I have a lot to be thankful for in 2010, and have had a reminder to not only appreciate the blessings of being able to get out and hunt, but the value in sharing it to make friends and enrich others lives too. Not only here with you, but also with others.
I received an invitation to hunt on a local farm this spring. Spring turkey hunting is always a pleasure for me. The weather is gentle and I am afield for the first time after the long winter/spring break from open hunting seasons. It makes me glad to be alive and never fails to awaken a thankfulness and appreciation in me for all of my blessings. This is the letter that I sent to the property owner after my first walk. It was intended as just a note of appreciation for giving me access to the farm that had been in his family since 1790, but it ended up as much more than that. This isn’t a typical hunting story. There is no game harvested in this tale. But I think that you may enjoy coming along on the walk with me as I described my morning hunt.
I wanted to let you know how I made out Monday, just in case you were curious.
Wow! What an amazing property you have! If it were 1780 and I was walking through the unexplored frontier I would be sorely tempted to stop and settle RIGHT THERE! Not only is there fertile creek bottom land to farm, but hardwoods, sun lit slopes, and an amazing collection of wild life. It is no wonder that your ancestors picked this valley for their homestead.
As I’m sure your faithful Jedi let you know, I pulled in to your driveway right at 5 AM. There was just enough daylight to see the fog misting up the slopes, and lingering in the dips but already beginning to burn off.
I picked my path at the edge of the corn field for easy walking and went almost straight up the slope behind your barn and along the edge of the horse pasture until I hit the stone wall. I paused there and then every few yards as I made my way along the wall trying my turkey call and listening for a response.
I was hoping to hear gobbles to guide me toward turkeys coming off their roosts as the sun rose, but I had no luck. In fact, I never did hear a single gobble over the next three hours, but what a gorgeous morning it was to be out in.
The fog lifted from the valley floor but still shrouded the woods as I slowly followed the stone wall up toward the big rock just inside the tree line. I hadn’t gone far when I saw two white tail deer show their flags and head into the trees. It always makes me smile to see deer when I am walking and this was no exception. The does weren’t panicked. They just didn’t want me to get any closer to them, so while they put their flags up and trotted a few steps, they quickly slowed to a walk and picked their way gingerly through the first saplings as they went out of sight and into the trees where they felt more secure and doubtless could keep an eye on me from where I could not see them.
Working to my left as I headed uphill, I made my way calling and listening as I slowly angled up the slope. At the top of the mowed path I came to a spring among some rocks. I’ve been reading about Robert Rogers and his Rangers of French and Indian War fame and couldn’t help but think of the likelihood that at some time Iroquois hunters might have stopped at that spring en route between the Battenkill and Lake George, or on their way to or from the Hudson. Your ancestors were certainly there in the 18th century too.
There was a multitude of small birds among the low brush and high grass including the beautifully bright little Gold Finches. I saw an owl swoop through the trees looking for a roost for the daylight hours. As I walked into the open ground near the spring every step crushed wild spearmint leaves and scented the air.
I could hear geese calling from the creek and saw a flock of six fly right over your house toward the fields near the cemetery. I came to an old wire fence and followed it to some pine trees. I watched a busy little squirrel intent on some woodland mission bounce through without ever knowing that I was there. A deer path as plain as a cow path in a well used pasture angled back toward Chamberlain Mills Road along the top of a shelf where the slope drops off. I followed that deer path through the group of pine trees until I came back to your open fields.
I stopped and sat at the edge of the tree line and watched for turkeys that never showed up. But what I did see were two rabbits hippity hopping along and taking a nibble or two from the edges of the hay field. Now that the sun was up, Robins appeared singly and by the flock hunting bugs in the sun lit grasses.
Looking back upslope I saw the uncut hay from last year festooned with perfect spider webs covered in dew. I have never seen so many perfect unbroken webs in one spot. They were all glistening with water droplets as the sun poured over the hill top. Pairs of wild ducks flew over going in both directions.
I worked my way toward your neighbors’ house, still pausing now and then to call to turkeys and listen for them. At about 7:30 I came through the tree line back to the cornfield. As I stumbled over the stone wall, a hen turkey shot her head up and spotted me from among the corn stubble just twenty yards away. Off she went in flight toward the center of your property. Hens are not legal game in the spring time (in case they have nests full of eggs or hatchlings this time of year) so I didn’t mind seeing her go. Instead I was very encouraged that I had seen a turkey after all.
So I settled in behind a bush near there and resumed intermittent calling for turkeys until 8 AM. I really just sat and enjoyed a seat in the sunshine watching the small birds work the corn stubble.
A flock of six pigeons worked the corn field. They were all taking flight, circling, and coming down together; then feeding for a few minutes and doing it all again. They flock of them all moving in synchronization was really something to see. I wonder how they coordinate and communicate so closely that they all bank in the same direction at the same time in the air together?
I eventually packed up and made one more sweep in a reverse direction: back up slope through all the open fields again before I walked back through the newly plowed ground to the car.
You are right – there ARE turkeys there! But what a multitude of other game you have too. I don’t think I have ever seen a better collection of wild life together in one location anywhere except in Alaska and Africa.
It was truly a privilege to spend a few hours walking around. Thanks giving me the opportunity to share it with you!
I sent this letter off in an email to the land owner and received back a completely unexpected thank you note from him. He said that my note had made him want to go walk the fields to spots that he hadn’t visited in years. He read it to his wife and she read it to their kids who actually DID go for a walk to enjoy the bounty they had become so accustomed to literally at their door.
But the story doesn’t end there. The letter was also shared with a man I knew but only casually who had recently had a stroke and was now struggling to regain his mobility. I didn’t know it then, but the man is an ardent bird watcher. He asked me to take him for a walk on that property so that he could see the birds I described. I sought and received permission from the land owners to do so and although we have not yet taken that walk, we have made a plan to do so and a friendship has grown between us as we talked about it and shared stories of other walks and hunts that we had taken.
So, I was not only blessed with the enjoyment of a wonderful morning’s hunt, but simply because I mentioned how much I enjoyed it in a thank you note to the land owner, I have made a new friend and look forward to many more mornings together on that property and on others besides. So take time to appreciate the simple things in life. Go ahead and admire the dew on the spider webs and take the time to smell the spearmint leaves crushed beneath your feet. It just might lead to blessings you don’t expect.