High Mountain Turkeys

April 26th, 2010

Last Sunday consisted of hunting, fun, and panic.  The flow of the day went something like this:

Drive to woods, ATV 10 miles across mud and frozen snowbanks to the backcountry. Tell myself repeatedly we must be back out of there by 11:00 or the snow will be soft, we’ll break through and never make it back. Hike 2 miles uphill…”Daddy…, can’t we stop HERE?” Make turkey noises. Eat snacks. Nearly choke on snack as I see turkey walking downhill at us. Wait for turkey. Make turkey sounds. Continue waiting for turkey. Lose turkey in brush. Realize turkey left. Forgetting about 11:00 rule, circle to where we think turkey went. Make turkey noises. See no more turkey. Begin hiking back out.

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Look at watch. See that it’s noon. Realize we may be back here until we dig a path through ½ mile of slushy snow or things freeze up around midnight. Try to contain mild panic. See turkey tracks. Forget time again. Keep hiking down and looking for turkey making these tracks. See same turkey 200 yards from ATV sprinting uphill away from us. Chase turkey. See stars. Remember we’re at 8500 ft. elev. Give up on turkey. Damn, those things are fast. Realize he just walked down the trail we had walked up. Rotten bird never made a sound, he apparently did not read the rules on how this stuff works. He’s SUPPOSED to gobble or yelp or at least make a peep at some point so we know he’s coming. Ethan dubs him “stealth turkey.” Much better than the name I think of.

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Begin the ATV trip out through the now-thawed mud and slush. Gun it and make it through the first few drifts. Breathe deep and begin the ½-mile slush drift. Get 50 yards and high center. Play out winch cable. Fight thistles for access to the only tree close enough to wrap cable around. Unstick ATV. Fight thistles again to get my cable back. Leave part of my face on thistles. Bleed on ATV. Have Ethan walk as I try to navigate the rest of the drift sidesaddle with my weight on the side with the thinnest snow. Convince Ethan it’s for his safety and to make the ATV lighter, not just so he won’t hear me cussing.

Commence 45 minutes of strategic riding, pushing, bouncing, swearing, and bleeding my way through the rest of the drift without even needing the winch again! Return home. Have beer. Tell everyone we actually saw a gobbler this time. Begin to think elk are easier.

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