The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 4, 2014

Humbled by a simple game bird

I used to think I knew a thing or two about turkey hunting. Back in the day, some twenty-some-odd years ago, I was pretty confident in my skills and my ability to call in a turkey to the end of my shotgun barrel. I would offer my opinions freely when asked about such mythical subjects ranging from the use of decoys to when to call aggressively, or when to simply shut up.  

Fast forward to today. I can say with the utmost degree of certainty that I admit I know nothing about turkey hunting. Maybe just maybe, by stating publicly that I know nothing about a sport I have dedicated so much time and energy to makes the long walk back to the truck empty handed more tolerable. Or it may simply be a defense mechanism I have learned through life’s turkey hunting experiences that allows me to forget last season, or even yesterday for that matter, so that I can awaken full of enthusiasm when the alarm clock rings in the middle of the night notifying me it is time to get up and give turkey hunting another try.

Sure I have squatted down to pose with more than my fair share of adult male turkeys for the famed “hero shot” picture magazines like to publish, but each and every one of those many turkeys was nothing more than a simple gift in my mind. Needless to say, I have taken my lumps and have been humbled by the simple-minded game bird. Experience has taught me that it is foolish to try and predict the unpredictable, and therefore, out of respect for the bird and the sport, I no longer give my opinions on the subject as freely as I once chose to do so.

I do know this about turkey hunting — I will call to him and he might answer and, if he is of the right mindset, he may even decide to stroll my way. The rest is simply out of your control and a sack full of luck, or whatever you choose to call it, can make or break the whole arrangement.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all discounting the talents of calling, concealment, woodsmanship and the lifelong study of the game bird. All of that matters a great deal and is something all turkey hunters should strive to improve throughout their tenure. I have spent many hours pondering the minute details of No. 4 shot versus No. 6 shot and all kinds of other countless debates that we turkey hunters let occupy our brains while watching the ceiling fan go round during the off season. But again, in my humbled opinion, a whole lot of luck and breaks leaning in your favor go a long way in the turkey woods.

So far this season, I have hunted turkeys in Florida, North Carolina, Texas and several of my old stomping grounds here in West Virginia. At the time of penning this column, I have successfully called in and shot a grand total of one turkey. I am humbled by turkeys and plan on staying in this condition until the final whistle blows on a lifetime of turkey seasons.

Good luck this week in the turkey woods — you’re going to need it.

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