Friday, April 29, 2011

Training Exercise to Prepare for Full-Contact Turkey Hunting

As I mentioned in a previous post, my very first REAL hunting experience was pursuing turkeys.  Sure, it was hot... and there were the poisonous snakes.... and chiggers in the nether-regions but other than that... it was grand fun.

This past Fall on a combination 3-day hunting trip to one of my favorite places on the planet (Three Rivers, TX) as the guest of some equally favorite folks, I killed a "smaller than I thought" buck the first day.  This opened up quite a bit of extra "walking around time" and allowed me the opportunity to chase some turkeys.

After receiving a text from my buddy Kevin that he saw a big flock of turkeys headed towards the interior of the ranch, I started to move that way.  I'm 99% sure this was the same flock of turkeys that scared me half to death while I was field dressing the buck and I intended to return the emotion, in 150 grain increments.

As I slowly made my way along an interior road, I spotted the flock meandering along the ridge of a shallow ravine about 40-50 yards wide and directly in front me.  Oh man...this was perfect.  I quickly slide into position in front of a gnarled mesquite tree, while repeating the phrase in my head... "It is too cold for rattlesnakes!  It is too cold for rattlesnakes!  It is too cold for rattlesnakes! ... "

Assuming turkeys were (i) bound by the common laws of physics and (ii) lazy, I was sure the flock would seek the path of least resistance and continue to travel along the ridge of the ravine about 40 yards away.  Also, knowing the kill zone of a turkey is quite small, I cranked up the scope on the trusty .308 to the highest magnification (9X) so I could really zero in and make a clean shot right at the base of the neck.  This was looking like a "slam-dunk".

Apparently, the flock and I were not reading from the same script.  Instead of continuing along the ridge, they, for absolutely no valid reason, turned 90 degrees left and walked DIRECTLY towards me and my now trembling rifle through the geometric center of the ravine, completely disappearing for about 2 minutes.  The next turkey I saw was 15 FEET away from my FEET.  Instantly, this turkey morphed into about 30 turkeys.  I had the rifle pointed directly at the feathery, flowing mass, made a quick mental note to not blow off the end of my foot, but really could not move since they are RIGHT THERE.  Slowly I lowered my head to get a good picture through the scope.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  I forgot I had cranked up the scope to 9X magnification.  The image was about as clear and effective as looking at a Buick under a microscope.

It was at precisely this point I made an astute ornithological observation:  NO turkey on the planet, hen or jake, bearded or beard-free, domestic or wild, EVER keeps their head still for more than 17 milliseconds.  I instantly appreciated why turkeys are usually hunted with shotguns.  I'm not only TRYING to distinguish one individual bird from the next but am also TRYING to determine the right gender too.  I'd find one bird with what looked like a beard only to have 2-7 others enter the view of the scope, bobbing and weaving like a thrice convicted crack dealer running from the cops.  This impossible task went on forever (i.e. about 30 seconds) until the mass worked their way behind me and into the tall grass.  There was nothing I could do but return to camp and eat a piece of home-made apple pie about the size of my head that had been baked in a cast-iron skillet. (The real reason why Three Rivers is such a joy are the hosts and the food.  And the real reason I like the food so much is THIS pie.)

In my constant pursuit of helping educate other inexperienced hunters from my mistakes, I developed a Field Simulation Exercise to help prepare them should a similar situation arise while they are hunting uncooperative turkeys, at close range, with a rifle, while dreaming of pie.

Field Simulation Exercise - Hunting Turkeys with ADHD

Materials Needed:
1 thirsty, mildly hyperactive 6 year old child
1 empty paper towel tube (simulated rifle scope)*
2 cans of Coke
TV playing child's favorite television show (substitution of a cute puppy is fine)
~10 small hard plastic or metal toys (jacks or jagged rocks can be substituted)
* For obvious reasons, do NOT point a rifle, scoped or not, at the child, no matter how poor her conduct grades are in school.

STEP 1.  Give the 2 cans of Coke to child and tell him/her to drink up.
STEP 2.  Wait 30 minutes for high-fructose corn syrup to work its sugary magic.  (Potty breaks are NOT allowed since a ripe bladder will only add to the challenge.)
STEP 3.  With child facing you, place TV/puppy behind the child.
STEP 4.  Spread small toys on ground (i.e. simulated ground debris) and sit on them at an awkward angle while a magazine rack or corner of a coffee table is jammed firmly in your spine (i.e. simulated gnarled mesquite tree with simulated pain).
STEP 5.  Have the child stand about 15' away holding up one of the now empty cans of Coke approximate turkey head level (24").
STEP 6.  Looking through the cardboard tube with your dominant, shooting eye, read the ingredient list on the label of the can.  The image should look something like the following.

STEP 7. Once your eye starts bleeding, stop and eat a piece of home-made apple pie about the size of your head that was baked in a cast-iron skillet.

With practice, I guarantee you will start to carry a shotgun into the woods. 

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