And How You Can Be a Better Turkey Hunter Too
Back in the day, say before the greatest wildlife restoration story ever took place, chances are your grandfather had a bunch of challenges you don't here in 2018. In some ways, he was a better turkey hunter because of it. Some reasons why follow.
It's hard for some to believe the wild turkey was once threatened with extinction.
As a kid, I grew up hunting the mountain ridges of Pennsylvania for squirrels, grouse, and those big elusive birds we all love, part of a proud turkey-hunting culture. It surely rubbed off on me.
Back then, if a guy heard a gobble, it was a big event. He talked about this experience at the local coffee shop, with an attentive audience nearby. Chances are he was a bit sneaky about it, maybe fibbing a little about the exact location, but you listened and loved hearing those stories.
And he often told them again. Bear in mind now, not a kill, but hearing a gobbler.
When he eventually tagged a turkey - young bird or old ridge-running longbeard - that guy became instantly famous in the local community, his photo appearing in the newspaper, with word of the bird reaching neighboring towns too.
He really had to earn that turkey. Shots were few and far between. There simply weren't as many turkeys to hunt. Each one was special and hard-earned and the guy who killed one, your grandfather, earned every feather on that bird.
Look, I'd be the first one to tell you, I've loved the advances in turkey-hunting ammunition over the past 25 years.
As with other writers and editors in the outdoors industry, I've been happy to shoot prototype shotgun shells made by companies such as Winchester, Federal and Remington on turkey hunts around the country, and then the final version of those loads. It's been an honor and a privilege.
And if I'm honest, and I try to be, those turkey loads are so good they've been forgiving at times when I've made a bad shot - or decision to pull the trigger - and the gobbler still dropped.
Back then, your grandfather had to get his turkey even closer, inside 40 yards, but even that was a little far for a magnum load of No. 6s. Thirty steps was even better, or maybe 25, and tougher to pull off.
He didn't enjoy the over-confidence with the great shotgun shells we have these days. Every inch counted. He had to get those gobblers pretty close to kill one.
Gear to Go
My cabin has enough hunting gear for a football team. Shells. Shotguns. The best in hunting apparel. Blinds. Decoys. You name it.
As mentioned, the shotgun shells, and the shotguns you put them in, are far more advanced than back in the day. Now, true enough, a pump gun is a pump gun is a pump gun. And chances are your grandpa had one, and may even still use it. That's cool. What's not to like about a timeworn 870 full of personal hunting history? Answer: nothing. Though I'm not a grandfather, I've got a bunch myself.
Gear now is just flat-out better, and that includes Realtree EDGE camouflage.
And the advances in turkey decoys over the last 25 years can't be disputed either. Hen and gobbler fakes have never looked more realistic.
Full disclosure: I love all turkey-hunting gear, and always will. While you may not need a blind for ridge-running mountain gobblers, it can sure keep you from getting hypothermia on a wind-blown, early-spring turkey hunt in places like Wyoming and Nebraska, to name a few.
I've been there.
Your grandfather never had any of this. And he still killed turkeys.
Chances are your grandfather had it, has it, and will have it, when waiting on gobblers.
"You can't rush a turkey," the old saying goes.
Your grandpa knew that then and now.
Stop and Think
If you don't pause, reflect on, and appreciate all the turkeys we have now, you should. And if possible, you should do it with your grandfather.
That ammunition you carry, and all the gear in your vest, and the stuff you're wearing to the turkey woods this season, it wasn't always this way.
Remember that when you kill a bird and give thanks.
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Editor's note: This Realtree.com blog post was first published on Feb. 14, 2017.