Fall Turkeys, Absent Companions, and the NSSF.
I didn’t shoot any turkeys last week. Now some out there would say that is rather amazing. Keeping with full disclosure here I hunted seven days and never clicked the safety off on the shotgun. Along with a very able partner, I hunted as hard every day as one could in often 75 degree weather. O, it was beautiful, but warm.
The reason I said this might be amazing to some is that many of you out there know me as a fall turkey hunter. It is a mistake to allow yourself to even remotely believe that you are anything special when it comes to hunting turkeys. The minute one does this the turkeys take it upon themselves to take you down a peg or two (or three). By the end of the week let’s just say I didn’t feel worthy of carrying Ben Lee’s, Ray Eye’s or any other turkey hunters lunch box.
Once again, full disclosure; I had help from some pretty capable partners. For many years I have fall turkey hunted with dogs. That’s right, with dogs, some of you know about this time honored tradition, (I maintain it originated in Virginia), and people’s views on this subject are all over the map. Like many things in life if we don’t understand it something we often say we don’t like it. That is OK, but I don’t argue with people anymore.
What the turkey dog does is basically run the woods trying to find the scent of a flock of turkeys. He will then pursue the flock, run into the turkeys and scatter them to the four winds. (O yeah, and we want him to bark while he is doing this). Most of you know this is essence of fall turkey hunting, you have to find them, break them up, and then we call them back in. Sounds simple enough, but you have to find them first.
By the middle of the week I was more than a little disheartened. Tired, footsore, and grouchy, I was down on my dog (whose only fault was to scramble everyday trying to find me a turkey), the weather, (which was beautiful), and life in general. Thankfully, as it often happens, the clouds parted for even a slow witted hunter like me.
I stood one morning watching Callie, my small white pointer, as she galloped around the edge of field. For a second or two I thought I was seeing my old dog
Patch, now long gone. An English Pointer with a rhythmic, rocking horse gait, this vision brought it all back to me. Most of us that hunt with dogs figure we have one super dog in our lifetime. Patch was mine. I probably stood transfixed for a minute before I came out of the daze.
The problem with idolizing dogs of the past is that the dogs of the present can never live up to our memories. As fond as my memories of Patch are, this is not fair to Callie or any dog in the future. I wanted Patch to be here with me this morning just like I wanted my Dad to be on this trip. But they have moved on and I truly do not think they would want us to quit the tradition because they are not with us.
I figured I had received my enlightenment quota for the week, but I was wrong. Later in the week we were joined by some new blood in our hunt. A fourteen year old young man (grandson of my hunting partner) made me see some things in a new light. This kid was just happy to be there, he wanted to tangle with some turkeys sure, but if that didn’t happen he was fine with just tramping through the woods. There is a lot to be said for an attitude like this folks.
The next day we were joined by a couple of guys from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. If you don’t know about the NSSF, well you need to. The NSSF is the trade association for the firearms industry and since 1961 has been on the front lines helping to defend your rights concerning firearms. Even if you are not a firearms retailer go to the NSSF website, www.nssf.org and check out what they do for recruiting new hunters and shooters and maintaining the ones we have.
One of the NSSF guys was new to turkey hunting and with the slump we were in I was worried about introducing him to the turkey world. I figured if we found no birds (which we didn’t), he would be disappointed. I don’t think he could have cared less. Just like my buddy’s grandson he was happy to explore some beautiful woods, learn about everything from turkey scratching to why we want the dogs to bark on the flush and sit in the blind with us when we call.
Was it fun introducing new hunters to a wonderful sport that I was taking for granted? You betcha. Did I get some much needed battery charging as to what is important? Absolutely.
I’m gonna shoot a turkey next week.
Larry Case can be reached by email at email@example.com