Wednesday, June 9, 2010

the turkey. and hunting

there were one or two moments from the trek that deserve special mention. this is one.

on one of the last days of the season, when turkeys are feeling the most pressure from hunters and are at their most wary eric from the class was offered a bird, and he accepted.
he shared his gift with us during the first days of the plant intensive portion of the trek. we roasted it on the open fire and it was an altogether different kind of delicious. ill just say it was way better than the butterballs you get in the super market.

so the story goes, this turkey practically walked right up to him. almost no effort in trying to coax it into range.

which is something considering the efforts some will make trying to do just that.

earlier in may the class went turkey hunting. going in to it i had somehow gotten it in my head that it would be easier than it was. i had made a concerted effort to avoid basing my definitions of success on the harvesting of a bird. im comfortable and happy with the last thing on my list of priorities being the taking of an animal. there is so much preparation going in to a hunt, that it would be self defeating and disrespectful to the animal to think that killing an animal should even be a consideration until its come up right in front of you. in my humble opinion thats the only way to be sure youve done it right. otherwise youre just a killer.

that being said it is almost impossible not to feel a slight twinge of disappointment when no animal offers itself to you. theres a feeling like the powers deciding who is worthy and who is not have decided that you are not. then, guilt over maybe having done something wrong.

i know my big mistake was believing that it would be as easy as it looked in the books i was reading and the videos i was watching. i got it in my head that if i just followed their advice i would have it in the bag. the problem is that for any given potential scenario everyone has their idea of what the best thing to do would be. the joy in this is that as a novice its hard to be sure that you are really seeing what you think you are seeing.

"is this the spot to set the decoy?"
"should i use a decoy?"
"which call am i supposed to use here?"
"what are these tracks telling me?"
"is this right?"
"is that wrong?"
"am i going crazy?"

so there i am walking through the woods not really knowing what to look for, trying to pick the right piece of advice for what to do when i find some indication of the thing i dont know im looking for.


this is the perfect sport for a person with a none-too-small nuerosis for over-thinking things.

so, rather than going in as an empty cup to be filled by the reward of my own experience i went in a cup runningeth over. there was so much advice and suggested tactics going through my head that when confronted with a given scenario it was that much harder to decide what to do. had i gone in a little more ignorant i think i would have at least had a bit more fun.

thats not to say i didnt have fun but the true value and reward in the experience was the reminder that i had no idea what i was doing and that experience doesnt come from books.

the turkeys themselves are the best teachers. my fondest memory of the experience is from the walk back to camp after having spent several hours in an area i thought would be a good spot to set up and wait. i had been following some tracks made the day before along an old logging road. i knew they were from the day before because it had snowed that night and as the snow melted from the road in the sun the tracks where being revealed. actually, before seeing a lump of snow partially covering some of the tracks i was following i thad been thinking i was following fresh tracks.

nature: 1, mighty hunter: 0

but i was still sure i was still on good ground since there had been many tracks from multiple birds using this same route. there was a stream off into the woods a bit, running along side the road and i assumed they would be using this road as a highway to get from nesting areas to water sources, feeding along the way. what i was not clear on was where to set up my waiting position.

turkey hunting is all about waiting. you find a good location ,in an area where birds are known to be, hopefully along a route they are known to follow within that area, set up your position and then wait. my best option was to make an educated guess. and by educated i mean trying to do calculus when all you know is 2+2=4.

i had been schooled on the waiting game earlier in the trip when i flushed a group of birds after convincing myself that if a bird was going to show up it would have done so already. i was thinking my calling had scared them off, my set up position was wrong, something was off. a piece of advice you run across regularly is that if you think you are done waiting for the bird, wait another 20 minutes. i had been waiting for 3 hours. i got up to leave, walked 50 yards, came around a large shrub and by the time my lifted foot hit the ground three birds that had been walking toward me where flying away. one of them a tom. i cant promise they would have made their way to me and toms that are hened up are very hard to call away. but they were close enough that my odds where good. just another 20 minutes might have............

nature: 2

so this time, armed with tracks and a water source, i was ready to wait all day. well, i waited most of the day. started getting hungry and anxious and was realizing my set up was bad, sitting in direct sunlight, too close to my decoy and probably a dozen other things i couldnt even see. it was quickly going to not be fun anymore and i had almost an hours walk back to csamp. time to leave. walking the road back i came upon bird sign i knew was fresh. they had definitely not been there on my walk in and one of them, seemingly there to mock me, was planted firmly in one of the boot prints i had left behind as i walked the road. to add insult to injury there was a big bright, shiny green turd about 4 feet from that track which couldnt have been more than 20 minutes old.

nature: 3

that score would win a hockey game.

im making a prediction. while out looking forturkeys and not finding any i saw LOADS of deer and deer sign. the path of the hunter course is kicked off with a deer hunt in september and the hunting grounds will be the same place we where looking for turkies. my prediction is that i will see no deer but the turkeys will be following me around like puppies.

thanks again to eric and not just for the delicious meal. after seeing how hard it can be, its inspiring to see the wilds offer themselves to a person in such an elegant fashion.

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