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The Thunderbird


The ominous clouds floating past the bright moon told the story of what was to come. Jagged streaks of lightning crisscrossed the distant night sky. I sat in the truck and wondered aloud what to do. The weatherman was right on with his forecast, strong storms would sweep through the area in the early morning hours. As I sat in the truck listening to the constant drumbeat of raindrops on the metal roof I closed my eyes and reminisced about last years hunt.

The bluebird morning behind Dads house. The chorus of gobbles just as the pink light peeked over the skyline. The setup was textbook. A cluster of ancient locust trees in the far corner of the hayfield created the perfect ambush point. To my left the ridgetop was highlighted by a large stand of pines, planted in neat rows countless years before. Directly in front of me was a long deep hollow ring with some massive white oaks. The secluded field corner was a preferred strut zone year after year. As if on cue the woods came alive. The songbirds were the first to offer their good morning wishes to all, singing a symphony of songs in the gray light of dawn. Soon after, the first booming gobble of the morning echoed from the hardwoods below, followed quickly by two others to my left. This morning would be special I could feel it! Back and forth the gobblers dueled, each sounding just a little louder and more pronounced. Three FeatherFlex imposters twitched slightly at the gentle breeze. Several minutes of the back and forth battle ensued before I heard the whooshing of wings in front of me. A muffled gobble confirmed that he was on the ground. I placed the double reed mouth call in the roof of my mouth and let out a few soft clucks to announce my presence. He immediately fired back and I gave a couple of yelps and settled in against the large locust confident he knew where the seductive sounding hen was.

In a matter of minutes, I could see the white head bobbing through the trees. He stopped briefly at the field’s edge to scan the surrounding area. At the sight of the young jake overlooking the two hens he launched into a fury of gobbles. A few more soft yelps and his fate was sealed. He took off on a dead run for the dekes and went into full strut. As he turned to face the young intruder a sharp putt brought him to attention and a load of hot #6’s ended his bad intentions! It was over as quickly as it had begun. A half hour into the season and it was over! The big bird sported a 10 ¼” beard and 1 1/8” spurs.

As the rain grew harder any thoughts of heading home were soon forgotten. I was here to hunt and that’s what I was going to do. I slung the 870 over my shoulder and headed off into the darkness. Up the rutted tractor path I climbed, mud clinging heavily to my boots. I followed the path as it left the field and headed into the woods below stopping just short of a large sweeping bend. A little leery of using decoys on public land I chose to leave them in the truck. I figured the birds would follow the path to get to the fields in the driving rain. I hoped their curiosity would get the best of them as they neared the bend in the road.

By 8:00 a.m. I had yet to hear a gobble but with the rain and thunder I probably couldn’t hear them anyway. As the brunt of the storm passed the distant thunder brought a trio of hearty gobbles from the other side if the bend. As the rain dissipated I let loose with several soft clucks to no avail. A few more yelps, this time a little louder drew a response. At every rumble of the thunder the birds would fire off although my calling gained little attention. I decided to stay quiet for awhile and just listen. After fifteen minutes I had to see what was happening. A series of yelps followed by a couple of clucks brought a furious gobble and I knew they were near. The cat and mouse game continued for about a half hour before all went quiet. Had I overcalled? Were the birds intercepted by hens? The questions raced through my head. After another fifteen minutes of silence I was about to stand and head down the ridge when a leftover rumble of thunder came from the heavens. The gobble that followed almost blew my hat off! They were there and they were close! I clucked a few times and they fired right back in unison. As the first bird rounded the bend in all of Mother Nature’s glory it was a sight to see. The bright red head and iridescent plumage stood in deep contrast to the spring landscape. I clicked off the safety, gave a sharp putt and ended yet another perfect morning in Pennsylvania’s woods.

As I tied my tag to his leg it was 9:40 a.m. I reflected on the morning’s transgression. To think that I had considered heading home. I would have no doubt missed out on one of my most memorable hunts to date! I still believe in my heart that the last clap of thunder was sent down from someone up above. As I toted the nineteen pound monarch up the muddy road, soaked to the bone, I realized there was no place I’d rather have been.








BONZ
2-4-09
 

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What a great story Bonz. Just in time to start getting excited too. I always enjoy your writing, and wait for it. I am excited for the next one!

Is that the bird you killed that day or the year before when you were dreaming in the truck? That looks like a serious broom on him... way to go and thanks a ton for sharing that. You have the knack of turning a hunt into a story everyone loves to join in on. You are one fella I would love to sit and enjoy a beer at the fire with.
 

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Thanks Nuge! the pic (sorry about the quality) is the infamous Thunderbird! he had a 10 1/2" paintbrush and almost 1 1/4" spurs.
hopefully one of these days i'll take you up on the offer to share a beer
 

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It is about time you get another one on here ! As always an excellent read,Bonz. I must say , though , your new avatar is a bit spooky ! Thanks for another great story ....Finn
 

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Bonz great story.I could smell the rain and hear the birds sounding off.It will not be long now before we try to seduce a gobbler.Thanks for sharing another great post.
 
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