It's not superstition if it works
Three family members and I hunted turkeys during Season B (April 18-22) in southeastern Minnesota. Weather-wise, it was the toughest season I have ever hunted. On four of the five days we hunted in rain, sleet, snow and seemingly endless wind.
By the third day of our hunt the conditions were taking a toll. I announced to my frequent hunting partner and brother-in-law Larry Boughten that I was not going to wear my well-worn "lucky shirt" that day.
Larry did not even bother to reply — just looked up from his bowl of oatmeal and gave me one of those sad looks usually reserved for the less fortunate among us.
Changing the shirt did not do the trick, as I came up empty once again. So the next morning as Larry ate his oatmeal and drank his coffee, I announced that on this day, I was going to change my luck by wearing a different pair of pants.
"Why don’t you try changing your underwear?" was his response. Did I mention that my old hunting partner Larry is a bit on the callous side?
The new pants made no difference. Fortunately, on the last morning of my hunt, I did not have to face Larry’s harsh commentary. Having killed a nice gobbler on the first day of the season, Larry had gotten tired of waiting around for me to luck into a bird and had returned home to Stillwater. My other two hunting partners, brother-in-law Bob Boughten from Waconia and son-in-law Keith Kogler, had returned home empty-handed.
I didn’t really miss them that much. Now I figured I could change shirts, pants, socks, underwear, boots or whatever tripped my trigger and do so without being ridiculed.
After much thought on the matter I decided to throw caution to the constant winds and do the unfathomable. I would wear a different hunting cap. All of you hunters out there know just how attached we get to our favorite cap. My dear wife Nancy, who has put up with me for more years than she cares to recall, says that if I don’t start wearing a different hunting cap, that my old, faded, torn and tattered camouflage baseball cap will one day simply disintegrate atop my balding dome. Nancy looks like a nice, caring and loving woman, but trust me, she has her cruel side.
So dressed up in my new pants, new shirt, new cap and yes, fresh underwear, I walked out of the snug cabin my nephew Dave "Grubber" Carlin built on a timbered ridge just above a little trout stream called The Duschee.
Instantly I felt the sting of wind-driven rain on my face. Or was it sleet? It really didn’t matter — I was going to hunt no matter what.
As I drove north towards the farm I planned to hunt that morning I decided to go for broke and make one more change. This one would be the most drastic of all. I wouldn't take my usual turkey gun, a T/C Encore with a stubby twelve gauge barrel with an extra full turkey choke screwed in the end.
Although the Encore is a single-shot, I have never felt the lack of firepower to be an issue. Turkey hunting is nearly always a one-shot deal anyway. That T/C and I have hunted turkeys in a lot of different places over the years and it has never let me down.
Leaving a gun behind which has accounted for 40-some gobblers in my hands was no easy decision. But hey, what if it wasn’t enough to change my shirt, pants, socks, underwear and even my lucky cap? What if the "turkey gods" demanded more?
I usually carry an extra gun with me, just in case someone in the group has a malfunction. On this day that "extra gun" was one that is very special to me. It was the Model 1897 Winchester pump my father had purchased with the cash he had won while playing poker overseas during WW II. My Dad died before he ever had a chance to hunt turkeys, but I’ve always figured that he would have enjoyed the chess game which is turkey hunting.
So I left the T/C in the truck and stuffed a couple of 2 ¾ inch 4s into Pa’s old gun. Pa only shot 4s, so even though 5s are my favorite shot size for turkeys, I was not going to jinx things by feeding the battered old pump the wrong menu.
It would make for good reading if I were to tell you that I walked into the woods that morning, waited for night to slowly give way to another wet, drab, dreary day, called up a big gobbler and smoked him right out of the gate.
Yes, it would make for a good story, but it would be untrue. What really happened is this. By late morning I had heard one lousy gobbler and he ran off with some hussy of a hen. Stubborness has always been my strong suit when it comes to hunting, fishing and life in general, but now well into the fifth and final day of a season during which I had already hunted 50 hours, most of it in miserable weather, I was nearly ready to throw in the towel.
"Enough is enough" I told myself as I drove back to the cabin.
But it wasn’t enough. Once more I loaded my father’s old gun and forced my tired legs to carry my aging body up one more bluff. And on top of that bluff a gobbler in full strut came slowly into range as he paraded behind his little bevy of hens.
When my father’s old gun bucked hard against my shoulder, I automatically jacked another round into the chamber, but there would be no need for another shot. The gobbler had died instantly, as is only fitting for a bird as grand as a wild turkey.
You are probably reading this and thinking to yourself that this Clancy guy must be a half-bubble-off-center to buy into all of this superstitious mumbo-jumbo. And trust me, there are many who will agree with you.
But sometimes I think, even if you are not superstitious, changing things up a little, whether hunting, fishing or on the golf course, can make all the difference.