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Thunder Chickens 

Philip Hunt – Tails of the Hunts 

 

Spring is here, leaves are green, pollen is thick, and turkeys are strutting for their mates in the fields. Turkeys, or “thunder chickens”, announce to the world at sunrise that they are rested and ready to go. most gobbling happens when the Gobblers (another name for male turkeys) are in the tree where they slept. A soft call of a female turkey is cut short by the Gobbler with its neck stretched out and feathers ruffled. He’s trying to sound and look like the meanest bird in the woods. The morning scene is similar to a professional wrestler walking into the ring. 

             

Leaning against a tree on Saturday, this scene played out to perfection. Birds were gobbling to the left and right of me. I would mimic the sound of a hen turkey and they would answer with a thundering gobble. 

             

When the turkeys flew down, silence engulfed the woods. No more gobbling from the proud thunder chickens. On the ground, these giant birds have learned that gobbling signals to two and four legged predators an easy meal. 

             

After an hour, the woods were still quiet. I just knew a gobbler would find my sporadic calling irresistible. The sweet sounds emanating from stick and slate were siren like, leading the wayfaring turkeys to destruction. 

             

Sitting there against a tree in the early morning light, I have the privilege of watching other animals do their morning routines. 

             

A squirrel runs up a tree three paces away and stops to look at me. Squirrels haunt me during deer and turkey season. During deer season, a squirrel on the ground sounds like a deer. During turkey season, squirrels sound like turkeys. Four feet off the ground, the squirrel looks down on me with a look that says, “I may eat nuts, but at least I’m not nuts like you.” 

             

The deer, which seemed invisible a few months ago during deer season, now parade around me knowing their safety is secured by law this time of year. Deer make a sneeze sound when they smell something they don’t like. A group of five deer walk by and sneeze at me, making a sound that mimics a group of kids trying to hold their laughs in at church. 

             

At this point, I had enough. I was patient for two and a half hours. It’s time to try and stalk a turkey.   

             

I walk a half mile loop, calling sporadically, trying to find a gobbler who thinks I sound like a good-looking hen. After forty-five minutes, one answers and I race to cut him off on his path. 

             

I get to the cut-off point seventy-five yards from my original tree this morning.  A group of the Gobblers crest the hill in front of me in the timber and walk closer and closer. 

             

They start to veer left and my heart sinks. While out of range from my shotgun, they walk right by my original tree. 

             

Walking into the house, my kids ask if I got a turkey. Looking at me they know the sad reality. Dad got outsmarted by Thunder-Chickens.