March Weekend
Short Story

March in the Big Cypress Swamp is a time of renewal. The Cypress trees are starting to grow their leaves. Most of them have little stubs of growth about 1/2 to 1 inch long, all along the branches. The bare twigs of winter giving way to the iridescent green of new growth.
Spring time in the Big Cypress Swamp is also announced every morning by the gobbling of Osceola wild turkeys. March is the time for spring turkey hunting. The male of this wary bird can be fooled this time of year, by a call imitating the hen. Its a reverse of nature to get a gobbler to come to the hen, but a sexy call and a gobblers raging hormones can make  it to happen.
March also has gorgeous sunrises and moonrises, as can be seen in the picture to the right.

  Full Big Cypress Moon
Big Cypress March Full Moon

Spring Turkey Hunt
Friday finally arrived, the beginning of our weekend Big Cypress turkey hunt, a time that I always look forward too. On the trip to camp we went a little different way and ended up spending some time in the middle of a saw grass pond trying to get unstuck. After our arrival at camp and getting our gear put away, we decided to relax and visit a few neighbors and look for turkey sign. Turkey tracks were everywhere. A track in the March mud looks fresh for weeks and we were looking at a few weeks of turkeys walking around. One would think that hundreds of turkeys were in the swamps, judging from all the tracks, but of course that is not the case. We arrived back at camp just before sunset, so I took a little stroll through the woods. The NPS had burned off the palmettos on our island, just two weeks previous and it was looking burnt and bare. As I was returning a turkey started gobbling in the swamp right in front of camp. As I stood listening, Rich, also heard the turkey and came out to join me. Rich started making his plan on bagging this turkey., as the turkey gobbled long after dusk.

Rich and his first turkey
Rich
 

Morning arrived for us long before any light was showing in the East. The first morning hunt is always exciting, but to know there is a turkey just outside the gate, made it more so. No long walks, calling, wondering if you would get a gobble in return. Rich at the first hint of light, was heading for his spot next to the swamp. The turkey was already gobbling, not needing any help from a hen. This turkey was ready to start a family and was letting all the hens know where he was.
I headed to the east, to the edge of the pine island. The water standing in the swamp was blocking my going any further. So I put a turkey decoy out in an open area of the burn and backed into a small open area between two cabbage palms. I put up a net to hide behind and sat on a stool. I took out my turkey call and yelped a few times to let the gobbling turkey know where a hen was. So now the turkey had a choice, Rich whom is very good with a mouth call or me on a simple Gaskin call. The turkey didn't need any encouragement from Rich or me, it continued to gobble its fool head off. I felt I was at a disadvantage, because there was water between me and the turkey. Turkeys don't want to walk in water unless they can't help it.

As I listened to the gobbler and it starts getting light out, the mosquitoes started to nibble on me. My gun is leaning against the cabbage palm tree, I started patting my pockets looking for mosquito repellent. My concentration is totally on mosquitoes, when I hear the flap of wings and look out at the sound, just as a turkey lands next to the decoy. Getting a quick glimpse of the beard on the turkey, I see the turkey is now wary of the decoy. What looked like a sexy turkey hen from the air, is now looking like a plastic Barbie doll to the gobbler. He is walking away, so I reach for my gun. The noise scares the turkey and the turkey is as rattled as I am. I stand as the turkey runs. In my haste, I eject a shell from the gun. Now fumbling for the safety, I finally get a bead on the turkey and at fifty yards I take a shot. I see the turkey squat down as it is hit, but it continues and I put the bead on it and at sixty yards shoot again. It turns out this last shot was almost directly in the direction of Rich. A few seconds latter I hear Rich shout Ouch!, quite loudly. Thinking I hit Rich, I get ready to run over to him, when I hear him yelp like a turkey hen. Thinking he can't be hurt bad if he is yelping, I wait and start to walk toward him. Ten seconds, now fifteen, I hear Rich shoot. Rich has bagged his first turkey. Not the way it was planned, but successful just the same. I see Rich out in the cypress swamp retrieving his turkey, a big smile on his face, he is holding it up where I can see it. As it turned out a stray pellet had hit Rich's boot, not hurting him, but he shouted to let me know he was in the line of fire. He was at least 150 yards away from me, so the pellet had no pep left when it reached him. Surprising it even got that far from a shot directed at the ground.

New Roof

I had mentioned that we were replacing the roof on Camp Six Pack, and turkey season is the perfect time to do it. Turkeys can not be hunted after 1 pm, so that leaves the afternoon to work. The picture at the left shows the roof on Saturday and the picture on the right shows the roof on Monday.

Old roof
Old Roof

 

New Roof
New Roof

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Story by Steve - March 10, 2004