Those of us who hunt turkeys can’t wait to get out in the woods to take on the challenge of calling in that gobbler and making a perfect shot. Unlike deer hunting, where we have the option to sit high above the ground in our tree stands, we are resigned to hunting from a ground blind or under a tree. I love sitting up high and being able to look down and know what is going on all around me. But turkey hunting does not offer that opportunity, as elevated blinds aren’t allowed. When turkey hunting, I prefer a ground blind to sitting up against a tree. Like last year, I am hunting solo but very grateful that I will be dropped off at my blind instead of having to walk a long way to get there in the early darkness.
Entering my blind, I settle in and set up as quickly as possible so that I can turn off my headlamp to avoid alerting the turkeys roosting high up in their trees. I check that my gun is loaded, and the safety on. A blind is just that—a blind. You can’t see in, and in the dark, you can’t see out! I rest my handgun on my lap, just in case. In case of what, you ask?
Memories of last year swirl in my head. I was dropped off deep in the South Carolina swamp near Gum Branch Creek. My blind was set up approximately 2 miles away from where my husband would be hunting. The guide said he would be back around 11 to pick me up. As I was getting ready to turn off my light, I checked my cell phone to make sure I had a reception so that I would be able to text my husband, and at that moment I realized my battery did not charge overnight as I had expected.
Okay, I have no cell phone, no backup battery pack, and no one’s coming for me for five hours! Immediately, my mind is on high alert. What if a snake bites me? What if I have an accident? Could there really be a Swamp Man? What the heck was that noise? It sounds close! My handgun is off my lap and held in a firm grip in my hand prepared for anything that might happen.
I take a deep breath and calm myself down. Yoga breathing. Yes, everything will be fine. It was probably a squirrel. Minutes seem like hours as the owl’s screech overhead, and the blackness inside my blind has never seemed blacker. There’s no moon to lighten the skies. I swear to myself that I will never again forget a backup battery pack! As the darkness yields slowly to dawn, suddenly nothing seems scary at all.
Why does the darkness bring out these imagined fears? I never feel scared in my tree stand, but sitting on the ground makes me feel vulnerable, especially because I can’t see what is going on outside my blind. Was it the idea of having no means of communication that brought out this fear? I was mad at myself for thinking my phone was my lifeline, always with me, and now I was alone even though I knew I was perfectly fine and capable of handling anything that might come my way.
This year, however, I am much better prepared. We have walkie-talkies in case there is no cell reception, which is usually the case in the swamps anyway. As a matter of fact, my blind is more like a “Biltmore blind.” I like all my creature comforts, and when hunting, just like when I travel, I typically overpack. This year, my decked-out blind is also equipped with a tripod for my new video camera and a Helinox swivel chair, along with my various and sundry items carefully stowed in my Badlands Backpack by Prois.
I just heard my first gobble! The tom’s still on the roost, so I will wait patiently. Don’t call until pink illuminates the sky: That’s what I have always heard. This year, I will not overcall. I will make soft, sultry calls and play hard to get. That’s my strategy. Hopefully, the only thing that goes bump in the blind will be the recoil from my shotgun as I take a turkey that has fallen for my seductive calls.
AS WRITTEN FOR WACCAMAW OUTDOORS MAGAZINE