C.W. Gusewell


Silence is the hunter's enemy

The season was far advanced when a group of friends and hunters joined me at the cabin to match wits with turkey gobblers.

Some years the woods have been all but barren. But after an early and uncommonly warm spring, the riotous undergrowth reduced visibility in many places to 10 yards or less.

What’s more, the bloom of morel mushrooms was all but finished. And to our great disappointment, the fox mama had not returned to birth another litter in the crawl space under the cabin floor.

That’s not to say the outing was a bust.

We ate well. In fact we found a couple of new cafes where, unsupervised by spouses, we had healthy country breakfasts of biscuits, sausage and thick sausage gravy.

One night there was a fish fry, with beans and cole slaw and a moderate amount of liquid refreshment. That went on until well after dark, greatly reducing enthusiasm – mine at least – for the customary 4:30 a.m. rising.

I slept in. Most didn’t.

They slew turkeys. I did not.

Each evening I was privileged to listen to their accounts of great bunches of yearling males observed parading across open pastures. And of older long beards that came responding and displaying to the call.

Not counting turkeys seen briefly at roadside from the moving car on the way to town for milk shakes, my personal total of turkey contacts was one – a gobbler spied strutting and displaying on a distant ridge, mildly interested in my calling but unwilling to leave his hen.

It wasn’t until the final day, with all but one of the other hunters gone, that I discovered it wasn’t a problem of technique that accounted for my failure.

That last comrade and I were standing together just outside the cabin porch, our duffel and leftover grub packed and ready to be loaded in the car.

“Do you hear it?” he said.

“Hear what?

“That turkey gobbling.”

“I thought it was a dog barking.”

“No, it’s a turkey. He’s in that little patch of woods just across the road. He’s been gobbling over there all week.”

And every day I’d been complaining about silent turkeys.

“Well,” I told my friend, “let’s lock up and get rolling. I’m ready if you are.”

So that was my hunt.

I’m home now, unpacked and back on a reasonable sleeping schedule.

This column, I notice, is a bit on the short side. But that can’t be helped. I have an appointment to get tested for a hearing aid. And I mean to be there on time.