Retirement can easily make a person lazy, and I had quite the argument with myself this morning over whether or not I really wanted to get up with the chickens to spy on a group of turkeys (whose routines I’m trying to figure out before hunting season opens.) You can never lose by arguing with yourself, so I still don’t know whether I won or lost, but there I sat watching the sun come up. The river was just to my right, and about a quarter mile in front of me it wound around to my left, then right again and was gone. Of course it is wooded all along the river and I sat overlooking a meadow. All the ground to my left was crop land, and a group of turkeys calls this whole area home most every year, always roosting somewhere in the trees along the river.
The morning was very calm and the sounds were nothing short of spectacular. A pair of great horned owls called back-and-forth to each other, their smooth cooing “hoots” serenely ushering in the day. To the far left end of the crop field a creek winds like ribbon candy through a small pasture, and from somewhere in the trees there, the sharp crisp call of a barred owl pierced the silence. Its unmistakable pattern of “who cooks for you – who cooks for you too” is easily distinguished from the great horned owl call when heard together like this morning. Loud noises often compel tom turkeys to gobble near or after dark, helping reveal to the hunter where they are roosted, and aiding the hunter in pursuing that turkey. The loud shrill call of the barred owl is often mimicked by turkey call makers and is said to do just that, although it has never worked for me.
I sat in a small woodlot that teemed with songbirds of every description, their sweet melodies filling the gaps in time between owl calls. I recognized the “pretty pretty pretty pretty” song of several male cardinals, frequently punctuated by the sharp crisp cackle of a rooster pheasant or two. The time frame was very interesting, as the symphony began in earnest at the first hint of daylight, but the lighter it got, the quieter the symphony played.
Then there were the stars of this morning’s show, the wild turkeys. I was there trying to pin down just where they roosted, as their chosen nighttime perch high in the trees changes from year to year. This morning two or three toms were gobbling quite a ways ahead of me along the stretch of river running across the end of the crop field. After awhile their gibberish gobbles were a little fainter each time, telling me they had flown to the ground already and were heading in the opposite direction. I drove around the section, stopping at a couple spots to glass the fields with binoculars, but I never found them. Perhaps if I can quietly position myself nearer them some morning, I can entice one of the gobblers into range with a little calling and a decoy or two, making him think another lonely hen is available for his private harem.
Sitting there this morning watching and listening to nature awaken it was easy to say “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” But like I said, retirement can make a guy lazy. So tomorrow morning my argument with myself to stay there beneath the warm covers next to my warm wife will be just as strong as it was today. But I predict I’ll rise with the chickens again, and I still won’t know whether I won the argument or not…. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]