Impatience pulled me out bed too early and pushed me to paddle too fast, and I found myself in the dead of night in the cattails two hours before shooting time. This left me an hour in the dark to contemplate complete silence before I could even throw a decoy. So, in the stillness of the marsh that settled in the aftermath of a flock of flushed geese, I monitored the belt of Orion, bit by bit, as it faded into morning.
And hours later. just as the clock gave the OK to shoot, the first light of dawn fell from the sky on the feathers of a few blue-winged teal. Bang!
Teal ducks are the most impatient migrators, they keep way ahead of the cold, and early teal season was created for hunters just as eager to greet them on their way.
Likewise, the fall turkey season caters to those who can’t wait until spring. And I took full advantage of some mid-September mornings to track down a late summer bird.
Fall changes every aspect of chasing turkeys, adding an array of seasonal challenges. The birds get quiet, even during fly-downs that land them in full-grown fields. And those crops cancel out almost all of the vision enjoyed when they were just seeds, creating the mystery that a bird could be around any corner.
With that in mind, I took caution as I made turns through a maze of corn. And as I rounded a bend in the rows, I caught sight of a flock on the edge of some beans. They were grazing 150 yards away, but, after crawling through a patch of grass, the angle of the crops only kept me concealed enough to close half of that gap.
The turkeys were unresponsive to calls, and I was as close as I could get, so I was left high and dry on the hill baking in the summer sun.
Two sandhill cranes soon landed by the flock and instantly began screaming. I at first thought they had located me, but it was the turkeys they were trying to terrorize. The cranes took steps towards the flock as if trying to instigate a fight, but the turkeys held their ground, forcing the long-beaked birds to retreat to the sky.
After another hour of bumbling around, making no progress at all towards me, the turkeys returned to the corn right where I was able to set up the next day.
And of course, those turkeys were a no-show, so by mid-morning I was making my way back up the hill to start the search over again. Just as I reached the top, I caught sight of a tom and hit deck. He was feeding in an emerald river of alfalfa planted between the corn and the beans.
The bird was only 50 yards away, but I was on an upward slope, so he was still out of sight until he came closer to the very edge of the hill.
My only chance was a chirp from the slate somehow striking his curiosity, and in just a few minutes his head appeared over the hay, jutting back and forth, searching for the hen. Bang!
And for a moment, as the September sun began to really heat up, the only impatience plaguing me concerned getting the bird back home and butchered.