main gallery page       <previous       next>

early bird
Early Bird
We had put the turkeys to roost the evening before, and now on a hillside in Greene County, Pennsylvania, we were waiting for the rising sun to come creeping through the branches of the nearly bare November trees. I was armed with a camera, a long lens, and a determination to bag a few good detailed photographs of the big birds for a couple of painting ideas that were floating around in my head. A friend with his L.C. Smith shotgun found a comfortable spot in front of a stand of small trees to break up his silhouette, and I positioned myself a few feet behind him ready to shoot with the camera whatever he shot with the gun. With the third member of the party twenty yards or so up the hillside, demonstrating his expertise with a box call, it wasn’t long before we heard turkey talk from the opposite hillside, and they were coming our way. The caller continued his conversation with the wily birds as they crossed a little run and started up the hill toward us and into the range of the unequalled firepower of the twenty gauge turkey gun and my 35mm Canon. Then, for some unexplained purpose, the little flock disappeared into a patch of dense brush far below us. After many hours - or perhaps minutes - of sitting motionless with cramping legs, we sensed movement and a turkey head appeared above the tall grass immediately to our left at close range only a few yards away. The fellow with the L.C. Smith slowly turned and fired a shot at the big gobbler, and leaving his gun on the ground, jumped up and started through the grass to see his bird. I scrambled to follow in his path with my camera to photograph the results of a successful morning’s hunt. To our surprise, there was no bird and no feathers scattered about. We were standing in the tall grass discussing excuses about how a close shot like that could have missed its mark, when the biggest bird I have ever seen came soaring about four feet directly above us and headed for the thicket below our original position. I could have almost touched him and he looked like a jumbo jet. The whole event was such a shock to me that I didn’t get any photographs at all, and ever since that day I have been obsessed with the idea of painting flying turkeys. “Early Bird” is just one of these attempts.