By Jack Kredell
On October 28th, 2011, an unusual convergence of meteorological events produced record snowfall across much of the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Dubbed the Halloween nor’easter, the untimely storm was responsible for 39 deaths, widespread power outages and several billion dollars in damage. It also coincided with the opening day, October 29th, of the 2011 Pennsylvania fall turkey season.
It was also the occasion of a realization, born of tramping boots and frozen tangled laces, that when you enter the woods to hunt, you are hunting yourself. Experience, for the most part, is self-limiting; the measure of your experience will define, broadly, the range of possibilities and potentialities available to it. A novice hunter will likewise take a novice animal, and a master, not without a little luck, will take a master animal.By noon the snow had turned into the gentle parachuting kind so I decided pack my things and head for Mt. Nittany, a 2,077-foot lobe of a mountain in the Ridge and Valley province of the Pennsylvania Appalachians. The woods on top are woods I know, it’s where I taught myself to hunt, but on that day they were unrecognizable. The trails were choked with snow, in many places a knee deep, with only a meandering treelessness giving indication of a trail’s passage. I headed for a stand of older oaks on the southeastern slope where the acorn crop was good and I had seen turkeys before. I sat under a large oak and began calling.
Hours passed in silence. I was shivering and it was getting dark. Snowflakes the size of packing peanuts were beginning to land on and dampen the chalk-lined edges of my box call rendering it all but useless. Turkeys would hear my wheezing turkey and think not to bother. I gave up. It was worth it if only to see the woods in so deep a snow. After walking a mile in the direction of the trailhead I noticed something was off. The landscape didn’t look like it was supposed to. I had gone the wrong way.
It wasn’t the dangerous kind of lost. Just the frustrating kind-the kind that bruises your feet and ego. I didn’t feel like I could walk two more snowy miles at that moment so I decided to sit and call. I dried the edge of my call and ran through a series of sharp cuts and clucks. Then came an answer. It was the faintest yelp but I heard it. It was for me.
I began to imitate every sound I heard. The sound got closer and closer until I saw the dark body bobbing its way towards me through the snow. When it got to 20 yards I squeezed the trigger. I barely registered the shot. The bird lay on its back kicking and flapping. I ran down to it, and kneeling, broke its neck.I decided to slide down the mountain on my ass while clutching the turkey in my lap. I was so elated I barely noticed when it dumped me in somebody’s backyard with a dead bird in one hand and a shotgun in the other. I walked home along the highway with the bird dangling over my shoulder like it was something I did all the time.
I told an older hunter that I got a turkey during the storm. He said sometimes turkeys get lost in snowstorms.
Suggested Gear List:
- Lowa Khumbu II GTX Backpacking Boot
- Mammut Xeron Flip 22 Backpack
- Brunton Eterna Compact Binocular
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