I was talking with a hunting mentor at a local track meet. Cal has had 35 plus years of influence over me and I appreciate his insight.
“Could have killed lots of turkeys this season but never had the right one come to call yet. It seems like they are all “henned up,” or have stopped gobbling and I’m not going to ambush one.”
I love purists and might even have raised one of my one when it comes to fishing. To a purist, turkey hunting boils down to creating an appropriate setting and then effectively using one’s skill and tools to lure a mature bird into shotgun range. It is little different to the ethics of the ardent fly fisherman who want to catch magnificent fish on their home waters with a pattern tied on their own bench.
But turkey hunting guides have been tasked with producing birds even when nature creates lulls in a long season. In order to fill the tags of clients, I must confess to bushwhacking more than a few long-beards over the years.
My wife says that bushwhacker sounds like the name of an industrial weed eater, or perhaps the name of the ardent critics of a recent political dynasty. For me it is the process of examining the travel patterns of trophy birds and devising a plan that puts a hunter safely in the path of their daily routine in such a way as to have them come within fifty feet of the end of a shotgun barrel.
A successful bushwhacker also has to have the fortitude to camouflage themselves and remain motionless to avoid detection from some of the most piercing eyes in the wildlife kingdom. Even the most trivial tick or irregular movement sets off the alarm putts that can mark the end of that morning’s hunt. Days of examining terrain and devising avenues for creeping into place before first light can all go right out the window in an instant if a curious fly decides that your nose looks like a cool place to spend the day. Then it’s back to the drawing board because a wise old bird won’t use that path again.
For the purists, sitting in wait is akin to trout fishing with dynamite. There is so much less skill and hundreds of dollars in equipment and decades of accumulated calling finesse that gets left by the wayside.
But I love the beauty of a simple plan that gets the job done.
It seems that there are fewer of my weekends that afford the time and attention needed to deploy all of my decoys and calls. Some seasons I only have a few hours to pursue birds on my own and leaving all of the accumulated baggage behind finds me feeling liberated and lighter on my feet.
This is no confession, because I ask no forgiveness.
If you ask me, golf would be more manageable if they made the holes a bit bigger and the same goes for basketball hoops and hockey nets. I’m not shooting birds off of the roost nor using a rifle, but I know there will still be a few who look down their noses at a hunter who takes to the field to fill his stomach rather than chase a trophy. I’m ok with that and appreciate that hunting allows us all to go afield for different reasons that change as we transition from one form of gathering to another.
So for this morning’s hunt I am lying in wait and the memory of golden brown, batter-dipped turkey breasts is setting my mouth to watering. I hope the gobbler the boys saw last night is still in on this ridge.