The Fun of a Scouting Trip That Never Happened
The great thing about a trip to the woods is not knowing what exactly is going to happen.
After a miserable week of hunting my state’s deer gun season with very few deer sightings and warmer than normal temperatures that kept deer movement to a minimum, I was quite happy for a bit of snow on the ground a couple weeks later. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. A day or two after a fresh 6 inches of snow, the weather was calm and clear and I had a day off of work. It was a perfect day for a walk through the woods looking for fresh deer tracks. I was hoping I could figure out where the deer were moving as they certainly were not moving through all the traditional high deer traffic areas on the farm. Yes I was on a mission to figure out those blankety-blank deer prior to the bonus deer gun season coming up the following week.
As with most scouting trips that occur during small game season, I took the .17hmr along in case I crossed paths with a squirrel or two. The trip to the main woods is a ½ mile walk but to get there I have to walk a lane through a narrow strip of woods that separates our two crop fields. I got about half way through the walk down the lane when I saw them. Turkeys! There is not much that I love more than wild turkey encounters. I stopped to ponder what to do what with the narrow strip of woods being fairly open. In about 75 more yards, I would be to a spot where there were several leaf squirrel nests and a hickory tree or two. If I could make it to that spot, I could watch the turkeys for a bit and maybe even see a squirrel. I left the open lane and walked through the trees and understory as far from the turkey flock as I could. Stop and start. Maybe they would think I was a deer. It worked and I settled my seat cushion in the snow with my back against a big maple tree.
Within minutes the turkeys started talking. There were yelps and kee-kee runs. I slowly realized that the flock was feeding in two groups. Half were in the field to the east of the strip of woods and half were in the field to the west. And there I was sitting in between. 30 minutes later I was still enjoying watching the turkeys when a squirrel appeared in front of me. It ran through the tree tops, dropped into a small cluster of leaves in the crook of a young maple tree and came out with a 4 inch long piece of an ear of corn. I started to get my gun in position but a couple of blue jays had noticed the squirrel as well. They wanted that ear of corn. I felt a bit sorry for the squirrel. I was trying to shoot it and the blue jays were trying to steal its meal. The squirrel made it safely into a larger proper leaf nest and disappeared.
Meanwhile the turkeys were still yacking it up and they were getting closer. The west group was moving to join the east group and I was in the middle. I tried to get some video on my cell phone. The first few turkeys passed through without seeing me. But then a sneaky young one came up behind me and saw something it did not like. It started clucking loudly as it passed behind me not 20 yards away. It seemed kind of pissed off that it couldn’t figure out what I was. I was only 15 yards from the edge of the east field. When the confused and mildly pissed off turkey reached the field, it stood there and continued to cluck loudly. The main flock of over 50 birds had been feeding 50 or more yards away. They really couldn’t figure out why their buddy was standing there clucking and so all 50 of them walked over to join the boisterous youngster. When all was said and done, the turkeys quieted down and took up feeding in the field 20 yards away directly in front of me. And then the squirrel popped out of the leaf nest with the corn cob in its mouth.
I had now been sitting in the snow with my back to this maple tree for a little over an hour. The action had been non-stop. I wanted to watch the turkeys. I wanted to shoot a squirrel. The squirrel was to my left and crossed through the tree tops between me and the turkeys. Oh heck I thought. I wanted to shoot the squirrel. The blue jays were gone by now but the squirrel was still quite concerned about finding a peaceful location to eat the corn. It ended up choosing a branch in a tree 30 yards to my right. With one eye on the turkey flock, I scooted myself around for a shot at the squirrel. I was now about to find out how a turkey flock feeding 20 yards away would react to a gun shot. The .17hmr barked, the squirrel dropped and the entire turkey flock jumped into the air and quickly settled back to the ground. But every turkey was standing upright in full alert posture. I sat quiet and they started to softly talk to each other. They decided that they would rather feed elsewhere in the field and so without much hurry, but with a decided purpose, they walked off to the north. When they were out of sight, I walked over and picked up my squirrel.
I was shivering a bit from sitting still in the snow for so long and the afternoon shadows were getting long. I decided to head home. Although I left the woods without completing my deer scouting mission, I could not have asked for anything more from that day. Sometimes I think it is crazy just how much fun I can have out there.
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