"This is it!" Dick whispered. "Down! You get over there!" He pointed. "Remember," he hissed, "stay still!"
I lay on my stomach in foot-high grass behind the trunk of a mesquite no bigger around than my arm, and Dick hid himself behind a patch of brush slightly behind me and 10 yards to my left.
The most agonizingly suspenseful half hour of my bird-hunting life followed. Dick lured the turkey in, answering every gobble with a series of six or seven yelps. It approached us very slowly, back and forth. I would hear it off to my right, then to my left, then directly in front of me again. I kept shifting the gun so as to have it pointing in the right direction if the bird came into range.
As I lay there, pressed flat against the fragrant grass, I could see only the nearby wildflowers, a few mesquite trees and a line of brush about 30 yards out. Two feet from my head, off to my right, there was a dead branch on the ground. When a pair of tanagers swooped in and landed on it, I was so startled I almost jumped. The scarlet male and yellow-green female sat so close I could have touched them. They stayed for several seconds, then flew off without seeing me. Obviously, I was well concealed.
Just then a gobble came from dead ahead, so close now that it seemed to shake the ground beneath me. Dick answered with his call, and now I saw the bird through some sparse brush, 60 yards out and coming straight toward us. My heart began to pound. When I eased the safety off, my hands were trembling.
The gobbler was in full strut, his wings spread wide and dragging along the ground, his tail fanned out and showing brown, black and brilliant orange in a shaft of sunlight, his head as white as polished ivory. Veering right, he disappeared behind the line of brush, but he was still moving toward us. If he kept coming in this direction at the same speed, he would emerge from the brush in perfect range in 25 or 30 seconds. The next gobble that came from behind the brush really shook the ground. Dick answered with three very soft yelps.
I leveled the gun barrel, lining up the sights where I thought the turkey would appear. The grass was moving in a slight breeze, which would help conceal any movement I might have to make to adjust the gun. I breathed deeply. My hands weren't shaking now.
Finally the white head appeared, exactly where I thought it would. I took another deep breath, let it out slowly, aimed carefully, then squeezed. Thirty seconds later we were standing over the loveliest bird I have ever seen anywhere.
"We're talkin' classic!" Dick said, pounding me on the back. "We called him in from half a mile, and we put the perfect shot on him! He dropped and never moved, and it's a damn fine bird!"
I stood and stared. He lay on the green grass in the sunlight, his body feathers changing from dark green to gold to blue as they riffled in the gentle breeze. The tips of his barred wing feathers were worn ragged from all the strutting he had done. I knelt and ran my fingertips along the silky feathers.