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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wild Turkey Leg Soup and Blackberry Pie for Christmas Eve Dinner (Blog 222)

Sunday of last week after I called in and killed a turkey behind our house, I asked Elaine if we could have wild turkey leg soup for Christmas Eve dinner - perhaps served with blackberry pie from the berries we gathered last July from the 38-tract we live on in Botetourt County, Virginia.

And today, Christmas Eve, Elaine made my meal dreams come true just like she has been the dream wife for the past 36 1/2 years.  Our son Mark came over for dinner, and the three of us dined on the soup, cobbler, and vegetable dish that Elaine had prepared.

Adding to the local theme, after dinner we sat around the Christmas tree, a red cedar that we cut from our land.  After Christmas, I will use that tree and several others to create some horizontal cover for songbirds and small mammals this winter.

Elaine is a fantastic cook.  In fact, her recipe for the turkey soup once appeared in a story we wrote for the National Wild Turkey Federation.  But she is an even more fantastic wife and helpmate.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Turkey for Christmas (Blog 221)

I had endured my worst fall turkey season this century, never even coming close to calling in a bird...that is until Sunday.  On the way home from a fruitless hunt to Franklin County, I received a phone call from my son-in-law David Reynolds who lives on our 38-acre Botetourt County, Virginia land with Elaine's and my daughter Sarah and their two sons Sam and Elie.

David had called to tell me that while squirrel hunting, he had busted up a flock of turkeys behind the house.  Was I interested?  David couldn't hunt because he had to take the boys to the other grandparents.

I sped home, ran into the woods and set up and a jenny immediately answered my yelps and kee-kees.  A few minutes later she came walking in, and I killed my first turkey of the season.

What a thrill.  All of my fall turkey hunting takes place in Virginia and West Virginia, and it seems that in the counties I had hunted in across both states have experienced a hatch failure.

But now Elaine has decided that we will have wild turkey leg soup for Christmas, and that is a dish that will be much appreciated by me this holiday.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Birding While Turkey Hunting (Blog 220)

Although my turkey hunting this autumn and winter has been disappointing, I, as always, have enjoyed bird watching while afield.  So far, I have spotted such winter visitors as winter wrens, brown creepers, hermit thrushes, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, juncos, and white-throated sparrows.

Interestingly, two species of winter visitors that I used to see this time of year, I have not observed this century: evening grosbeaks and purple finches. Do they no longer come as far south as Botetourt and Craig counties, Virginia where I live and hunt.  Or is it just random chance that I have not seen them in 15 or so years.

Of course, I would like to call in and kill a turkey for Christmas dinner, but I can still enjoy being outdoors and birding.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Turkeys Hard to Find (Blog 219)

Turkey season has come back in here in Virginia, and I am still struggling to find birds.  Most day, I have been hunting before and after teaching school and just can't seem to locate flocks.

The exception this week was that I found a flock two straight days, but they were across the property boundary.  I sat and watched them on the roost just 40 yards away.  The sweet hen sounds I sent their way were ignored as were the amped up mad hen yelps I tried next.

This morning (Saturday) I am packed and ready to go, but it is raining as I write, and the forecast is for rain all day here in Botetourt and surrounding counties.  I had hoped to drive to Franklin County, but the forecast is for rain there, too.  A heavy acorn crop, a poor hatch, precipitation, and random bad luck have conspired against me so far.  Thank goodness for Sunday hunting, and a day in the woods tomorrow.