Lord Byron Had Something Going

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods," wrote Lord Byron in a poem.

It was sight to bring out the poet in the loan officer, not to mention Lord Byron. It was enough to make sinners think of angels and to bring tears to the eyes of a renegade.

I thought of that line because the gobbler was tacking methodically back and forth in the little green field, like a well-fed Oxford don pacing as he read Lord Byron's poems. He had a ponderous grace, an absent-minded elegance, as if his mind was among the planets.

Nearby, a couple of jakes jostled and giggled like pimply teenagers, as if providing low comedy.

Three weeks before the season and I was playing with someone else's turkey. That's what they tell you--practice on someone else's turkey. I was photographing and practicing my seductive calls.

He must have known I was there, but didn't respond to what should have been a threat. Maybe he read the hunting regulations and knew the season wasn't open. Maybe he could tell the difference between Nikon and Winchester.

I rewound one roll and popped in another. The glaring green of the film box and my flashing white hands should have semaphored "Danger!" to the turkeys but the jakes scratched absently at the dirt and looked bemused. The gobbler strode his measured watch.

I've visited the little glade a half-dozen times since that first morning and not once has that scene repeated itself. Once, the gobbler slipped past me at 30 yards and stopped, his feet visible under a cedar tree. My soft clucks left him unmoved.

The gobbler answered my calls on the morning after the first one, but refused to come to the camera. Maybe he had an early date elsewhere. Or maybe he'd lost either his stupidity or his magic.

That was then, but this is opening morning. The redbuds have come and gone; the mayapples are a green rainforest over mouse runs; the morels (so they tell me) are out.

I have traded my camera for a shotgun. Those who don't hunt say photographing an animal should be as gratifying as hunting it, but it isn't. I am a predator and a different set of instincts kicks in when I sling my shotgun.

So, I struggled into my hunting gear this opening morning at 4:45 after a restless night. I had tousled dreams of woods and turkeys, like a little kid on his first turkey

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