Another visually challenged, hearing impaired gobbler happened to walk into my shotgun pattern this spring. Since my wife also shot a turkey during the same hunt, I found myself in possession of nearly 40 odd pounds of prime turkey flesh. (They were both big birds.)
Now my wife and I absolutely love wild turkey, but two large gobblers make an awful lot of turkey sandwiches! So, it was decided that the best course of action would be to invite all our relatives to a big turkey feast; which we did.
After we had finished the meal and everyone was sitting around commenting on the fine taste of the birds, (no tame turkey could compare) my grandfather asked me for some details of the hunt that lead to my gobbler’s demise. While telling the story, I happened to mention that I had seen the turkey fly down from its roost, where upon my sister-in-law exclaimed, “I didn’t know turkeys could fly!”
Now think of it, here was an individual who had just consumed the flesh of what is arguably our finest game bird and she didn’t even know the creatures could fly. I have no idea what she thought the turkey’s wings were for! Further discussion revealed that she had in fact, never seen nor heard a wild turkey in her entire life. Yet, she had just eaten parts of two!!!
It is indeed a sad fact of reality that in these modern times we have individuals so far removed from nature and natural surroundings that they do not know wild turkeys can fly!
The more I thought of this whole disheartening episode the more I realized just how truly fortunate I am to be a hunter. To understand that although we have pre-eminence over animals, there are many valuable lessons learned only through close observation and direct interaction with them.
And there, may be the greatest, if least expressed, reason for hunting (or fishing) of all. When you hunt or fish, you must go to where the fish and game live. To the fields and streams of the wild, wonderful, quiet, solitary places so foreign to the mass majority. And, while you’re there you can’t help but learn some of nature’s ways. You don’t have to try to learn; all you need to do is just be there. Nature will take care of the rest.
Now of course some fool will say, “Why do you have to hunt or fish, couldn’t you just go out and observe nature and leave the animals and fish alone?” And I suppose you could. But, it is a fact of human nature that people generally need a reason for doing something. People exercise to feel and look good and to stay fit, not for the fun of exercising. Also, when you hunt or fish you are not merely a spectator observing nature, you are actually a participant in it; something that can be said of no other outdoor pursuit. As anyone who has done both would tell you, there is a world of difference between taking a picture of a deer and hunting, shooting, skinning, cutting up, cooking and finally eating one! When you shoot a deer you are fulfilling your role as predator; you take personal responsibility for the death of another living creature that will ultimately be consumed by you. It is a very humbling experience indeed; an experience I feel far too many present-day people are lacking.
Another grand aspect of hunting or fishing is that while you are outdoors pursuing fish or game, you may just be lucky enough to see one of nature’s splendid wonders. In fact, you might see such a spectacular show that you forget you’re supposed to be hunting or fishing in the first place. Just such an occurrence happened to my wife and I last fall.
It was nearly November and we were hunting mule deer in the rugged Salmon River Country of West Central Idaho. Now, as anyone who has ever hunted this country knows, it’s as steep as a cow’s face and extremely rugged. Consequently, one of the best ways to find game in it is to simply climb to the top of the mountain, sit down and glass the many surrounding slopes. That’s precisely what we were doing when we saw them. Elk, six bulls in one bunch; and man oh man what big bulls they were. Four of them were six points, one was a seven point and one was an eight point. Imagine an 8 X 8! I remember thinking of all the pictures of elk or mounted heads I had ever seen, nothing even came close to this grand old bull. In fact, the thought crossed my mind that possibly I was looking at the largest bull elk anywhere, ever! I became light headed. We had no elk tags, and you know I was glad. We didn’t have to hunt them; there was no pressure. Instead, we had the absolutely wonderful pleasure of simply watching them. And you know, while we were watching those bulls the biggest mule deer in the whole state of Idaho could have walked by and I doubt we would have even noticed.
At times like those, I am truly glad to be a hunter.