It had taken me a half-hour and many perilous predawn footsteps on the steep bluffs above Nebraska’s Niobrara River to get to this spot.
But it was a small price to pay for the dandy Merriam’s turkey gobbler sleeping high above in a ponderosa pine. I knew he was there because I had watched him settle in the night before.
I planted my best-looking hen decoy a measured 30 yards from where I would be resting against another ponderosa. It was still plenty dark when I offered a hen’s “yelp” on my box call. I was answered immediately with a thunderous gobble. Trembling now, I anticipated the bird-in-hand action about to follow.
But as I loaded my Browning 12 gauge my fingers slipped and the gun’s action slammed shut with a metallic clank.
I hoped the noise wasn’t a deal-breaker. But in my heart I knew I had broken a cardinal rule of the outdoors: Silence is golden.
This was confirmed a few minutes later when the gobbler flew down and headed in the opposite direction.
If you will remember a handful of suggestions, you can greatly improve your chances for success on your outdoor adventures. Whether you are pursuing meat for the game feast pot, trying to add to your bird-watching life list or just want to observe the wonders of nature up close, you’ll do better by becoming invisible.
First and foremost, borrow heavily from nature’s palette in your choice of camouflage clothing. If your surroundings feature the chlorophylls of summer, be green from head to toe. As the frosts add the ochres of dead grass to the fall scene, let your wardrobe reflect the change.
And be aware that a sliver of white T-shirt under your chin is a dead giveaway. Every time. That arctic maple you’re hiding under isn’t showing any white and neither should you.
Now that we’ve got your stealth values rising with the proper dull colors and the appropriate noise level (sweet silence!), we want to add a third killer tactic that will put you right in the middle of the natural action without any creature knowing you are there: Pull up a comfortable cushion for a seat and a solid tree for back support, because you’ll need to sit statue-still for long periods of time.
Your status has now successfully changed from interloper on the natural scene to becoming a part of it.
You’ll be amazed at what you will be privileged to see.
Perhaps that yellow-throated vireo you’ve heard but never spotted will suddenly be right there building her cupped nest in full view.
I myself once had a mule deer step on my leg while I was waiting for a Nebraska turkey.
And if the elusive buck you’ve been stalking presents himself in all his broadside glory because he has no idea you are there, I know you’ll be delighted.