Author: Ty Woodward
Pursuit of the Hunter, the Conservationist, the Future
It was a brisk spring morning on the Front Range of Colorado and the sun had not yet risen and would not for quite some time. Muffled footsteps were heard across the cold hardwoods, while little boys and girls were awakened with a shake. With tired eyes and argumentative cries they reluctantly put on their boots, and ate their breakfasts. These kids, these conservationists and future of what we hold dear, had vague understandings of what they were about to embark upon. It was time for the spring thunder.
We set forth on our mission for the day without any ideas of certainty, but the hopes of the youth were riding high on our desires to produce. For this day was not about harvesting, it would not end in a tag punched, nor blood on a leaf. This day was about building for the future. For the future of our families, our wild places and in a sense, our society as a whole. With that in mind; the kids were fastened into their seat belts for an experience that would shape their lives.
The breeze was soft, but the air was crisp as we set out from the vehicles. Two families embarking together with the hopes of observing one of the greatest spectacles of the wild spring. It wasn’t long after we entered the woods that the clues of the birds presence began to present themselves. Tracks, feathers, scat and roost trees were all interesting topics of investigation as we hiked through the old yellow bellied Ponderosa Pines. The thick orange bark of the aged Ponderosas presented itself in a way that spoke of the days of past, of mysteries unseen by the human eye and wisdom beyond our comprehension. With every step forward it was apparent there was a sense of excitement and curiosity in the children.
Before long we arrived at our destination for our first set; a recently cleared area where trees had been harvested to restore the forest to its former self, a restoration of an evolutionary environment under which the inhabitants had evolved to live. A soft purr rang out from the box, followed by a yelp. Then we heard him. The muffled gobble of the wild tom turkey. It wasn’t long before this dinosaur of the modern age was upon us. Running in to the sounds of what he thought to be a receptive hen. The excitement of the kids (and adults) was electric! The tom came to a slow and then began the show. In full strut, he fanned his tail feathers, drug his wings and danced for what he thought was a lady. This went on for a few minutes with corresponding gobbles. The tom however was not satisfied with remaining on the other side of the log pile from his potential partner. He ventured around the obstacle and to within mere yards of the ecstatic on-lookers. All the while performing the spring ritual for which we came to see.
The day carried on much in this same fashion with many more encounters and spectacles to be had. The kids took joy in seeing the birds in their habits and habitats. Joy in calling to the birds themselves with pots and boxes and eliciting that timeless reaction of gobbling and strutting. There would be no shots fired this day as this experience was for the future. The experiences obtained and the laughter had would be all that was needed. This story is about providing the immersion into the wild, which in itself will provide for insights that will shape these young minds. These types of outings are what will lead to future conservationists and hunters with the passion it takes to continue our traditions. Whether they choose to hunt in their future, only time will decide, but it is assured that they will have what it takes to be a conservationist at heart.
Experiences like these are foundational in becoming a big game hunter of the west. The lessons learned translate directly into what it takes to be successful in pursuing the wild meat we depend on. Many debate the comparison of elk hunting to turkey hunting, but from my personal experience I can tell you this; tracking is comparative, sign reading is comparative, calling is comparative, and the experience of being in the woods…..it is the same. The kids in this story learned not only of the turkey, but of the community of wildlife which inhabit the wildlands we seek to conserve. They learned not only the physical skills of woodsmanship, but of the emotional and immersive experience of becoming one with the nature, participating as a member of an ever-exclusive minority of Americans who will connect with our wild brethren as an equal. They will pay respect through their reverence for wild places and wild things.