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hoi kl marsh musings

This has been a very exciting week. I have enjoyed my five Canadian friends who come almost every year to hunt turkeys with their traditional archery equipment. They got three turkeys and departed on Thursday. Being up by 4:30 a.m. to get coffee and head out for 10 days in a row gives us time to re-affirm our friendship.
We set up in popup blinds with a decoy and a call.  My friend Brian can do a “lonesome hen” call that will put a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye.  Sometimes it actually works. Calling turkeys is an imprecise science. To start with, it is backwards from the way turkeys behave.  In most instances, the toms strut and snap out their tail feathers with a very loud sound.  I have heard turkeys behind the blind snap out their tail feathers long before I ever saw them.  That attracts the hen that comes to the tom—and toms are a bit reluctant to come to the hen—no matter how lonesome she is. The jakes (young toms with very short beards) spend their days scuffling with each other and getting beat up by the big toms when they try to visit the hens.  It is all very exciting and I think turkey hunting generates some of the best chapters in our book of life stories in the outdoors. The 20 or so years of hunting with these guys has produced a  pretty good book that is still being supplemented every year.  Yves, who is French, has joined us in the past two or three years and he certainly adds a lot to the group.  Jack Kempf, who lives in Edmonton, makes our bows.  He is our elder statesman, and is still hunting in his 80s. They all know way too much about hockey and curling.....
I have been thinking about the process of calling birds and critters.  It started with live ducks that were trapped and then taken to the hunting area and kept on a leash. The first duck calls in the 1800s were metal things that cut lips and mouths-- but that didn’t deter the callers.  My friend, Rod Haydel, is continuing the family tradition of making calls that are used world wide. The sounds of nature are stunning to me.  When I hear 10,000 geese rise off the Conservancy or the Bottoms, or hear a flock of sandhill cranes go over—it takes my breath.  Each duck has a different call—birders and hunters can identify the duck even in low light.  The hen mallard is the most familiar sound when we think about duck calls. One of the “heroes” in the duck calling world is Wyatt Boomhower who lives north of Hoisington. He won the junior world championship in 2006 in Stuttgart, Ark., and second a time or two after that. That boy can put a squeal on a call.  It is eye-popping to hear him compete.
There are predator calls and electronic devices to enhance the volume and quality of the sounds. Most of those sound like a wounded rabbit or mouse, or a family of coyotes or critters. A lot of birders use electronic calls to entice birds out of heavy cover or at least into view. There are also birders that think any form of calling is harassment, and should be avoided. I would have never seen a king rail if I hadn’t used a careful call. It is now legal for snow goose hunters to use electronic calls in the spring.  Those birds are over-populated and are destroying their breeding grounds.  
The miracle of hearing is always amazing. I am starting to lose a little bit of mine, but am not to the hearing aid level yet. The sounds of nature are as exhilarating as the sights or nature.  Go to the Bottoms and park your vehicle and open the windows and just listen. It will calm your soul.  
Doc Witt is a retired physician and avid outdoorsman.