Cumberland Times-News

Outdoors

November 10, 2012

Autumn turkey hunting real deal

To me, nothing feels more like hunting than turkey hunting during the fall season. Just something about it.

Tradition I guess.

Fall turkey hunting is no longer a tradition, though. Like all small game hunting, it has been usurped by the fascination with big bucks and bows. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Each person has only so much time and has to individually choose the most desirable hunting activity.

I’ll admit, if I haven’t taken a Maryland bow buck by the time the one-week turkey season arrives, I am a bit double minded while in the woods.

In fact, some of the biggest and easiest bucks to kill with a bow and arrow would be the ones I have seen over the years while I have been slipping through the mountain with my shotgun in hand.

Seven times I have had green-eyed bucks walk near with no indication they knew of my presence. Even at ground level it would have been a simple matter to dispatch them via stick and string.

But then I got to thinking, I wouldn’t be in those same spots if I was bowhunting. I’d be in a treestand or ground blind and may have not even seen these bucks.

I think the fact that Maryland has legalized crossbows changes that scenario. With a crossbow, it would be much easier to still-hunt, that is slip ever so slowly and secretively through the woods attempting to get near the quarry.

I recently had a young hunter tell me he had never heard of that kind of hunting. That didn’t surprise me. Not many people do it anymore. Most deer and even turkey hunting now is a matter of sitting in a treestand or ground blind.

I am one of these crazy, aging hunters who believes that every deer and every turkey is a trophy, that the success of the hunt is in the experience and the harvest, not necessarily in the size of bone or feathers.

I know. I’m in the minority.

I plunked a young gobbler on Nov. 1. Sat against a tree and waited in a spot I know turkeys like. The afternoon wait wasn’t long, though, and I took the first bird that came into shotgun range from a group of nine.

The bird, with black-tipped breast feathers and an itty-bitty snood, weighed an even 10 pounds, which is a pretty chunky November weight for this year’s boy bird. The sylvan smorgasbord is loaded this autumn and gobblers are — what else — gobbling it up.

In this gobbler’s crop were a substantial amount of small, hard red berries, one large acorn from a chestnut oak and a katydid. Even turkeys like balanced meals.

When I walk out of the woods carrying a young turkey in November I feel like I am the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting on the cover of Saturday Evening Post.

Now, if only I could find paper shotgun shells again.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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