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Nation & World

In The Spring, When Turkey Hunters Hear The Call

LIANE HANSEN, host:

In much of the country, the spring turkey hunt is a tradition and a way of life. Calling in a wild turkey is an art form in itself, but hunters say the hardest part is the stillness and the waiting. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann joined two veteran outdoorsmen in New York's Champlain Valley and sent this audio postcard.

BRIAN MANN: It's just after 4:00 A.M. Tony Salerno and Jimmer Sherman are using headlamps, picking their way across a marsh and field.

Mr. TONY SALERNO: These turkeys are up in the trees right now. But what we're going to do is just try to position ourselves so that we can actually have Jimmer call them in.

MANN: Jimmer works for a company that make canoes, Tony runs a heating business. They've been hunting here since they were kids. On this morning, the woods glow in the light of a half-moon, all silver and shadow. Jimmer uses one of his calls, trying to trick the turkeys into giving away their roost.

(Soundbite of owl call)

Mr. JIMMER SHERMAN: A lot of times they'll shot gobble on their roost.

(Soundbite of owl call)

Mr. SALERNO: So, what Jimmer's doing is mimicking an owl, which agitates them. Now, I'm going to use a crow call and do basically the same thing.

(Soundbite of crow call)

MANN: They listen but there's no sound, no response. So, Tony picks a spot and sets up his decoys.

Mr. SALERNO: Until it gets light, basically a waiting game.

MANN: Turkeys have incredible eyesight and good hearing, so turkey hunters have to be perfectly still and nearly invisible. Once they're situation, Jimmer takes out a disc of slate and begins to scrape it with a stick.

(Soundbite of noise)

Mr. SALERNO: So, what Jimmer is doing is sounding like a hen to attract a (unintelligible). Let them know we're here.

(Soundbite of noise)

Mr. SHERMAN: Pretty much all I ever use is a yelp and then just a, you know, little...

(Soundbite of noise)

Mr. SHERMAN: ...little purrs, little content purrs.

(Soundbite of noise)

MANN: They sit and watch as the day comes up around them. A meteor sparks and flashes in the west. The sky in the east turns the color of abalone. The two men are so still, so well camouflaged that songbirds come and forage in the bushes right around their ears.

(Soundbite of birds)

MANN: Jimmer teases and coaxes but on this morning there's no response. Turkeys are one of the hardest game birds, tricky and coy. But this is an early morning sport, a thing Tony and Jimmer can do before heading off to work. So, they'll be out again tomorrow morning.

For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in New York's Champlain Valley.

HANSEN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.