Meleagros gallopavo, the American wild turkey. A bird of uncommon beauty if you are skillful and lucky enough to observe in the wild. There are few sights that I have seen more magificent than a mature male bird displaying a full strut for his "ladies" or to ward off a male challenger. Sitting deep in the forest, or on the edge of a farm field or the cut line of a pasture when the birds are within 30-40 yds puts your heart in your throat AND takes your breath away.
The bevavioral traits of the American turkey are equally admirable. A diligent breed, they protect and raise their young (poults) against all threats and predators. To use the words of Benjamin Franklin ... "for in truth the turkey is in comparision (to the Bald Eagle) a much more respectable bird ... he is, though a little vain and silly, a bird of great courage, and should not hestitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who would presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on."
Meleagros gallopavo, the American wild turkey. An animal I admire and respect. Despite their large size and substantial weight, wild turkeys are agile flyers and are quick and nimble while on the ground. Unlike their domestic counterparts (including not just the farm raised "Thanksgiving Turkeys", but all the semi-tame birds found on golf courses and in suburban neighborhoods) wild turkeys are a cunning breed. A cautious bird, wild turkeys will run off or fly away at the slightest sign of movement or sound that they do not recognize as benign. While quickly evading what they perceive as a predator, the bird will emit a vocal distress call alerting other birds in the vinicity of the potential danger. They are a most challenging species to hunt. Something as minor as repositioning a hand on your gun, a 2 inch move with camo gloves on, will spook a bird. It is not uncommon for a hunter to stalk the same bird for many years to no avail. Bagging a mature tom is an accomplishment for anyone who hunts.
Pursuing them in the wild has become an obsession for me. The hunt itself is it's own culinary feast. Putting a tag on a bird is ending that feast with a gourmet dessert. Hmmm, maybe it's becoming an addiction? My wife certainly thinks so. But does she too suffers the addiction!!!!???? While not able to join us in the field (busted leg, ski injury), she witnessed Jake's successful taking of a grand old tom through binoculars while glassing our hunting blinds. She was so in the moment and subsequently jubilant you would have thought we won the lottery for millions. Lets say she is obsessed at this point.
Now as for Jake, Kellen and Ben - obsessed or addicted? Well the physical demands of travelling 4 hours immediately after just having finished a Saturday clean-out, working all week, prepping your gear, getting up at 4 AM, march into the woods in the dark, sitting in the blind for hours, bugs, cold, rain, etc., etc., etc., just to hunt 1 day puts Ben in the obsessed catgory, but based on his passion for fishing, addiction will soon follow. Kellen drove up from Fordham, arriving later Saturday night. Same regimen. Prep gear, early start, etc.
Due to his strong commitment to family and work, Ben's season ended after just 1 day. He just couldn't nor wouldn't shirk his responsibilities to join us on another weekend. I wished he could, but am proud of his ethics and his decision.
Kellen also stayed true to his responsibilities concerning his education and commitments as an RA. He was able to get back to Red Hand for one more full weekend. He was the only one to hunt all 3 days. On the final day we were to hunt, he almost took a bird after falling asleep in his blind. Jake and I took the day off to sleep in, Kellen toughed it out. Sounds a little addicted to me?
So that leaves Jake. I could site numerous circumstances that support this conclusion, but it would get tedious. Jake is neither obsessed nor addicted. He is possessed. The spirit of his 1st bird has entered his body. The wonders of the hunt, the serenity of the wild, the resolution of the pursuit, the satisfaction of achievement, the grandeur of the bird, the elation of success and the gratitude for God's bounty has done Jake in. Possessed.
Me? Obsessed, addicted, possessed? Actually none of the above. ENLIGHTENED - the truest description of the experience. Maybe it is because we have embraced hunting from a conservationist's perspective. Maybe it's because we weren't born to it as are the farmers and country folk up at Red Hand that we prize it so much. Maybe it's getting back to a simpler life and being able to escape the grind of modern society. Maybe it's the feeling of solitude, serenity and spiritualness that makes you appreciate the greatness of our Maker. For me, it's also the shared passion and time spent with my family that is growing with this new pursuit. So I am what you'd call an enlightened addict. Hi my name is John, and I'm a turkey hunting addict.