A wet morning in the Lowcountry

The writer takes a selfie with the plumage of his trophy paintbrush-bearded turkey gobbler visible in the background at the end of a recent hunting trip to the S.C. Lowcountry.
The writer takes a selfie with the plumage of his trophy paintbrush-bearded turkey gobbler visible in the background at the end of a recent hunting trip to the S.C. Lowcountry.

There was a patter of big raindrops on the roof of my ground blind as a soft breeze shook the branches of the glistening green woods around me. The stormy weather was loosening its grip on the Lowcountry after a day and night of torrential rain.

I sat in the blind looking out over a big agricultural field. A dim woods road runs a twisted course just over in the timber, roughly parallel to the edge of the field. My blind sits back, just off the road, in this beautiful woodland of mixed pines and hardwoods.

This road is named "Bud B" in honor of one of the earlier club members, long gone from this world. It is covered in a rich brown carpet of pine needles and oak leaves. There is much evidence of armadillos rooting in the woodland duff along the road. Turkeys' scratchings are seen here also.

The dawn had been misty with dark gray clouds hovering overhead. The songbirds had been slow to announce a new day, and the turkeys had stayed quiet. I had started this morning at a different location but had moved here to one of my ground blinds about 9 o'clock.

The sky was lighter now, with patches of blue showing through the clouds and beams of sunlight shining down. I don't think there is anything more beautiful than the bright blue sky and the promise that it brings after days of bad weather.

The field to my front was cloaked in a solid stand of shin-high sourweed, rusty red colored with the occasional yellow or white wild flower peeping out.

Just the beauty of the green woods, the red field of flowers and the blue sky was enough. But on top of all that, a turkey gobbled on his own - just down the road to my left. I had been calling occasionally for almost an hour, and I think that this turkey had come looking for the lonesome hen that I pretended to be.

I scrambled around, got my gun across my lap and made another series of calls. The turkey gobbled again - closer.

Even though my attention was focused down the woodland road to my left, I glanced back out over the field to my front and saw movement. Now, I know that our eyes can be fooled occasionally but not by movement. Something was out there.

I pulled out my small binoculars and focused on the far side of the field, maybe 300 yards away. The field has a slight crown, but I could see a head, then another and another. Three gobblers, and they were looking my way. I was elated!

Now I had a gobbler in the woods, down the road to the left, and three more across the big field to my front. I picked up my box call and made a pretty loud yelp. The turkey to my left gobbled again even closer, and the three in the field started walking in my direction. Well, I would just settle on which one could get to me first.

Just from the sound, I guessed that the gobbler to my left was about 100 yards away, so I turned my chair a little more in that direction. I could only see about 40 yards in his direction because of big trees and a twist in the road. I needed to be ready when he appeared.

Whenever the three gobblers in the field stopped I would call. They never gobbled but would keep coming in my direction. The one down the road gobbled at every call but by now didn't seem to be coming much closer. A look with the binoculars confirmed that the three in the field were all longbeards.

Those three longbeards came right on to the edge of the woods but stopped behind a slight screen of brush. I took my box call and made just the softest purr that it could produce. They all double gobbled at the same time. They were standing too close together, and the brush was in the way, so I didn't shoot. They milled around a little bit, then walked back out in the field and started to my right. The biggest one had what we call a huge paintbrush beard, but I never had a clear shot at him, so I let them walk.

They went about 50 yards to the right and walked into the woods but stopped behind some trees. One of the gobblers walked out into the road, but it wasn't the big one, and I held off. They milled around again, and I made a very soft yelp. They all gobbled at the same time and started back down the edge of the field. By now, I had completely forgotten about the other gobbler to my left.

When they got straight out to my front the big gobbler with the paintbrush beard turned and walked into the woods. The other two longbeards just stood there in the field watching. At the road the big gobbler stopped.

At the shot, the two gobblers in the field flew back to the far woods, and I took the big paintbrush-bearded gobbler back to the clubhouse with me.

Dan Geddings is a weekly columnist for The Sumter Item. Email Dan at cdgeddings@gmail.com.