Wednesday, April 30, 2014
An Osceola in the Rain
(Originally Posted at Good Hunt)
The rain was no surprise - hell, it seemed to pour on every other hunt this turkey season. At this point, it was laughable, and the mirthful radar displayed waves of yellow and red rolling in from the southwest straight into the Big Bend.
The property of scrub and planted pines and cypress heads in Rosewood I hunted the last weekend of Florida's Spring Turkey was more of a bog. Without any major creek systems or ditches to move water combined with a solid sheet of limestone 20-ft. underground, the persistent downpours over the previous six weeks had nowhere to go other than through merciful evaporation.
So, rain - no surprise. The shock was my ability to stave off complete inebriation. When it's raining, I'm a full-blown pessimist. In these surroundings with these conditions, the only reasonable thing to do - in my sick mind - is swale bourbon, laugh too loud, and eat a huge steak by nightfall. Beyond the safety and legal ramifications of this, once the whiskey starts flowing with any rapidity, my feet are kicked up and the hunt is over. Call it advancing maturity, call it triumph of the human spirit, call it the bloodlust to kill one more turkey, but I avoided this urge. I just felt I'd have a chance at action later in the day if I kept it between the buoys, as Alan Jackson would say.
I can't say it was easy being trapped in the cabin, despite its comforts. The Friday morning hunt was cut short by howling winds - my turkey calling attempts blew away only slightly faster than the sideways pine needles. And from previous conversations with Mike, the owner of the property, the gobblers hadn't been all that vocal this year, dampening my enthusiasm further. Back in camp before nine, we settled down for breakfast and watched Bay News 9 reveal our fate via iPhone.
(Quick aside - if someone had told you 20 years ago that there would be a device that let you talk, text, check e-mail, sports scores, weather stations, and other websites - wink-wink - how much would you have predicted it'd cost? $10,000? More?)
By 10:30 there was a solid downpour. We looked through hundreds of trail camera pictures of drier days to bide the time. The hogs on this property are ridiculous. You almost never saw the same one, yet the property is under 90-acres. And we noticed most of the gobblers moved after noon and later into the evening.
In particular, we noticed one large tom sporting a rainbow of a beard. He was clearly a mature animal that had been recently ambling between two locations from 2 to about 5pm. Three jakes were frequently photographed, as well, and at this point, that would be game on. I set it to my mind that I could get one of these birds if given half-a-chance, and maybe a pig, too.
At four, the rains ceased. The radar had showed a break in the weather. Dad and I hurriedly donned our gear and set to the woods. I chose one of the areas where the gobbler had been seen in the last few days, and set up in the only dry place I could find, a treestand. Adding to this unconventional arrangement, I was toting my Ruger No. 1 .25-06. I'll happily debate another day the political correctness of turkey hunting with a rifle, but with the pigs and coyotes on the property, I wanted to be ready for anything.
It didn't take long. After settling in, I loudly yelped a few times. Within minutes, one of those jakes came splish-splashing down a trail, poking around for a potential lover. He sadly found it. That Ruger loves killing turkeys. I shot him very carefully in the neck to avoid ruining any breast meat, and he dropped in a puddle at 20-yards, soaking his feathers. All turkey are worthy opponents to me; hate to see them all drowned-rat-like. Of course, with the weather conditions he'd endured this Spring, this was probably a constant style for him.
I suppose I could have let him pass and held out for the bigger gobbler. I could have...but a bird in the hand and all that. Actually, Dad shot immediately after me. He had spooked a few hogs off while walking into his area, but things had settled down and he watched as that tom started closing the distance. At my shot, the gobbler changed directions, and Dad fired a desperation round. He should have been carrying a rifle.
We got back to camp soon after dark. I selfishly pined for a pig to wind down the day, but one never ambled by. As we packed our things away, the rain began to spit again. I stowed the jake in a trash bag and put him on ice to clean at the house and show the kids. As is my tradition, I did not get out of bed to hunt Saturday morning, my last of the season in Florida. The sheets were too comfortable, the 6-week season plenty long and exhausting, and I finally got to those drinks I'd be meaning to enjoy.
This time, though, they were of a celebratory nature and not dedicated to the rains.