You’d think a month-long season wouldn’t go so fast, but here we are already in the last week of pursuing spring gobblers.
If you watch social media you’ve probably seen hundreds of pictures of turkeys by now. If you haven’t shot one yet, you might be feeling left out. But remember — some of those hunters extend their seasons by traveling from state to state with access to the best turkey hunting properties. They harvest half a dozen gobblers or more and they make it seem easy.
You and I both know that if we hunt enough, sometimes it will be easy. Other times it will be hard. The proof is that if you hunt only a single state, some years you get a gobbler right away and other years you never fill a tag. If you’ve hunted hard this season in New York or Pennsylvania and you’re still turkeyless, don’t let discouragement get the best of you. Don’t lose sight of the real reasons you hunt turkeys. It’s not about racking up a high kill tally.
Feel free to congratulate hunters who’ve shot 10 birds this year, or 100 or 200 in their lifetimes. Those are notable accomplishments for sure, and if you regularly fill a tag in the highly pressured states of New York or Pennsylvania, and you had more time to hunt, more money to travel, and more access to plenty of good turkey habitat, you could be one of those guys.
But if you think the ultimate goal of spring turkey hunting is a high body count, or even a single filled tag, you’ve missed the bigger picture. (And I suspect most hunters with the big kill numbers agree.)
Don’t get me wrong. I like filling tags. Every turkey I call in is an endorsement for the turkey call I invented. Last Thursday it fooled the hen in the photo that accompanies this column, and if she had shown up 10 minutes earlier she would have been a live decoy for the gobbler that hung up right behind me. Fooling turkeys with a call you’ve designed is fun, but even that isn’t the bigger picture. What is the bigger picture?
Turkey hunters find themselves right on stage for the annual drama of spring. We get to see things we’d never otherwise see. Spring is a glorious time. Songbirds are returning, nesting, and singing to welcome each new day. Fawns are being born. Black bears are looking for mates, and sometimes respond to our turkey calling. So do coyotes and foxes and crows and hawks.
A red squirrel runs across your leg. A hawk drops a mouse right in front of you. A coyote pup dives into a den when it sees you. Every animal participates in this annual production, and you’re part of the cast. If your head was on a pillow, you couldn’t be part of the performance. You wouldn’t be on the stage. But the play is not about you, so if you hunt turkeys for the admiration or applause of others, you should probably quit.
Even if another hunter has all the luck, and even if you end up making thin soup from your unfilled tag, you were on spring’s stage. That fact alone distances you from almost everyone else. And hey — the curtain hasn’t fallen yet. You can call one in even on the last day, so get back on stage.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.