Another spring sport will take hunting turkey's place today.

It's mid morning, half a day since I woke and walked out here and my tenacity is waining. Most of the forest animals have moved on and found better things to do. The coffee is gone. Tomorrow, when it's cooler, I'll repeat this whole process again with maybe better luck. The fake jake agrees I think. I pluck him and his partners from their wood stakes and they catch a ride under my arm back to the blind. Yep, tomorrow (and the next day-and the next?) we'll play this game again and watch the day wake.

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