Stepping outside into cool spring-time air I walked toward the car to gather my hunting supplies. I could not take my eyes of the gently rolling hills, dimly lit at the crest and shadowed on the sides visible from where I was. The view was magical. Illinois hunting ground was nothing like this. I'd never been on this property before and visions of what awaited in those hills had my full attention.
Don saw them first. Those black dots far to the southeast surely were turkeys. Really they were far enough away we couldn't be certain. Don quickly grabbed his binoculars to make positive identification. Turkeys they were! Big toms & numerous hens just down from the roost and grabbing some quick grub before heading off in various directions for the day. The birds were on the edge of a grove of trees. Trees tall and conspicuous in the otherwise open pastures and guarding the secrets of the house they had once surrounded. If you've never hunted, perhaps I could never explain the rush that accompanies what I've tried to describe.
Under usual hunting circumstances I wouldn't have seen any of this. Normally I would have been in the woods before first light. My vantage point would have been entirely different. However, Don & I had arrived at our destination about 5 AM after an all night, 11 hour drive from Central Illinois. We went into the house of our hosts to get what sleep we could. Stirred by that alarm we embarked on our 2 day, memorable hunt.
Because approaching a turkey under the cover a forest provides is challenge enough, there was no way we were going sneak within range of those birds in the open. We determined to scout out the lay-of-the-land, find a good hiding place and see if we could persuade them to come to us. Don did that successfully the first day and again the second day as he harvested two very nice birds.
My tactic was to find the exact trees the turkeys were roosting and be sitting on their doorstep when they came home in the evening. Sitting in the backyard of wild animals, watching their coming and going, interactions and learning their habits without them ever knowing you are there is amazing. Which is what I did for about 2 hours. Hens came by ones and twos from various directions. They milled around discussing their day and grabbing a few more snacks before bedtime while I watched. They were joined by young tom who strutted around like a young teenager whose main motive was to be noticed.
As the evening waned, I wondered where those nice big toms were. I knew they had roosted here the previous night. Could they have moved to another roosting spot? No sooner than my wondering if they would come, they did. Like two young fellows, full of spit & vinegar and arriving fashionably late to the
party. Oh, and they were noticed all right. All those hens noticed and so did the jake. He immediately removed himself from the area and chose to maintain his isolation the remainder of the evening. It was
another version of "The Boys are Back in Town."
Which brings me to the Fourth Annual Wild Game Dinner. Because those "boys" eventually ventured close to my hideout, one of them was on the menu for our dinner.
You see, Don says it like this. "You get to enjoy planning the hunt, enjoy the hunt itself, enjoy the meal it provides and re-live it all again."
On the menu:
Bacon wrapped Grouse breast
Buffalo dip with Squirrel
Creme of Pheasant with wild rice
Bacon wrapped wild Turkey breast pieces with Hawaiian, Sesame Ginger, Greek & BBQ marinades
Wild Turkey with Dumplings (southern style)
Grouse is ready to serve.
Creme of Pheasant fit for a king!
Marina ready to eat.
Carl & Norma wonder what is next.
The kids determining which turkey flavor to try.
Turkey & dumplings and much more.
The wonderful & tolerant wives of two fellows who love to hunt.