The hound, which I refered to as "Turkey," hadn't been fighting the short lead at at all. That led me to believe a shoestring might hold him, at least long enough for us to move in on one of the gobblers we'd heard at daylight.
Burk agreed to ante up part of a boot lace and 10 minutes later we left Turkey behind; only this time he was snugged-up tight to a pine sapling with no more than 3 inches of slack.
"Let's go set up on that ridge at the end of the road and call blind for a while," said Burk. "All the birds seem to have shut down, but we might get one of those gobblers we heard earlier to come in silent."
A few yelps from the diaph ragm drew a curious response. But it wasn't a tom. It was a hen. Burk would call and she would answer; the direction of her vocals indicated she was near the road we'd walked in on and approaching us very quickly.
Well aware a hen will sometimes bring a gobbler in tow, we both readied for a possible shot. Then, for some odd reason, the interaction stopped. The woods went deathly silent and we both stood, scratching our heads in unison.
"Wonder what happened to her?" I asked Burk.
"No telling," he said.
No sooner had we stepped into the road than we saw the answer staring us in the face. It was Turkey, and he had three inches of boot lace dangling from his collar.
But the wily hound wasn't taking any chances this time. He tucked his tail and vanished into the woods.
"Well, what do you think?" Burk asked.
"Hell, it's 9:30. We might as well head on back to the truck. There's not much we can do with him hanging around here."
Or is there?
Less than a mile from the truck we began noticing fresh sign everywhere. Turkey tracks were on top of the footprints we'd made going in that morning, many of them dissected by long, narrow scrapes in the sand.
"Look at all the strut marks," said Burk. "These were done this morning."
Encouraged by all the fresh sign, the wildlife biologist pulled out his box call and broke the silence with a series of seductive yelps.
We walked another 200 yards and repeated the process.
Burk's eyes lit up like a kid with a new pair of roller blades.
"There's two of 'em and they sound like they're hot," he whispered. "They're not far off, either. Let's just set up right here."
Frantically, we planted ourselves at the base of two large pines no more than 30 feet apart, right along the main forest road. Burk called to the birds a second time and they blasted back, this time from less than 100 yards away.
My only thought at that point was that our hunt was going to pan out after all. That's when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, casting a very dark shadow on the event that was unfolding.
There, maybe 20 feet to my right, stood Ben Gibbs' bothersome coon hound. Tail tucked and wagging, Turkey cowered when Burk called to him in a low, raspy tone.
"Come here," he said.
Nothing doing. The dog planted his rump in the pine needles instead, leaving Burk with only one risky alternative. He jumped up, dragged the dog over to the tree and attempted to hold him down under one leg while he called the gobblers in unison.
And what a show it was.
From my vantage point I watched Turkey squirm and fight until Burk finally let him up. That's when the dog spotted or scented the birds and went into a panting frenzy that could be heard 20 feet away.
But somehow, for some odd reason, the gobblers didn't spook. I blasted one of the toms at 35 yards, but his partner made a clean getaway before Burk was able to cover him.
The wildlife biologist wasn't complaining, though. One spring gobbler in the bag is better than two that have made you, any day.
"Man, I'm glad you shot when you did," he said. "This sucker was panting so loud-I can't believe they didn't hear him. I'd twist his collar every once in a while to choke him down, but then he'd start right back again every time I'd let go. I guess this one was just meant to be."
Perhaps the same could be said for Turkey. There's a reason the coon hound was in the woods that day, and there's a reason he showed up when he did. My theory is that spring gobbler hunting is new in these parts and the Walker hound wanted to see what it was all about.
No doubt, his was a lesson well learned. But so was mine.
Next time I go turkey hunting on public land, I'm packin' a chain.
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