The Small Minutes
They are the small minutes, when time slowly ticks away as you wait for the first gobble of the season.
These moments won’t be the most exciting or memorable you spend in the turkey woods this spring, but you’ll never feel as much adrenaline, awareness and anticipation as during these fleeting ticks of the clock.
Whether we start the season in Alabama, Missouri or New York, turkey hunters share this experience. You wake up before the alarm, perhaps spurred by breakfast cooking down the hallway or the noise of a hunting partner shuffling in the darkness. You’re up but not alert. After all, it’s opening day, and your body isn’t used to turkey hours yet.
You fumble through your vest, making sure everything is in order. Where did you put that friction call? Is one of your strikers missing? No, there it is. Hmm, those new boots seem a bit tight. No doubt, you’ll break them in during the ensuing days. Time to double-check your facemask and gloves. Yes, you’re ready after all.
It’s time for some chow. Perhaps you’re at a Southern lodge, where the cook has prepared heaping piles of scrambled eggs and potatoes. Maybe you’re at a cabin, where your buddy has again managed to cook the yolks too hard and spoil the coffee. Or, like many folks, you probably sit bleary-eyed at your kitchen table, wolfing down a quick bowl of cereal before it’s time to hit the road.
The truck engine hums in the darkness as you wipe off the windows and carefully stow your gun. You check the sky through your windshield. A few clouds, but it looks to be a good gobbling morning. Cripes, you’d better get going. You’re five minutes behind schedule, and you have a hike in front of you after you reach your hunting area.
At last, you’re here. You grab your stuff and carefully ease the door shut so you don’t disturb the landowners and turkeys. After a few steps through the dew-covered field, you’re thankful you wore rubber boots. It’s cold!
Now, where’s that trail? Sure enough, that’s it. You hike up the ridge toward the second finger, where you roosted two gobblers the previous night. A stick snaps beneath your feet, and you curse your clumsiness.
“Slow down,” you whisper in the darkness. “You’re acting like a rookie.”
Finally, you’ve reached your listening post. Now, as traces of silver tinge the eastern sky, the wait begins.
Where will that gobble come from? How will you sneak into position? What will your first calling sequence be? It’s been so long since last season. Will you even remember what to do? Of course you will. This isn’t your first time. That doesn’t make the wait easier, though.
The stars are fading now, but the woods remain silent. Did you spook him? Was all your pre-season scouting a waste? Is it going to be one of those days?
There! There’s a gobble, ringing loud and throaty through the woods. Man, he’s close, and you know just the setup to begin calling. There he was again. He’s hammering, and you can get in perfect position.
You’d better get going, because that longbeard won’t wait forever. The small minutes are finished for another year, and dawn will soon break, ushering in a new turkey season and the promise of memories to come.