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Turkey woes in South Dakota

4/27/2006

I had planned to regale you with fascinating tales of my savvy as a seeker of the wily tom turkey.

Many of you undoubtedly know, while I didn't invent the idea of imitating sex talk between turkeys — clucks, purrs and putts — as a way of gathering breast of gobbler from a male bird foolish enough to be killed over his hen lusting — this noble, X-rated spring hunt is my lifelong passion.

Yes, dear readers, some of you feel sympathy for the tom turkey, whose only sin was to seek copulation from a willing hen.

And, true, rather than an orgy, the amorous tom is more apt to be greeted in the face by a load of No. 6 shot, then quickly carted off to become a turkey dinner.

Now before you say it's an awful act to shoot a turkey on the make, please take note that my wild-turkey dinner is akin to that enjoyed by millions of Americans every November. The only difference being an unknown butcher furnished their Thanksgiving bird and there was no sex involved.

Recently I returned to South Dakota's Black Hills for my 39th spring turkey hunt and I was intending to further regale you with my most-recent exploits while hunting the wily gobbler with a primitive bow and arrow.

In the hunting tradition, going forth into the wilds with a chosen handicap — say, a weapon with severe limitations — is a noble gesture. Noble in recent times anyway.

Our forefathers undoubtedly would wince at the thought of purposefully lowering one's odds at providing food for the family table, especially a breast as tasty as turkey.

Of course, we modern-day turkey hunters seldom worry about things like meager meals. We are risk takers. If the arrow flies astray, if the wily gobbler avoids the wily hunter, there's always Butterballs at the grocers.

Sadly, I must report, there is a shortage of new turkey yarns for me to weave this year. As I write to you, this is my third day of wild turkey hunting and I have yet to sit under a ponderosa pine.

In fact, it's been rather difficult at times to even see the green of a ponderosa. An April blizzard has swept into the Black Hills with a rage I've never witnessed before in all my Aprils here.

On the day I arrived, a string of 70-degree days ended to be replaced by a new string of freezing temperatures, snow whiteouts and 60 mph wind gusts lasting for hours.

Somewhere in the Hills, I suspect, there's a huge gobbler sitting high in a ponderosa that was supposed to be my turkey dinner this year.

At the moment, I suspect, my turkey dinner is swaying like it's never swayed before. His gorgeous tail fan is now acting like a mainsail in a typhoon, harnessing the wind's power and bouncing the big tom, to and fro, like a ball of feathers on a door spring.

Day and night, he's been forced to clutch a swinging pine branch and, I suppose, hope it doesn't break in the dark, sending him to the ground in the company of coyotes.

As I write now, the wind has picked up a little. The Black Hills now have become the White Hills, snowbound and unreachable.

So far, I have avoided pounding my head on any walls, although going stark crazy has crossed my mind.

Yet, being forced to halt one's passions is not really all bad. Your mind slowly realizes it's free to think "whatever" and not feel guilty.

You can think dumb stuff and it's OK, because you can't go anywhere to do any of the dumb stuff you thought about.

So here I am, a camouflaged turkey nut confined to a room like a nut case and waiting like a school kid for recess.

In the meantime, I suspect, all the gobblers in these White Hills are sitting in a ponderosa pine, huddling against the wind and thinking back to the warm spring days of April, when amorous hens would yelp sweet nothings in the tom's ear.

Then, he would imagine himself gobbling to her longingly.

Then, he would fly to the ground and run to her and fan his tail for her and signal his need for the kind of love that has sustained turkeys and all of us for all time.

Nor would he care — not for a moment — if he was about to become a turkey dinner.


Ron Schara may be reached at ron@mnbound.com.

Schara's 250-page book, "Ron Schara's Minnesota Fishing Guide" (Tristan Outdoors; $19.95) is available by clicking here or by calling 888-755-3155.

Ron Schara's short feature, "The Outdoor Beat," airs at 7:55 a.m. ET Sundays on ESPN2. Click here to view this week's show descriptions.