HIS full-strut fan was iridescent, his chest
shimmered deep gold and blue, and the bars
of his wings flashed in the glow of dawn.
Straight for the persimmon tree he came,
and once more he boomed the deep, boisterous gobble
that echoed through the woods and down along the river.
The hens and jakes were in range, but the old tom was still
at 75 paces and slowly advancing. My gun was up, I was
fully hidden, and I had not moved a muscle, expecting to
squeeze off the shot at any moment.
Then it happened. The curse of all turkey hunters. The
lead hen went on alert and gave a sharp warning “putt” that
stopped the gobbler in his tracks just out of range! I knew I
had not moved, but something had alarmed the
hen and the gobbler was staring me down.
Minutes passed that seemed like hours, but
the big tom in all his splendor just stood there.
If I live another lifetime, I could never again
imagine what happened next.
I became aware of a muted chattering
sound that I thought was coming from
the hens, but then I realized it was
coming from behind me. Like a tack
in a bulletin board, the gobbler had me
pinned to the persimmon tree.
I dared not move or I would spook
him, so I could not turn to see
what made the strange mutter-ing
sounds approaching from
my blind side.
Then the chattering was
closer — around and above me
it seemed — with an audible
scratching sound against the
tree trunk. Still the big tom
stared, and I could not move
to see the source of those
I imagined it was a huge,
hungry snake crept up from
the river’s depths into the tree,
or a bobcat or bear about to
attack me. Then, as if in a scene
from some strange movie, little pieces of seeds, twigs and
bark began to float down. That was the last straw. Fearing
for my life, I eased my shotgun up and raised my head to
face the unseen monster above.
Smacking and chattering, the comical faces of five fat
raccoons stared down at me, their ringed, bushy tails
wagging, there to feast on the remains of last year’s bounti-ful
crop. Monsters indeed!
Surely as surprised to see me as I was to see them, they
squawked and squealed and came tumbling, almost as one,
down the tree, falling all over me and each other, hissing
and spitting — leaves, branches and fruit flying every-where!
They hit the ground running and high-tailed it back
to their home in the woods.
From ringside seats, the hens and jakes
saw the fray and flushed to the four winds.
The magnificent tom, still at 70 yards,
turned slowly, majestically, and walked
back into the deep forest, showing his
displeasure with a final, defiant, roaring
gobble that haunts me still.
As quickly as it started, the hunt was
over. Silence fell across the forest. The
gobbler, after observing the raucous
morning comedy, was likely headed for
the next county. I had to laugh as I sat
there, shotgun idle across my lap, shak-ing
my head in disbelief, wondering
what just happened.
Hickory smoke rose in a single
fragrant plume from the farmhouse.
I stopped on the way out to thank the
farmer, and he invited me in for coffee.
When I told him the ridiculous story,
he chuckled and said most every-thing
in the forest loved that old tree,
raccoons especially, but I was welcome
to try again.
I struck up a lasting friendship with
him and hunted the peanut field twice
more that season. But the beautiful
persimmon tree gobbler got the last laugh
because I never saw him again.
24 april 2022