Turkey Season – Itching to Hunt

By Gary Lewis

Gary Lewis Books and DVDs

This time the blind went up in 17 seconds, as quick as advertised. Positioned at the corner of two trails, there was a good chance the birds would come out of the trees, down the hill toward us along the main trail.

In my backpack were four photo/silhouettes from Montana Decoys: two hens, two gobblers. In front of the blind, I set the two hens. Fifteen yards out, I positioned a Montana Decoy Mr. T and a Punk Jake to strut their stuff.

Day chased the shadows away and beams of sunlight walked up through the boughs. Beside the blind a couple of hardwood stumps were wrapped in vines with green and purple shiny leaves. Poison oak.

I hate poison oak. Last year, the stuff seemed to leap on me. Caught it once in April and three times between October and December.

But it was turkey season, time to get back in the woods. One of my favorite areas to hunt turkey is Douglas County where there is no escape from the greasy scourge.

"Priority number one is not getting poison oak. Turkeys are our second priority," I whispered to Russ as we eased into the blind. Russ Scott had the best seat in the house, our Double Bull Matrix 360 blind.

Today, the box call seemed too squawky, but the glass made sweet hen sounds. From the timber behind us, a turkey gobbled three times, but didn't show. Time passed and still I expected birds on the trail in front of us.

Russ saw them first. "Here we go."

Heads tucked low, they skulked down the trail, five shiny feathered toms and a buff-colored hen. When they saw the decoys, they pulled up short, not wanting to run right into a flock with two toms in full strut. Bad form.

Twenty yards out, they gawked and craned their necks then ducked in submission.

Russ eased his shotgun out the window. The last jake in line paused between the trunks of two oaks and peered down the hill at the dekes, shiny black, backlit by morning sun.

My hunting partner wasn't one to wait around. There stood a legal turkey, still as a fence post at 20 yards. He dropped it in the trail with a load of No. 5s. The other birds scuttled off into the oaks.

I forgot about priority number one and went out and collected Russ's priority number two, which any hunter knows is going to be covered with urushiol. They live in the stuff. Their legs, their feathers, their beaks, beards and snoods are soaked in poison oak. I should have let Russ collect it.

Urushiol (ooh-roo-she-all) is the toxic, resinous oil found in the roots, stalks, leaves and the white berries of the poison oak plant. When the colorless oil comes in contact with skin, it binds within 20 minutes and becomes difficult, if not impossible, to get off the skin with soap and water. The rash, which shows up within about five days, is the body's natural reaction to the poison.

Back at camp, later in the morning, we would wash the vile viscous off our hands with Tecnu soap. Available at pharmacies and grocery stores, Tecnu and Tecnu Extreme are the best products I have found to get rid of urushiol. Tecnu was developed in the Cold War, designed to wash away the radioactive dust from a nuclear blast. Since that hasn't been a real problem since 1945, Tec Labs turned their attention to that other bane of human existence – urushiol.

In the blind again, I traded places with Russ and looked out the window at the poison oak, even as the urushiol from the turkey began to bind to my skin.

"Call me a turkey." I handed Russ the striker and glass. He called me a turkey then started to scratch out the sounds on the call.

Minutes later, a hen rushed out of the canyon. She put on the brakes when she saw our faux flock, craned her neck to see if she recognized anybody, then eased closer, picking at seeds and bugs in the decayed leaves and new grass.

Next time, I'll have him call me a legal turkey.

Oregon's turkey season runs through May 31. The daily bag limit is one male or one turkey with a beard. Hunters are allowed two turkeys for the season, except that a third may be taken in some counties. A separate tag is required for each turkey. For a county by county look at Oregon's best turkey hunting, go to www.visualhunting.com

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