Grandson Isaac and I were thinking “turkey” as we quietly sneaked along the ridge on the way to our chosen spot to sit and wait. But Isaac’s young eyes spotted a patch of gray that said “deer” instead.
We froze and watched briefly before the huge buck sensed us and bounded away. We both grinned. Maybe he’ll still be here in a month or so, when the deer season opens.
Suddenly, a dark shape swooped down from the blufftop and swung downriver. We often see bald eagles along the valley – but it’s always a thrill.
When we paused to follow the eagle’s flight, a loud “kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk” echoed through the trees. A pileated flapped and soared its way through the trees and across the river.
Despite the exciting interruptions, we finally picked separate trees where we could sit (in our camouflaged folding seats!) to await the turkeys’ hoped-for appearance. Isaac kept watch on a flat woodland at the bottom of the slope, while I used binoculars to scan the river’s edge and the floodplain beyond.
We listened intently for the raspy “yelp-yelp-yelp” of a turkey – but all we heard was the even less musical screeching of bald eagles.
A cool breeze rattled the dry oak leaves, and the “yank-yank” calls of a pair of nuthatches broadcast their bark-probing hunt for an afternoon insect snack.
I snapped out of my bird-watching mode at the sound of more rustling and rattling in the leaves, very close by. Deer? Turkey? No – just a noisy gray squirrel. It stopped long enough to get suspicious, then scampered up a nearby tree.
As I searched the branches for the elusive squirrel, a spot of black in the field across the river caught my. Through the binoculars, I could make out four turkeys foraging in the harvested soybean field.
Meanwhile, Isaac also was watching a wildlife show, as four deer ambled through the woods far below him. Hmm, he suggested later. Why don’t we build a deer blind down there?
By sunset, the “super moon” was rising above the far hill. But still no sign of the flock of turkeys, which we’d predicted would roost in the trees we were watching.
So, as we walked home in the moonlight, with Venus as a beacon in the southwest, we planned tomorrow: perhaps the turkeys had gone to roost on the other side of farm, along the steep creek valley.
Next morning, 5 a.m. came AWFULLY early! The sky was still dark, and Orion (the hunter!) still stalked the southwestern sky. The “super moon” was just disappearing in the west.
With a quick breakfast of toast and hot chocolate, and a layer of long-johns to ward off the morning chill, we headed for the creek valley. The eastern horizon now glowed a faint pink, but Jupiter still shone brightly, a hand-width above the trees.
Once again, we selected separate trees, and sat down to wait.
Before long, the raucous, pre-dawn crow chorus signaled the awakening of the woods. It was as if the crows would not calm their scolding until the sleepy sun decided to peek above the hill.
Then the leaves rustled, as three deer trotted along the trail behind us. Two does and a little buck, Isaac said later. More deer slipped silently through the edge of the prairie in front of us, visible only to Isaac. Had I dozed off – or are Isaac’s sharp eyes that much better than mine?
But no turkeys.
We’d enjoyed hikes in the woods, scouted for deer hunting spots, and gotten a bit of exercise. And as a bonus, we lunched on Grandma’s home-made venison chili and fresh corn bread (with honey!)