- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 31, 2009

— The Maryland spring hunting season for wild tom turkeys had ended. Bob Troup and I stood by the tailgate of his truck and reminisced about what many hunters consider the toughest woodland game there is.

Inside the truck bed lay a beautifully feathered turkey gobbler.

“I tried that turkey decoy,” said the fully camouflaged Troup, pointing to a deflated, dark item inside a cardboard box. “But when a couple of hens walked out into a little clearing near where I sat and saw the fake, they ran like the devil. I gave up on decoys right then and there. It didn’t fool the real birds even for a moment.”

A closer look at the plastic-and-rubber imitation of the real article actually looked quite convincing to the eyes of a human - but not to the winged magicians that have eyes like an eagle and can run on two legs nearly as fast as most four-legged animals.

But Troup had more in his bag of tricks than a phony hen turkey that was supposed to attract one of the strutting, love-sick Romeos.

“I decided to stick with my regular turkey-hunting methods that usually work pretty well,” the transplanted Pennsylvanian said.

That meant sitting in highly effective - and expensive - camouflage clothing against the brush-surrounded base of a tree. A 3-inch-chambered shotgun whose stock and barrel also sported a camouflage pattern rested across his lap, a slate plate and striker was held by camouflage-gloved hands. Soon, the soft “yip, yip” sounds of a feeding female resonated through the southern Maryland hardwoods.

Troup’s enticing calls of a well-sated hen eventually were followed by mournful yelps that seemed to say, “I yearn for company.” Careful not to overdo the calling, Troup knew that if he did it at proper intervals he might get a response from a male turkey.

“There was a little clearing in front of me, and it wasn’t long before I heard a tom sound off,” Troup said. “I mean, he bellowed across the hollows, and before I knew it he showed himself. Well, he almost showed himself. Gobblers are pretty smart that way. They usually approach carefully, keeping tree trunks between themselves and what they hope is a female. It takes a while before they trust the sounds they hear. If you can’t sit still for a long time, not moving a muscle, then you’d better give up on hunting turkeys.

“With this tom, I saw a bit of his tail one moment and only tree bark the next. Then a piece of his head, but little else. Eventually, he fully showed himself. In fact, he came to within 25 yards of me, blustering and displaying his puffed-out plumage, his beard dangling from his chest and his head wattle all bright blue and red.”

The hunter slowly pressed the gun stock into his shoulder and sighted down the barrel.

Later that day, back at home, Troup plucked the iridescent-bronze and brown feathers of the large bird, thoroughly washing the 20-pounder with cold water and planning to roast the delectable turkey pretty much as you would a store-bought Butterball. The only difference with the wild bird was that his breast had not been injected with gobs of imitation butter - and who needs all those chemicals?

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