Sunday, April 25, 2010

Turkey hunting

During the heart of spring there is a short time period I find it hard to work the dogs. The chukars are nesting and if I try the higher timber areas to walk, there is still several feet of snow in places. I still exercise the dogs as much as possible but spend a little more time by myself in the hills. Although it is not quite the thrill I find with chukar hunting it has a lot of great merits.
The biggest difference between turkey hunting and chukar hunting, besides being with the dogs, is action. With chukar hunting there can be action at any moment, while turkey hunting has lots of down time when you are just walking from point a to point b. Sometimes you get a bird going and end up sitting against a tree for two to three hours waiting for the bird to finally make a mistake. Sometimes you walk all day and don't even hear a bird. There are days chukar hunting when you might not get a bird, but you still get to watch the dog work.
Turkey hunting has it's rewards. There is a lot more to it than just shooting a bird. The weather is usually pretty good which gives you time to sit and just reminisce. The other animals you encounter in the spring are also a plus. Turkeys seem to like the same type of environment as elk in the spring. There are also multiple grouse mating this time of the year.
Coyotes are protecting there young this time of the year. and will do whatever it takes to draw you away from their den. The mule deer buck are already starting to grow their antlers.
The abundance of wildlife this time of the year is amazing. The melody of spring sounds is equally as amazing. Especially the first thing in the morning. I usually walk in to my destination in the dark hours to be able to locate a gobbling turkey. Most of the time, the first sound I hear is that of an owl. Many times that will be followed by a gobble from a tom turkey. As dawn approaches, the sound of robins are everywhere. Before long, the California quail start calling to one an other and a distant chukar is announcing the sunrise. There is a drumming sound coming from the grouse and geese are honking from a near by pond. Once in a while, if the noise from the birds is not to great, you can actually hear a turkey fly down from his roost. Those sounds alone are enough to get me out on a spring morning.
Just like in chukar hunting, the harvest is the important factor. It's more how you got to the harvest that matters. When the action is happening, it can be hair raising. Every time the turkey returns a gobble to your call it sends a shiver up your back. Hearing him spitting and drumming makes it almost impossible to sit still. When the turkey finally appears at 50 yards with a full fan displaying you have to remind yourself to be calm. He needs to be at least 10 yards closer, and 30 yards closer would even be better. Fifteen minutes later, and 30 gobbles later, you begin to wonder what is going wrong. Finally, he stops his pacing back and fourth and starts towards you. You have put your gun on your lap because it was getting heavy. Now you must slowly raise the gun in his direction. Any fast movement will send him back where he came from. He is finally at 25 yards and you have the front bead on his red head. You have kept your cool up to now so don't blow it by peaking over the barrel. Keep your head down on the gun. One more quick yelp from your diaphragm and the turkey lifts his head. As the report of the shotgun dies so does the turkey. His flapping wings hitting the ground sound like thunder announcing his death. As you heft your bird and look at his beard you notice your heartbeat finally slowing down. What a great time you have just had and what a good accomplishment.
Then it dawns on you. I'm done for the day. I can get another bird this season, but not today. Hopefully this will happen one more time this year. As much as I enjoy turkey hunting, that is why chukar hunting is my favorite. I get that same thrill each time one of my dogs go on point and if I am successful at the shot, I can do it 7 more times that day and than start all over tomorrow. I can do that each and every day of the season as long as my legs and lungs will last.
But there are pros and cons to everything. Turkey hunting is much easier to do with people than chukar hunting is. When you are chukar hunting you have to keep up with your dog, which isn't easy for everyone. Chukar hunting can be difficult shooting situations, where turkey hunting is a lot more controlled. So for that reason I have been blessed with the companionship of my family and many others. I do wish they could all enjoy the chukar hunting with me. But the chukar hunting pace sometimes scares people away. I have never seen anything but awe from those who have turkey hunted with me. They are struck by the sounds and sights of the spring morning. I don't know if they are excited about the gobbling toms because I can't contain myself or whether it excites them as well. Either way there is a lot of exuberance as the turkey appears. Barbara and I doubled opening day five years ago. What a grand day that was.
And we always have a great camp up north with plenty of fun camping and turkey action. There is always a good story around the camp to be heard.
My son has been successful more than once with us.
As has been my brother Tom.
And my chukar hunting buddy Greg.
All in all since my first turkey several years ago and Barbs first, we have made turkey hunting a great family and group outing. It's a great way to spend time int the spring outdoors. Even though we have to leave the boys in the camper while we hunt.

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