Jim Heywood

Sitting around a campfire, swapping tall tales, is one of the most enjoyable aspects of hunting. The stories often have more meaning if you know something about the person telling the story. Some yarns add to the reputation of master hunters while others point out the mistakes of the hard-working, but unsuccessful hunters. Still other stories seem to portray a person’s special personality quirks. One of my well known personality quirks is that I am a tightwad. My friends are not surprised to hear me complain about how much bow-hunting costs. Arrows can run $90 per dozen and up. When you add $30 for three broad heads, you are looking at an $18 arrow. (Don’t let your wife read this.)

The cost of arrows is enough to cause you to think twice about taking anything other than a sure shot. That is, if you’re tight. That’s why the following story is even more amusing to those who know me. It may also explain why, in the future, I will be doing all of my turkey hunting at Safeway. Let me explain.

I didn’t intend to hunt turkeys that October morning, although bow season for turkeys, bear and deer all coincide in Virginia. On that particular day, before dawn, I was quietly sneaking into my tree stand, hoping to ambush a deer returning to the wooded mountains from the nearby fields below. Putting my safety belt on, I settled into my seat, confident I had been exceptionally quiet. I was proud of the fact that I found the stand in the dark, without using a flashlight that would alert any nearby deer.

As the sunlight crept through the trees, I heard the soft clucking of turkeys! Incredibly, they seemed to me almost right above me. Sure enough, when it became light enough to see clearly, I found myself in the middle of a flock of turkeys roosting in the tall oaks. Soon, some of the flock flew to the ground and began feeding. One big tom, however, stubbornly stayed in his roost, gobbling down at the hens below. He was facing away from me, only about 20-25 yards away, looking down at the hens. I couldn’t believe my good luck! All thoughts of deer hunting vanished as I began to line up the shot.

Picture this. The bird was uphill, in a tree, silhouetted in the rising sun, perched out on a long branch, facing away, at an estimated 25 yards. That’s a doable shot, I thought. Well, there was this branch from a nearby tree that blocked part of the turkey’s body, BUT, if I could slide the arrow past the branch I had him; my first turkey with a bow! Putting the sight pin on the wing, I let go. What a beautiful sight, the $18 arrow arcing over the mountain into the sunrise. Unfortunately, the arrow sliced just between his legs, causing him to flutter up about 8 inches off the branch and settle back down. He was only mildly disturbed from his concentration on the clucking hens below. Geesh! Quickly lining up a second shot, I focused on missing the nearby branch. Zsst! The second $18 arrow just skimmed his head and followed the first arrow into the sunrise. I couldn’t believe it!! The turkey hardly even flinched and was still focused on the hens below. (See? Chasing women will kill you.) More determined than ever, I lined up the third shot on the amorous tom. Intensely concentrating, I picked a spot on his wing and let go. WHAP! The arrow zipped right thru his body, knocking him from his perch. (Another $18 by the way, but who is counting with a turkey in the bag.) With wings outspread, he cart-wheeled downward, bouncing off a thick limb, then crashing into a giant boulder before finally plunging to the ground. What a shot!

Full of adrenaline, I stared at the spot where the turkey had fallen. A rainbow of feathers were still drifting down in the shafts of sunlight. I started to climb down from my tree stand to retrieve the turkey, but thought, wait, I still have 3 arrows left. I didn’t want to spread my scent on the ground and ruin my deer hunting, so I sat quietly in my stand, waiting for the woods to return to normal. Elated at bagging my first turkey with the bow, I scanned the ground for signs of deer. Glancing over to check on my turkey, I was startled to find him gone! How could that be? No way he could still be alive! Studying the area near where he fell, I saw the gobbler staggering along about 50 yards away. Desperate to nail him, I took out another arrow and desperately took the shot. Another $18 arrow (my fourth) bounced off a rock. Hmmm… 4 times $18 totaled $72 for this turkey, so far.

I hurriedly climbed down from my tree stand, clattering my bow on the branches on the way down. Once on the ground I scanned the woods for my wounded turkey. There he was! About 40 yards away, staggering along. Grabbing for an arrow from my Quickie quiver, I discovered it was bent! My last two aluminum arrows evidently caught on a branch during the rapid descent from my stand. After a brief search I found the last arrow on the ground, intact. I turned to put the turkey out of his misery only to find he had disappeared! Vanished! I ran to where I last saw him and found a puddle of blood. Being an experienced tracker, I was sure I could find him. Circling around the last sign of blood, I found nothing. Nada. Out of curiosity, I backtracked the turkey’s path to the large boulder that he hit. No, it wasn’t my imagination. There was a clear blood trail back to the boulder, feathers all around and blood on the top of the boulder. It had happened.

20110612-IMG_0007Then it began to rain. Panicked at losing my prize, I ran to my friend’s farmhouse to get help tracking the turkey. Although my friend was still out hunting, his sister was there, along with their dog. For an hour and a half, two people and a dog, looked in every thicket and bush in a 50 yard radius and finally found him, dead and soaked, pressed against a large rotted log. I had just used $90 in arrows, just so I could say I bagged a turkey with a bow. As for the turkey? He was hit with 145 grain razor head, smashed into a big branch during a 30 foot drop AND splattered onto a big rock.  All before he hit the ground. Any one of these collisions should have killed him, but he was still able to walk away. What a tough bird! Too tough for me. Down to one arrow, I gave up deer hunting for the day and went home to make more arrows and explain to my wife how hunting was an economical way to provide meat for the family.

Next Thanksgiving you may find me at Safeway where turkeys, already plucked, cleaned and unable to run away, are only about $20, approximately the price of one arrow.