It’s hard to get excited about turkey hunting. They’re a non-native critter, and so far as I could tell last month, when they were gobbling like mad, spring turkeys like to hang out in peoples yards. While there were surely some turkeys hanging out in some far off meadow in the woods, I didn’t prioritize finding them, and after a few sessions calling with no results, largely gave up. Spending a bunch of time roaming around the edge of town hoping they’d wander onto public land didn’t make it far up the list.
Yesterday afternoon, after returning from a bike/hike trip with M, I headed off to go for a walk and do some shooting. I felt a bit silly when I drove around a corner on a tiny logging road and a jake ran off into the woods. Turkeys are reknowned for their good eyesight, and there I was in a blue fannel shirt. At least I had a firearm, license, and knife. I drove back, parked, and took my quiet time getting my gear together. With gun loaded, I snuck down the near side of the road, but for all my caution still got busted when I stuck my head out into an opening and saw the turkey standing there 20 yards away. It ran, with that strange gait that makes turkeys look like something from a forgotten millennium. Serious now, I followed, slowly. Turkeys must have short memories, because after a few hundred yards the bird went back to feeding amongst the weeds in the clear cut. A few patches of timber had been left standing, and only occasionally remembering to breath, I was able to wriggle pretty close. The bird kept going behind trees, and I kept having to crab left and right to get a clear line of sight. Eventually it found a good nest of bugs and stayed put, giving me enough time to get a good seated stance and decide that though the shot was far, I was just barely comfortable enough to take the shot.
I hit it in the head, and down it went. A few spastic wing flaps, and it was dead.
They’re gorgeous birds, with feathered that provide good camouflage, and tiny, ugly, alien heads. This one was molted mostly grey with a little blue, and looked like a necessary afterthought held on with chewing gum. It will make a good Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m around a year into being obsessed enough with hunting to get fairly deep into the cultural aspects of it, and winning some alternate perspectives on many issues has been the most intriguing part of the whole process. As I’ve discussed, in the US hunting and fishing are remarkably distanced from most other outdoor pursuits. The political dimensions of this split are far from necessary or inevitable, but they hold true a lot of the time. Hearing habitual and invariably derisive references to granola munchers has been a wake-up, as for most of my life I’ve been on the other side of the fence.
It gets old fast, the unconscious stereotyping, and being a lot more aware of the phenomenon takes a fair bit of energy, as it is remarkably pervasive. I get into discussions with coworkers about trophy hunting, and with hunters about why they have no interest in going hiking if they’re not either hunting, scouting for hunting, or maybe looking for shed antlers. Hunters have a point when they say that hikers miss out on a lot of what there is to see and experience out in the world, and non-hunters are correct that many aspects of (especially) trophy hunting don’t reveal particularly noble things about modern humans. Neither point does anything to forgive the ignorance of those who dismiss hunters as crude, trigger happy engines of destruction, nor those who dismiss non-hunters as effete aficionados of nature as museum exhibit. I think that everyone who eats, anything, plants included, should go hunting for at least one year in their life. And if they prefer no to, never go again, without burden. Doing violence to the world around us is an inextricable part of living, and everyone ought to know about that first hand. It’s also a bloody business, and if someone doesn’t want to revel in that, no harm and no foul.
But enough with the thoughtless categorization, amounting out of habit to nothing more than verbal tics, which just allow us to go through each day spending less time thinking about why we do what we do. It’s a particularly odious form of laziness.