Devil Birds

 In Hunt
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once heard from an old timer at a gas pump, sporting a thread bare pearl snap and a sweat stained feed cap, that when God created turkeys the devil cooked up a counterfeit bird, possessing several attributes that most sage hunters would deem unsporting, and that he then tucked that bird into the deep folds way back in the expansive forests of South Central Missouri. Attributes that include, but are not limited to precognition, teleportation, and just plain orneriness. These devil-birds were some of the 2,500 hold outs in the state when we as humans do what we do best – destroy wild places and wild things through our insatiable hunger to dominate and subdue.

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t the end of April of this year, I too found myself tucked back in the the expansive forests of South CentraI Missouri. I had the good fortune (after asking no more than three or four times) to be in the possession of an invitation to come hunt turkeys at Driftwood Acres during the first week of Missouri’s spring season. I hopped in my truck and headed east for a couple hours. The highways got narrower and rougher giving way to gravel. The trees slowly crept in until they formed a shady tunnel through which the road snaked. After climbing, descending, and winding in and out of several hollers on no more than a  mule track that some hapless schmuck had mistakenly labeled a county road, I finally availed myself of the bucolic paradise nestled in the Ozark Mountains.

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riftwood Acres is the product of Brandon Butler, a force of nature who’s love of the outdoors can only be rivaled by his love of telling stories, mostly about the outdoors. It is a sanctuary for weary men who need a respite from their modern worlds. Men who need to cease from their typical work in favor of a new and ancient type of work that pays  only in sunburns, tick bites, sore feet, and when possible, dinner. The party consisted of Brandon, Myself, Brandon’s Cousin Derek, and Ryan  “Milo” Miloshewski, an outdoors writer from Kansas City.

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e spent the first evening eating, drinking and scheming. The affair, we decided, would be undertaken in the usual manner of men who can’t stand to escape to the great outdoors just to erect a temporary indoors from which to surveil those great outdoors they had previously been in – sit and call, walk and listen. Brandon and Ryan took turns babysitting me and in this manner we covered between seven to ten miles each day. We walked up and down what felt like sheer cliff faces, we stripped down to cross spring fed creeks, and we walked through a holler full of feral hogs (this is akin to the valley mentioned in the twenty-third psalm, but if the scriptures written in the Ozarks).

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ended the week without a bird, but grateful for the opportunity. Ryan peeled off one day just before noon to go sit a power cut as Brandon and I headed into town to grab a few things from the hardware store. When we returned a couple hours later Milo had his feet up on the porch, a nice looking bird had been laid out in front of him, and the customary celebratory drink and cigar rested comfortably in his hands. In any other situation a hunter might be tempted to apologize, mitigate, or excuse the decision to take a an immature bird. In this situation, no apology was offered and no apology was needed. We fried the bird that very evening and were none the worse for it.

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once heard that bagging even a Jake in the Mark Twain Forest is akin completing a grandslam with a sling shot, but I wouldn’t know about all that. I never saw one. Well I guess I saw one, the back side of one, gliding off the ridge we were sitting on in favor of the neighboring holler. He was the only bird to even flirt with us. After twenty minutes of constant, plaintive calls with not so much as a glimpse, I scratched my face and he was gone. Though it goes against everything I hold dear as a modern man with a firm grip on reality and a decent understanding of the physical world, I have to believe that this bird had somehow cheated the laws of physics to outwit me. Maybe the devil gave them x-ray glasses too.

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