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Don’t Forget About the Turkeys

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This past Christmas Eve, Dad and I took a walk in the woods.  I wanted to check a few trail cameras, as well as hang up an additional one.  As the deer in our region begin to slow down in December and head toward their wintering mode, I didn’t expect a whole lot of action on my cameras and in person. 

The woods were eerily still that morning, the only noise the crunchy snow, about four days old, underfoot.  The wind was minimal, and the sky was overcast, making for a gray type of day.  The color was provided by the greenery of the thick softwood trees, which are always pretty with a coat of snow on them.

We crested a ridge in the walking trail, and I caught movement in a bowl out in front of us.  It was a large male turkey, who got a four-step head start, before taking flight across the trail and to our left, crashing tree branches as he flew out of sight.  Behind him were four more toms, who turned and jogged up the hill to our right, their beards dangling across the snow as they departed.

I worry about the turkeys this time of year.  Some of you may have read my post called, “Hop-along,” about an injured female turkey (hen) that we encountered in 2020.  Although the snow to this point is not deep and they can maneuver and find enough supply of food, turkeys will struggle once the snow is deep. 

As I am a spring turkey hunter, of course I would come across a plethora of the birds during the off-season months, including winter.  While it may seem like I have hit the jackpot by finding these five toms in December, the reality is that come spring (turkey season is May 1-31), these guys will be splitting up in search of hens for mating.  Many of these bachelor birds will become mortal enemies and fight each other during this time.  Some will leave the group, never to be heard from again, either because of a hunter’s shotgun shells, a coyote, or they may be tired of being a subordinate bird and wish to become a dominant one.

Regardless, I am on the side of the forest creatures for 11 months of the year.  I spend many winter days making paths in the snow for the deer, who take advantage.  One year, Dad and I were cutting down high handing hemlock branches so the deer could reach and browse on them.  After an hour-long loop, we walked upon a pile of hemlock we had cut down and the deer had already been into them.  Turkeys, whose chief wintertime hindrance is the deep snow, certainly benefit by utilizing our boot prints that puncture through.

Hunting is not all about killing game.  It’s about finding them, and devising strategies that may put them within rifle, shotgun, or bow range.  Sometimes, it’s about the peace and quiet that only the wilderness can provide.  However, don’t forget about the turkeys, and other wildlife come the off-season, for I truly believe that it is our responsibility as sportsmen and sportswomen to care about the their well-being.