I have always considered myself something of a hunter.

When I think of hunters, the beginning of the movie Last of the Mohicans comes to mind. Three men running headlong through the woods, their hair streaming out behind them, trusty muskets in their hands. They run and run, quick and silent as whispers. Then suddenly, they stop. One raises his musket, fires a single shot with a puff of smoke. Flash to a large deer tumbling to the ground. The men come and stand over the deer and thank its spirit for feeding them.

It is a good image, a strong image, a manly image, and not at all like how I hunt.

I sit on a log or a stone or stand behind a tree, for hours on end, all day if the hunting is slim, and wait for the game to come to me. Well, truthfully, that log stuff didn’t last long. Now I carry a portable chair that folds out nicely. It is much better for the back and cramping legs, and warmer too. Fall turns quickly to winter in these parts and most of the hunting season (turkey and deer at least) is done when the weather can turn logs and stones to what feels like blocks of ice.

I sit because I do most of my hunting alone. Sometimes my father comes with me, but age is stealing those moments away. So I hunt alone, and rather than run through the woods like Last of the Mohicans, stepping on every branch and twig and rustling all the crinkly leaves so that the deer or turkey hear me and disappear long before I find them, I sit and wait.

Sitting is not so bad. On this particular weekend it was rather nice. I woke before five and struggled into my clothes, filled my water bottle and headed for the woods nearly an hour before sunrise. I wanted to be in place before sunrise so that the woods could return to quiet glens and leaf covered hills. The deer wouldn’t even know I was there. Dawn broke and shapes and shadows turned into hillocks and stumps and old stone walls. The trees swayed in the wind and that crisp fall smell rose up and life just seemed about as peaceful and quiet as it can get. Nothing pressing, nothing to do but wait with quiet anticipation for the forest to open up.

The first day I saw three deer, and rather than take a little fawn, which would have yielded a single deer steak if I was lucky, I waited for better game. It came when I was adjusting my chair which had sunk deep into the soft loam. I stood and grabbed my chair and that’s when I heard the snort and saw a big deer take off. By the time the gun was in my hand the forest was quiet and still once more.

After three days of hunting I was still deerless. With work the next day, my time had simply run out. With only a few hours left in the day, and not enough time to head to my favorite glens, I turned to the corn fields near my house hoping to see a turkey. I was in luck. Far off across the field a band of twenty turkeys pecked their way across the field.

Now turkeys are like deer in some ways. They can hear quite well, but their eyesight is the real defense. They can see the slightest movement miles away. Sneaking across the barren cornfields wasn’t going to do it, so I snuck. I snuck through the forests like an elephant hoping to surprise them as they entered the woods way down at the other end of the field. When I got down there though, they were still too far away. I needed them to be within thirty yards for my buckshot to group close enough to kill. I played the waiting game again hoping they would come close enough to shoot.

Unfortunately, with that animalian instinct they veered away from me, as if knowing I lurked for them. I lumbered through the woods to another field and again saw them heading across it, away from me. I circled around that field as well. All along they must have heard me coming for by the time I got there, they were heading back the way they came. With daylight failing, I was running out of options. I had no more time or inclination to sneak through the forest only to find my quarry one step ahead.

Could I do it? It was my only chance. I hefted my gun and sprinted across the field as fast as I could. I must have looked funny chasing after those turkeys, huffing and puffing in heavy boots after these little birds that scooted through the grass.

But at last I was having my Last of the Mohicans moment. I could almost hear the music, the beat of the drums and the seesawing of the violin. I could feel my hair streaming in the wind and for one proud moment I was a true hunter. No more sitting for me.

As I reached the edge of the forest, the turkeys fifteen yards in front of me, already disappearing into the brush, I pulled up my gun still on the run and aimed for the first and only turkey I saw. Bam!

Ah, where was my camera crew! Like a triumphant hero in the midst of battle, like a fiery comet streaking across the sky, I was a man feeding one of his deepest instincts and doing it with flare.

And now I have Thanksgiving dinner. A Thanksgiving dinner to remember with tales told around the table of just how the bird came to be sitting all juicy on my table. I just won’t be able to invite very many people, because I happened to shoot what looks like the runt of the litter.

© Seth Crossman