Admittedly, I go out on a limb to impress the men I’m trying to date. Often this means feigning an interest or ability in some activity, or sometimes, outright lying. In other words, it’s not beneath me to pretend I can snowboard only to break an ankle while falling off a chair lift, while my would-be suitor looks on in horror.

Therefore, when I told a girlfriend Willow that I was going on a two-day turkey hunting trip in eastern Wyoming, she rolled her eyes and said, “Who’s the guy?” I told her about my then- prospective new boyfriend Matt, who lives on elk and deer meat and has a bear pelt tacked above his bed.

“I thought you were morally opposed to hunting,” she said, shaking her head. I shrugged. It’s just a turkey. Not even really an animal, and who knows, maybe killing animals will turn out to be my thing. Has she seen how hot those guys look in camo?

“Hear that?” he asked,
with a euphoric grin,
gazing off into the trees.

Willow rolled her eyes. Since neither of us had done any camping, she wondered if I’d have to sleep in a tree and drink my own urine. I shrugged. More pressing at the moment was the problem of wardrobe, because as Willow pointed out, velvet pants, whether dark green or not, would probably look pretty stupid, even if coupled with hiking boots. I gave up.

When Matt picked me up, he gave me a quick once-over then handed me an enormous puffy coat, and we headed off on the 8-hour journey to get to his “spot.” Once there, he tumbled out of the truck and began assembling things and piling on layers while I stood off to the side like a lost child. Did I think to bring an orange cap, he wondered, as he shoved a neon stocking cap on his head.

Advertisements

Sometimes people get shot, and orange helps hunters to identify other hunters, he explained. I tried to make a joke. Surely, people didn’t die chasing turkeys. He shrugged, strapping a refrigerator-sized backpack on my back. I should be fine as long as I kept up with him, as he trotted off on his 6’ 4’’ extra-long legs. Within 50 feet, I began hyperventilating as sweat poured down my back under the insulated layers of his coat. As if that was not bad enough, the black cloud over our heads turned into a downpour, as I stared longingly down the trail behind me with the fleeting hope that like baseball, hunting came with rain outs.

Prior to this moment, I had loved Matt’s height and muscly physique and was looking forward to several hours of prime viewing from behind, until he veered off the flat path and headed into the hills and I began to hate him as blisters formed on my heels. Finally, what felt like hours later, he stoppedin his tracks and turned back to shush me before I even opened my mouth.

“Hear that?” he asked, with a euphoric grin, gazing off into the trees. I stood still and concentrated hard with the hope of harnessing the last remaining trace of any primordial instinct that would elevate me in Matt’s eyes and convince myself that I was actually enjoying this experience. Nothing, but then there it was. A far-away, deep-throated cry that was at once desperate and beautiful and made the hair on my neck vibrate.

It was a Tom crying out for a hen, he explained, desperate and raw, like an adolescent boy on his first spring break trip to Florida. Matt reached into his backpack and pulled out a wooden box with “the Heartbreaker” painted in red across the top. He scraped the lid back and forth, emitting a deep-throated moan in response that sounded something like, “I’m here, over here.” After a few cranks on the Heartbreaker, the woods echoed with far away gobbles, and off we went.

Suddenly, like the Tom, I was full of endorphins. Within a few miles, I had forgotten about the rain and my cold, tired feet and instead found myself hurtling up hills behind Matt in hot pursuit. The hormones were clearly contagious. Finally, Matt leapt to his belly on the cusp of a hill and signaled for me to follow. He slowly reached for his rifle and propped it on his forearm as a poofed up Tom with tail feathers blazing slowly emerged out of the cloudy mist like a rock star, and slowly walked across the field as if drunk on hormones and driven by love.

Pow. The shot echoed in my ears as the Tom dropped dead on his side in a poof of gray feathers that hung briefly in the sky like a cloud, before fluttering down on the ground. Matt yelped and ran toward the bird.

  “We got one, babe,” he screamed, swinging the turkey in the air by its neck, which suddenly seemed very rubbery. Despite the encouraging promise of ‘babe,’ my heart was torn between the blood trickling out of the turkey’s purply, blue head, and the deflated pinking waddle now hanging limply to the side. Not even Matt’s supreme hotness could combat the vision of the dead bird convulsing as its chest inflated with air like a balloon, which Matt promptly deflated by stepping on its chest, as all the misguided lust and longing dissipated in the air.

“He was looking for love in all the wrong places,” Matt said with a smile, and sadly, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

By: Jen C. Kocher

Leave a comment