Where the wild things live

By DAN GEDDINGS
Posted 4/29/18

When I stepped out of the truck it was dark, and I stood there for a few moments to let my eyes adjust to the woods around me. I quickly realized that I could see good enough to walk the old logging road without using a flashlight.

Whippoorwills …

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Where the wild things live

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When I stepped out of the truck it was dark, and I stood there for a few moments to let my eyes adjust to the woods around me. I quickly realized that I could see good enough to walk the old logging road without using a flashlight.

Whippoorwills called emphatically throughout the pineland, their songs ringing in my ears as I started my long walk to Liston Pasture. It was an easy walk, down old logging roads, but I needed to make my destination before daylight caught me.

I didn't hurry but kept up a steady pace. The eastern sky over my left shoulder gained more and more light. At the end of Cathead Road, I stopped. The piney woods had given way to a mix of pines and hardwoods, and the whippoorwill calls had faded into the distance behind me.

An owl hooted from the swampy lowlands just ahead. Another one answered with the familiar hoots that sound like the phrase "who cooks for you - who cooks for you all."

I pressed on down Liston Pasture Road. I could see some kind of disturbance in the leaf litter that carpeted the road.

I didn't stop to examine the disturbance but guessed it to be caused by hogs or armadillos. It was confined to the roadbed only - which I thought was a little odd. Toward the end of the road, I stopped. The light had caught me.

Just ahead was a stand of towering loblolly pines. I had learned the hard way that turkeys would roost in these pines, but they always flew down to the pasture at the end of the road. I knew that if I stopped here I would be behind the birds, and they would ignore my pleading calls.

I also knew that if I walked on in the predawn light that a turkey roosted here could see me, and this hunt would be over. My hunch was that the turkeys were instead roosted in a small hardwood bottom just beyond the end of the road. I went with my hunch and pressed on toward the end of the road.

By now, the songbirds had started up, and the woods were filled with melodies of unseen warblers, finches, cardinals and a host of others. Nothing compares to that sound. It is beauty to the ears and heart.

Crows had started calling in the distance, and I knew that it was time for the turkeys to sound off. I had finally arrived at the end of the road, and I picked out a big pine to sit down by. I leaned my gun up by the tree and turned to look out toward the pasture. A turkey gobbled straight behind me. I turned around and faced in that direction.

After a few minutes, the turkey gobbled again. I could tell that he was about 150 yards from me in the hardwood bottom. Probably roosted over the water. There was no way to get any closer in these open woods without him seeing me. I would have to set up here and try to call him to me.

I walked across the road and sat down against a big pine with the pasture to my back and the open pineland to my front. I made a couple of soft yelps on my slate call but heard nothing from the gobbler. After a few minutes, I heard a faint gobble on the ground beyond the hardwood bottom. He had flown down in the opposite direction.

I knew that his ultimate destination would be the pasture, so I just sat tight. Occasionally I would call, and he would answer with a lusty gobble but would not come any closer. I had zoned out all the other woodland sounds when the turkey first gobbled, but now I couldn't help but notice the crows.

A mob of crows were headed in my direction across the pasture behind me. I knew they were after something - probably an owl or a hawk. As they approached, their calls were frantic and continuous. I scanned the sky looking for the culprit but saw nothing but the swarming crows. When I looked down, movement in the pasture caught my attention. At first I thought that it was a coyote because it was large and lanky, but I quickly realized that it was a large bobcat.

The cat stopped at about 30 yards and looked directly at me. I didn't move, and the cat vanished in the tall grass at the edge of the woods. The crows must have lost sight of the cat in the woods and moved on to other pursuits. I sat quietly for a little while to let the woods settle down, then scratched out a soft yelp.

The turkey to my front gobbled - closer. And one gobbled out in the pasture behind me. I called some more, and they both gobbled. I was in a good spot. I figured it would be a race to see which one got to me first. I was wrong. They both went silent. No amount of calling on my part could get a peep in return.

After several long minutes of uneasy silence, I stood up to look around. A white pickup was parked out in the pasture, and the farmer was walking around looking at the grass. The turkeys had vanished into the ether of the woods - where the wild things live.