It may be May madness, but it’s peaceful hunting
‘Twas yet another interrupted late April night dreaming of the month of May’s possible encounter with the King of the forest, the American Tom turkey. A bird folklore states Ben Franklin nominated it as our national emblem. Not true, though I believe Tom is a worthy runner-up. I do agree with the lore regarding Ben’s beer proclamation. Tom is a more than worthy adversary that can literally drive me crazy. Completely unpredictable, with eyes like an eagle, senses always on ultra-high alert. He runs like an antelope and flies like a grouse — all 20 pounds of him, which never ceases to amaze me.
Almost always he out-thinks or out-smarts me. Occasionally during the hunt I’m granted success using unorthodox tactics. Tom is accustomed to standard hunting techniques; he has adapted to those techniques and genetically passed his knowledge on to his heirs.
Something different, something Tom would not expect could seal the deal. Awaiting the break of an usually crisp though fog-enfused dawn one May morning, the awakening of a new day never ceases to enlighten my soul. Tree buds are waiting to blossom and turkeys are still gobbling from overnight, they later roam about on their daily routine.
There is the predawn hooting of owls, the coyotes returning from a night of hunting and deer on the move. Ducks and geese tend to their new broods, ravens can be heard overhead; if you’re lucky, a glimpse of a grey or red fox may be caught while watching the pileated woodpeckers make their shrill drumming. A bald eagle or red-tailed hawk may soar above or be perched in a barren tree nearby. I always carry a treat for curious chipmunks and mice. One might catch the rare sight of a doe giving birth to a fawn.
I have been chased and scolded by a hen turkey protecting her clutch of eggs resulting in a quick and respectful departure. I’ve had a great horned owl snatch a decoy from my hands as I held it aloft in predawn light. A turkey that hated a draft horse once stomped and riddled a decoy. An unnerving encounter with an enormous black bear within 20-feet of me prematurely ending a morning of hunting for me once as well.
Most May hunting mornings seem like they could lead to a brief nap, but those naps never seem to come about. If I am successful in my hunting, I pay my respects to my quarry, knowing he could probably outsmart me on any given day.
If military members had a bird’s cunning, ability, survival instincts and skills our adversaries would be more cautious. I’ll likely be in the field this morning, attempting a low percentage win. Many of you may not understand this rationale, but old-timers, conservationists, hunters and anglers do. We imposed a hefty sales tax upon ourselves on sporting equipment purchases earmarked for the preservation of land, wildlife and fisheries. After the hunt ends at noon in New York, I might try that nap again, or try some trout fishing or take the grandkids fishing.
I am thankful God has granted me another year to pursue my sporting passions and share them with you readers and our youth.
This Memorial Day, please respect and honor those fallen soldiers who have given us our freedoms today. May God bless you, patriotic readers, and your families. Life is good. Enjoy each day to the fullest.
Millerton resident Larry Conklin is a Vietnam War veteran and a member of both the Millerton American Legion Post 178 and the Couch-Pipa VFW Post 6851 in North Canaan, Conn.