Turkey hunting is an addictive sport for good reason. Here's why just seeing turkeys can really get the blood pumping.
Just seeing wild game when you're out in the woods is a day well spent. These are the main reasons why I enjoy seeing turkeys as much as tagging and bagging them.
Whenever I have an early morning sit, waiting for that elusive Tom that's larger than anything I've seen from the roadside leading up to the season, I can feel it. There's a sense of anticipation that's really hard to control, but it's also part of the euphoric feeling you get when you finally do see something.
Turkey hunting, like some but not all hunting scenarios, lets us see the natural world come alive in the early morning's light. A flicker of activity catches our attention. Is that a big gobbler coming to our clucks and purrs, or is it a cottontail stirring in some brush? Is it a hungry coyote looking for an easy meal? Maybe it's a curious doe checking out your section of the woods?
It's during those early morning, twilight hours that our eyes play tricks on us, and thick timber can almost always mean you're going to see movement before you can make out with it is.
If you're turkey hunting, getting a good look at the bird is one thing, let alone determining its beard length, spur size, or even sex. It's a real test of mental fortitude as you squint your eyes and crane your neck, trying to see anything that gives away the situation.
If you're hunting turkey during breeding season, it's significantly easier to distinguish the feisty male gobblers. They are the ones looking for hens, ready to fight just about any Tom or Jake they find. They can be very vocal, and just hearing their call can make your adrenaline flow.
Turkey hunting has become a tradition as strong as deer hunting in some places. You may see a turkey in your backyard, but seeing one while actively hunting just doesn't compare.
I think another reason I'm thrilled with merely viewing a wild turkey is that the Native Americans held the turkey in such high regard. The turkey is a powerful guide to good behavior. As hunters, it's easy to feel that calling of the Native spirit, and relating our modern day actions in the hunting woods is a neat interweaving of eras.
Even watching a small hen working its way through a field can bring a smile to our faces. If a big gobbler came along, we'd probably be close to the end of our day in the woods. Anyone who wants time spent hunting to be cut short is crazy. Dropping a turkey is a big deal; you're only allowed so many each year. The meat is well-earned, but we're usually sad when the hunt is over.
To me, the symbolic meaning of turkey hunting involves being an invisible part of the wilds. With the correct conditions, a big beautiful bird might just come in for a visit.
But if you just sit back and enjoy the moment, you'll begin to find out why just seeing a turkey can be a thrill. Little things are big things when you think back to them. When you develop a bigger vision of what's truly important, the memories also last that much longer.
A perfect hunting trip might not even include a bagged bird; just the experience of being outside amongst nature is often enough for me.
Understand that, and you'll understand why I like seeing turkeys just as much as I do hunting them.
Do you like articles about the outdoors? Click here to view more articles by Eric Nestor. You can follow him @ericthewoodsman on Twitter, The Classic Woodsman on Facebook, and @theclassicwoodsman on Instagram. You can view more Nestor Photography photos at Nestor Photography.