View Full Version : Excellent WSJ Editorial on Turkey Hunting

November 27, 2002, 10:11 AM
This from today's Wall Street Journal Interactive. Enjoy! (BTW, I got my fall turkey this year ... how about you?)

To Kill a Turkey
Try bagging your own bird.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002 12:01 a.m. EST

Most Americans head to the store for their Thanksgiving turkey, but in my family there's a different tradition. Since adolescence my brothers and I have been grabbing our guns and heading to the woods. We want to kill our bird.

Killing a turkey is a lot harder than it appears, and a lot more fun. It's a great American tradition that has helped keep me and my brothers close ever since the days we first began hunting in the woods surrounding our boyhood home in Upstate New York. We've hunted together in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, with Pike's Peak as a backdrop, adventures that offered much more than an escape into the outdoors.

For us hunting means meeting nature on its wild terms, and doing it together, as brothers. Together, we've applied the proper levels of aggression and brute strength, and felt the respect for each other and the game we took--experiences that have shaped all our lives. Experiences that offer lessons in tenacity, self-control and a calm understanding of reality--lessons that are important to master in life.

We are not alone in this. Robert Pugh, one of the nine miners trapped in July, kept his mind off death and the rising waters in Quecreek mine during the 77-hour ordeal by remembering the last turkey he bagged, The New Yorker reported recently. Across the country, the National Wild Turkey Federation reports, 2.6 million Americans head into the woods each year to shoot their own bird.

So a few weeks ago I found myself enjoying a cold, steady New York rain with one of my older brothers. "You know this is kind of silly, when you think about it," he said a few hours into the hunt. He had a point. We were a couple of grown men, dressed in full camo and carrying shotguns in search of birds that are much thinner and have less meat than their domesticated cousins.
They are so thin and long, in fact, cooking them like a store-bought turkey dries out the bird--it's better to dispense with the carcass and cook only the breast and other meaty pieces. This also means there's no need to do the messy and tedious job of plucking the bird.

When we spotted our quarry 70 yards off, it was already too late. The flock of gobblers had seen us first and were on the run, with us sprinting behind them for some 200 yards. We'd hoped to split the flock, and then use a turkey call to lure one into range. But as anyone who has tried it knows, a turkey with a big head start is hard to overtake. After about 10 miles of hiking through broken and rough terrain, the game was over. Turkeys 1, Miniter brothers 0. A few hours later we returned home empty-handed and exhausted.

Killing a turkey isn't easy. Blasting a bird straight away is usually the plan, but that's rarely how it works--the birds are elusive and use the thick underbrush, trees and even rocks for protective cover. When spooked they run and often fly.

Even getting one within range and in the sights doesn't mean the hunt is over. Killing a turkey requires a head shot, and those little heads do a lot of bobbing and weaving. Turkeys also have exceptionally good eyesight--they've been known to spot a man's eyes move 40 yards away--and their hearing is exceptional.

Some guys have killed turkeys with a bow, but, frankly, I don't see how. I've never shot an arrow at a turkey, but I've known hunters who've put a razor-tipped arrow straight through an adult bird, only to have it run away. I've heard of hunters who've shot birds in the body with a shotgun, only to have the dense feathers stop most of the pellets. The birds simply absorb the shot and then fly away.

Turkey lore is replete with stories about the bird's ability to vanish. I've seen a flock of 30 or so happily clucking away, scratching through the leaves and pecking at bugs, then abruptly scattering after one of the birds sounds an alarm. With birds running in all directions, it's hard to follow one in particular. They all seem to disappear at once. I've seen birds step behind a tree and vanish without ever being seen stepping out on the other side. Once, while bow hunting for deer, I saw a flock of 10 or 15 birds simply vanish behind a boulder.

Turkeys can disappear from sight, but for me, the reason for hunting them is plain to see. Pursuing these birds in the rugged, beautiful setting of rural America offers a glimpse of the wild bounty the Pilgrims celebrated nearly 400 years ago. A tradition that can offer that and closer ties to one's brothers is reason enough to be grateful.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com. His column appears Mondays.

November 27, 2002, 12:42 PM
My VA bird is in a cooler, awaiting transfer to mom and dad's place in upstate NY!

November 29, 2002, 08:07 AM
I guess any hunting story that's positive in tone is nice to see in the major papers, but I wonder if this fellow is really a turkey hunter or a hunter of any kind. Chasing turkeys at a sprint, dressed in full camo and his brother doing the same in close proximity - looks like a recipe for them to shoot each other or a third party to shoot them as they are now the backstop for the turkeys coming towards him! Don't chase turkeys! Also, I'm not surprised he can't imagine a bowhunter taking a turkey - you'd be lucky to get within rifle range using his methods!:D

Art Eatman
November 29, 2002, 11:14 AM
Cadwallader, it's just like any other endeavor. Just because folks are out there trying to do something, it doesn't mean they really know what they're doing.

Pick your endeavor; it's a great old big world full of choices! :D For instance, the folks at Enron thought they understood Derivatives; no different from a turkey-chaser.


November 29, 2002, 10:00 PM
Well, some folks DO chase turkeys in the fall when there's less chance of luring in a gobbler in search of a hen. The idea is to break up the flock and then lure in birds as the flock begins to form again. And maybe this guy was hunting private land where he didn't have to worry about other shooters.

My neighbor just got his first turkey this way--with a bow and arrow no less. He took his dog (a Jack Russell) with him, and the dog actually broke up the flock for him. Then, he put her in the car and went back to call. Sure enough, in came a lone hen and out went his arrow. Dead turkey.

November 29, 2002, 10:27 PM
I think breaking up a flock carefully is one thing, and a sustained foot chase is another. The columnist describes spotting them at 70 yards and chasing them for 200 more, and then they go on a ten mile hike for cryin' out loud! I have one word of advice for that guy - "Butterball".:p