Where’d You Get That Bird?
Thanksgiving is upon us and except for the Quartermaine’s and their traditional T-Day pizza, most of us lust after Meleagridinae of one variety or another. Most purchase their turkeys from the local market and if one doubts the popularity of the market birds just trying buying a turkey a couple days before the holiday. Most likely you will be joining the Quatermaines for pizza. The young boneless turkeys are a good choice if not wanting to deal with the carcass after, and they grill up very nicely.
Another method of procuring a turkey is to go into the wilds as did our forefathers and seek one out. The first thing to understand about widl turkeys is that they are as different from their barnyard cousins as the hardwoods of central Wisconsin are from the pine stands to the Black Hills. The wild turkey is cunning, stealthy, and has exceptional eye sight. The bird is a master of blending in and has leaned Nature’s unwritten rule, “If you taste good life is short” very well. Many hunters are lucky to just see any sign.
Many years ago I found myself bumping along a frozen logging road with my partner in search of these elusive birds. We found a good spot looking down on an area with scrapes on the ground. The male turkey has only one thing on his mind at this time of year, aside from winding up on someone’s plate - he is keenly interested in making more turkeys. He will mark his territory with scrapes, patches of bare ground made by scratching. Sometimes you can see the trail of his beard, a bunch of bristles growing from the Tom’s chest in the soft dirt. Apparently female turkeys go for men with hairy chests because the size of the beard suggests some primacy amongst the males.
Camouflage is imperative. Fortunately the Air Force had provided me with everything I needed, including the green wool blanket I wrapped myself in. The wind was coming towards us, making the pines dance slowly back and forth and my camouflage efforts were proven when a couple of chickadees landed on the bill of my hat. Turkey hunting would be high on list of hunting styles because a short nap after entering the area isn’t a bad idea. I am always down with a good nap on a cold Fall day. The only sounds around me were the breeze playing in the branches and the nuthatch on the tree next to me scuttling upside down on the trunk looking for food. We had tried a turkey call, but the “sounds like a turkey to me” method of calling leaves something to be desired. Whether we had gotten the call right or the particular group of turkeys crossing below us was having an unlucky day, we caught them in a horrendous crossfire. Gripped by turkey fever it was providence that we downed a Tom. Shooting female is verboten and carries a stiff fine.
I enjoyed the hunt, but that was the first and last time. I now brave the wilds of the market wading through hordes of hungry snowbirds circling the turkey bin at the market. That wild bird was delicious, but if prepared properly the barnyard bumpkin can be just as tasty…