My eyes won’t stop watering. It’s the lack of sleep. Three a.m. wake-ups are by far the biggest drawback to turkey hunting.
To stop the spigot, I close my eyes. Surely I’ll hear a gobbler if he lets loose. To make sure, I take an auditory inventory. I start with the close sounds first – the buzz of the mosquitoes, the warblers and wrens, breeze through the trees. Now I expand – vehicle hum of a far-away road. Maybe a dog bark, way off? Maybe.
And then, seemingly from within my head, a “Bum. Bum, bum. Bumbumbumbumbumbum.” Sort of like a lawnmower starting. Then it’s gone.
It’s a male ruffed grouse, somewhere within a quarter mile of the pine tree I’m nestled up against. He’s drumming, which is his way of marking out his spring breeding territory.
I’ve been told drumming creates a mini sonic boom. It might. For me, it creates hope.
Killing a wild bird involves nearly flawless insertion into both the time and space continuum, you know, being in the right place at the right time.
Trouble was, I’d put the kid into those sweet spots a goodly number of times in the last two seasons in an attempt to get him his first ruffed grouse before the Sirens of high school – girls, cars and sports – chilled his wing-shooting ambition.
He missed, of course, or farted around with the safety or was too slow to mount the gun every time we hit that time/space crossroads and The King eluded the kid in a thunder of wings and flash of gray.
But the black Lab and me or my hunting partner and his French Brit continued to stack the odds in the kid’s favor. Eventually it paid off.
A grouse ran out from under the Britt’s nose and as the dog relocated in the tangle of alders, the kid moved off to my left, toward the cornfield abutting the thicket. The bird exploded from somewhere behind me, banking for the sky, giving the kid what amounts to a decent shot in the New England grouse woods. He pulled the trigger, the bird tumbled and mission was accomplished.
I snapped pictures, him proud and happy, the bird limp and warm. More than anything, I wanted somebody to hit the pause button on that constantly moving time and space continuum. I wanted to stay right where we were, to stop time from shifting the moment to memory.