I failed in my goal to take a turkey gobbler with my Jackie Brown flintlock smoothbore this spring, but that had amazingly little to do with my enjoyment of the season. After many decades of hunting, it's a pleasure, and a surprise, to realize this season may have been the best. There were several things which contributed to this, most impossible to put into words.
The prime thing, as far as I can fathom, was that I was hunting in period dress. Now, I've done that before, many times, for small game, and have spent literally hundreds of hours in the woods and fields in pursuit of squirrels, rabbits, dove and quail. This was different, though, this was 'big game', and, somehow, it was different. I've worked hard in putting together my outfit, always with an eye to hunting in it, proper colors, durability and comfort. It paid off. The shirt-coat made of blanketing was perfect, absolutely perfect, and I wouldn't know how to change it for the better. The center seam elk skin moccasins made ala Mark Baker may be the best thing I've ever made. They are, I suspect, the real secret to my enjoyment of this season, because there's something elemental about traipsing through the woods and streams with nothing between you and the good earth but a soft layer of elk hide. Contact...I can't describe it better.
Spring hunting is not something I've done a lot of, but you can bet I will be doing it every year for as long as I can. Being out in the Kentucky hills during the spring, with the woods coming alive with that marvelous yellow-green of young foliage, wildflowers everywhere, morels underfoot, dogwood and redbud abloom...well, I had to concentrate on the hunting, lest I wander off in a state of rapture, just to see more of it, soak it in. I wasn't always able to resist. Therapeutic, to the max.
Carrying that long barreled flintlock contributed a great deal to my delight, of course. Somehow, it is my link with that part of the natural world, and the past, the history of this region and the people who walked here before me, that is so necessary for my complete enjoyment. It is the focus, the essential element around which all else revolves. Knowing that I have gained the knowledge and skills necessary to be a good hunter with the gun is important to me. My skills didn't fail me, and the gun was fool proof, never failing in the slightest way to function as it should. I drenched it in rain, dragged it through the mud, bounced it over the rocks and scraped it against a million branches, and there's not a new mark on it. I've learned its little idiosyncrasies, the special needs for its care and feeding, the way to handle it in most any situation. All of this, naturally, makes it 'my' gun in the essential way that matters.
Learning new stuff is addicting to me, and I'm never happier than when engaged in soaking in the basics of a new skill or subject. Since I was a rank beginner as a turkey hunter when the season began three weeks ago, I was able to indulge my addiction completely. It paid off. Having never seen a wild turkey since 1957, never heard any of the many sounds they make, or called to one, I wound up fooling the Boss Gobbler of Cemetery Ridge (BGCR, his friends call him BG), that old tom which frustrated all our efforts to lure him in for three weeks. On the last day of the season, two hours before sunset, hunting alone, I sweet-talked him right out of a flock of hens and jakes. Sitting there for forty-five minutes as he worked his deliberate way toward me, watching him strut and brag, listening to him buzz and pop, seeing that bright red and blue head buried in those marvelous, iridescent feathers...well, I learned a lot. Some of what I learned would be called skill, some of it may help me collect a tom next year, but the most important part cannot be put into words. It is now a part of my inner self, down deep where I live, and nothing can ever take it from me.
It's a grand feeling to realize you have found your place in the scheme of things, and I have. My place is out there in the Kentucky hills, alone, wearing my interpretation of an outfit from 1778, carrying my flintlock fowler. Never in my life have I felt more at ease with myself and the world around me, more at one with the thing which I find is an essential element to my peace of mind, the natural world. Thoreau got it right when he said, "In wildness is the preservation of the world".
A special season, indeed.
Copyright © B. E. Spencer 1998 All rights reserved.