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Two Outta Three January 2001
Glenn Sampson  

The voice on the phone said, "Four o'clock". Does this sound familiar? This time it wasn't quite so bad, he meant four in the afternoon, not morning.

Actually it would have been better in the morning, getting cross town and up the Beeline highway, but there's always something wrong. We were heading to the Rim country for the annual Turkey hunt, as annual as Fish and Game will allow that is. David and family were going to meet Gerhard and I somewhere near Bear Canyon Lake, Thursday night or sometime Friday.

After a quick stop at a local fast belly burner joint in Payson, we arrived at our intended campsite only to find it already occupied. Back down the road a little we found another, still in the desired area. Gerhard had killed a bird in this area before, and seen some other times so we thought it just might be a good spot.

Morning came all too early after a very cold night. Being used to the valley, these below-forty temperatures aren't all that pleasant. Ger was gone before daylight as usual and spent the day wandering throughout the area without a sign of a bird. Even the Abert Squirrels were in very short supply, plenty of the little Fiddlers, as we call them back east, but no real squirrels. You could shoot a dozen of these little stinkers and still not make a mouth full. I spent the morning walking the old logging roads to no avail. David and family came by during lunch with much the same report. Dave and his son Mike had seen some Aberts but since they were hunting with shotguns, declined to pulverize any. The afternoon proved to be just as unproductive. I guess the highlight of this day was the dinner of Javelina sausage, and a pleasant campfire.

The night wasn't quite as cold, and when morning came, Ger was once again gone before light. I elected to let the sun cast its feeble warmth on the tent before climbing out. This year I had brought my shotgun, but had elected to carry my single shot H&R .223. Gerhard had introduced me to his ".223 Hornet" loads - 11 grains of H4227 behind a 45 grain softpoint. It seems to be very nice at 100 yards, and sure should be good enough for squirrel as well as turkey.

David had told me about a memorial to a little boy that had been lost and frozen to death, on a tree in a little park just down the hill from where we were. I hunted down to it and then back toward an area where there were some cabins. I had seen turkey track in there a couple years ago and thought it was worth a look.

Before I got to the area it was obvious from the sounds of construction, that I wasn't really going to be very welcome walking through with a gun. It hadn't really been my idea to go straight up the side of a damp leaf and pine needle covered hillside, but such was my fate. Actually I did alright, I only fell flat on my face once during the ascent. At the top was another of the old logging roads which I walked for an hour or so. It was about eleven by then, so I decided to return to camp for lunch.

On the way back, I crested a little knoll just in time to see two hen turkey crossing the road. The last one saw me and ducked its head and started to hustle, but not quite fast enough. The little 45 grainer caught up with it just as it entered the tall grass. A few steps, flopping of the wings, and it lay still. The other hen stopped and looked back so as if to say, "What's your problem," and then ran to where the rest of the flock waited. It was now that I saw the really nice Tom, but now was a little late. At least I had finally got a turkey. I must admit, had I found a chicken this small in the grocery, I'd have put it back, but not this one. The .223 had taken the hen high in the back, exiting through the right wing socket, with very little damage. These little bullets work as well as we had hoped they would.

The walk back to camp was not only a happy one, but also a short one. I couldn't have been a quarter mile away. After cleaning the little girl and putting her on ice, I had lunch. David and family came by, and it only took him a few minutes to spot one drop of blood on the ground, where I had laid the bird. That man has an eagle eye.

Again they hadn't had much luck, and neither did Gerhard. I tried to show Gerhard where I had killed the bird, but could never find the spot again. It's almost like I dreamed the whole thing. I spent the rest of the day attempting to relocate the exact area, but never could. It's not a crime to get old, just frustrating at times. Another good meal, pleasant campfire, and cool night.

I spent Sunday hunting for that elusive Abert, and that non-existent kill spot, finding neither. We packed up, drove around looking the area over until almost dark and departed for home. I'm not sure, but I think next year we'll try somewhere else, some place that might have a few more squirrels, and perhaps quail.

David made the comment that this was finally going to be my year. I've been hunting with he and Ger for years and never see anything. This year so far I've gotten my Javelina, and now my turkey. One more to go for the grand slam. Deer has eluded me for years. I have not even seen a spike, much less had a chance to shoot one.

Gerhard and I drove up to the area on Thursday evening with the threat of a storm brewing. Dave was going to follow in the morning. We arrived and met Ger's brother-in-law, Jon. The night was cold but beautiful. The sky was clear with many stars. We went to bed thinking the weather man was nuts. Right. About 2:30 the heavens opened up, hail, rain, pine cones, tree limbs, you name it. By morning it had let up a little but we all knew it was not over.

A quick breakfast of juice and a bagel, and I was last out of camp. I went down the road a little ways and parked myself in a previously constructed blind. I've never done this before and thought maybe this is the way to do it. Let them come to me. Once again I had guessed wrong. The rain came and went, sometimes coming down so hard you couldn't see 3 feet, other times clearing up.

About 11 o'clock a young hunter came running down the road by me and then returned. I suspected his group had seen a deer and he was after it. Sure enough, a few minutes later I heard a shot back toward the road. When I walked out later there was a gut pile a few hundred yards from where I had been sitting.

Back in camp, I found that Gerhard had killed his a little after daylight, just down an abandoned road from camp. David had gone to another area, and in the snow, gotten his. John had seen and shot at one up the hill. Oh well, so it goes.

By now the rain had returned with a vengeance. The longer we stood the harder it got. I had lunch, and then being a fair-weather hunter, decided to heck with it, I'm gone. Bidding the others good luck and better weather, I road hunted my way out of the area, and went home.

David was not about to let me off that easy, Sunday saw us back in the area, where we met up with Gerhard. We hunted the entire day finally seeing three does just at dark, on our way out. The next weekend I wasn't able to go but the last Saturday saw David and I once again in the woods. This time he made good on his promise to show me some deer. We must have seen 30 does, and at least 5 bucks. Now if he had just tied one to a tree for me maybe I'd have made good.

As it was, I missed two shots, one of which was a gimme. Broadside, 75 yards or less, slow moving. I'll never know why I missed. I tried to blame it on the gun not being sighted properly, since it was the one I had used on the silhouette shoot, but a later verification shot put it an inch high at about the same distance. I've just got to admit it was probably buck fever of something equally stupid.

Needless to say, I came home deerless, but with great memories. David had done his best. I had not. Oh well two outta three ain't bad. There was also a little story about running out of gas on the way home but that will wait.

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