Turkey Hunting on the Little Plover River

Barb Feltz

A few years back I was going through a rough time in my life. Living in a subdivision in the middle-class suburbs of Plover, the mundane tasks of everyday life hung on me like a winter cloud. It was the ever-present river of my hometown that got me through the hardest parts.

During bad days I would take off and walk with my daughter’s loyal dog Allie down to the Little Plover River. The river always gives me peace. Listening to the flowing river and walking quietly down its banks, the healing qualities of the river flowed over me. It was also a time where my family and I could foster our relationships, painting images in our mind for the rest of our lives.

One day as I was walking, I noticed fresh turkey tracks frozen in the ice and snow in a field near the Little Plover. “There are turkeys in our area!” I thought to myself. All of a sudden I realized I had something to take my mind off things and connect me to this place, in the tradition of family and friends. I decided then and there I was going to learn how to turkey hunt. Though I come from a family of hunters, I would have been the first person in my family to do this, giving me a renewed sense of pride and personal value.

I tore through books, voraciously watched tapes, and attended a DNR turkey hunting class with my Dad on my birthday. Eventually, and with much practice I learned how to call a turkey. I think my family respected my determination. When the time was right, I applied for a permit and drew a turkey tag. I was ready.
I did shoot a mighty fine Tom that spring, on the fresh green banks of the Little Plover River. I worked hard to get that bird, waiting for the right shot. Time and sound stood still as I pulled the trigger, capturing the moment as still-life in the midst of exploding powder.

But the strangest thing happened…The day after I was sad, my expected sense of fulfillment was absent, finally shooting that Tom affected me more than I would have thought.  I had refocused so much energy into turkey hunting I was losing sight of my life, of who I was and my quiet relationship with the river. To clear my head, I climbed my favorite tree. Its long trunk crossed the river from our land, a perfect spot to see everything around. I sat there for hours listening to the sounds of nature.

Eventually, my mind quieted and I got up to go home. When I did, I realized I had been sitting in Coyote scat! The coyotes liked crossing on the tree, also using it as a spot to look around. I burst out laughing at myself! “I’m not paying attention!” I had fallen out of touch with the variety of things this place offers me, and the stain on my bottom was positive proof-one reminiscent of Native American stories from this animal trickster. The river had done it again; it had reset my priorities to the simple meaningful ones.

The turkey fan still hangs in my home. It is tribute to that time, and my determination to remember what’s important. It is also a reminder that the Little Plover River is a home, a teacher, and a healer of wounds.