There's that special feeling a turkey hunter gets when matching wits with a turkey. You call and he answers; you call again and nothing. You move to scratch that bump on your nose left by a voracious mosquito, and you hear a "putt" and see the movement of a dark flash exiting the area at a speed you could not believe.
I think it's that one-on-one game, much like the pickup basketball game at the local park or something similar, which brings the challenge we all enjoy. There will be seasoned turkey hunters who can say they have not been whipped by a long beard in this one-on-one match up, but anyone who has enjoyed the game is quick to agree that getting beat is OK. The game is worth every moment. But it's not the only thing that beckons us to the spring woods each year.
Turkey hunting has become a challenge that the whole family can enjoy- something we can do together and share stories and memories which last season to season and build a heritage like none other. A couple of personal examples may help to highlight what I mean.
As the Hunter Outreach Coordinator for Colorado, I have the opportunity to take young turkey hunters on their first outings each year. A parent in tow, we arrive before the sun breaks the horizon and settle into a blind or up against a good wide tree and yearn to hear the gobbles and clucks of turkey still on the roost. The questions, shivering excitement and simple wonder of the spring turkey woods is always very evident. When the game begins, I start calling, and the toms responds. As the bird approaches us, the excitement of the young hunter becomes highly evident with the sound of rapid breaths, a gun barrel dancing so hard I am surprised a shot could be taken and a picture of pure concentration, so deep that all motion is contained in a small body about to explode. After a hunt, regardless of a harvest or just that wonderful encounter, those young hunters are hooked for life- a dedicated hunter of the long beard who vows to return each spring to the game. And most do, reflected by their annual letters to me, citing their experiences in the field.
A second example is more close to home. I took my wife Mary on her first turkey hunt several years ago. Mary enjoys her time in the field with me but is much more a waterfowl or upland bird hunter than any other species. She found the game more alluring than any other she had tried. The crisp spring air, the excitement of an approaching tom and the beauty of the drama that plays out, she has passed on the harvest, just to let the game go longer. But after two successful seasons, she seeks the mature tom now. She is even learning to call for herself and is ready to chase the old tom that will make the game more exciting. A four year old bird with two inch spurs and a foot long beard… now that will be exciting. Maybe she will let me come along.