Underwear Gnomes and Turkeys

Reader Contribution by Maggie Bonham
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It’s hunting season, which means that my and my husband’s lives go on hold for 5 weeks to try to fill our freezer. Actually it goes on longer than that when you count in upland bird season, fall bear, and anything else we care to look for when it comes to meat.

Despite the reports of great hunting, we we’ve been struggling to get all our tags filled. Yes, we got our two antlerless tags filled, and occasionally managed a wayward grouse, but everywhere we’ve went, we’d run into the wrong species, sex, or the wrong unit to hunt the critters.

That’s why when we ran into the Tom turkeys, we were surprised.

Talking Turkey

I raise a few mixed heritage breed turkeys. Although I have a small flock of them, this year I was loathed to thin the turkeys because none of the turkey poults survived longer than a week. That’s really the way with turkey poults. They’re tough to get to hatch and even tougher to raise until they’re a few months old. After that, they’re really wonderful birds and I’m fonder of them than chickens.

Even the broad breasted turkeys are charming. My very first turkey was a broad breasted white hen that fell in love with me. (No, I’m not kidding.) Turkeys bond to whatever they see as poults. So, if you’re the one caring for them, they think of you as “mom.”

Although the domesticated broad breasted turkeys are a bit short on brains, the heritage ones are smart. In other words, they didn’t get as dumbed down as the standard Thanksgiving turkeys. Which brings me to the wild variety.

Wild Turkey: The Bird, Not the Booze

Having seen and dealt with both the wild and the domestic versions, I can truly say that the wild turkeys are impressive. When I first saw wild turkeys oh so many years ago on a road, I was stunned. I didn’t know what to think. What were they? Emus? Yes, I can laugh now, but then I had never seen one.

When I moved to Montana I was soon surprised to see wild turkeys around. I remember walking with my husband and we heard something that sounded like a stricken aircraft overhead, only to discover it was a wild turkey in flight. Yes, they’re loud when they soar. We soon saw them all the time on the road and in the forest. Whenever we went to purchase hay or go places we’d see them in fields.

The Underpants Gnomes

Come hunting season, forget it. Wild turkeys are notoriously crafty. I nicknamed them “the Underpants Gnomes” after characters in Southpark who are only seen by one child and disappear when he tries to get other people to see them. The turkeys move on foot at an astonishing rate, so when you see them, you’d better be ready to shoot.

The flock of four toms were on a small hill. My husband managed to get a shot and we saw the bird flop around and then disappear into the woods. One thing to be aware of is that not only are these critters crafty but their camouflage makes them impossible to see even when down. We ended up finding the blood from the shot and through some tense minutes of looking, I was able to see where the feathers lead to the bird. He was still alive, so we dispatched him and called it a day for hunting. With less than a week before Thanksgiving, we now had our turkey.

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