Grandpa’s Bird

aududbon wild turkeyIf you were to travel the back roads along the wild border between Calhoun and Gilmer Counties and mention my name to some well-worn local, you would probably get “You mean that guy who kills all the turkeys?”

I am Scottie V. Westfall III.  Junior is my father. The elder has passed on.

I have never killed a turkey, though I’ve certainly seen the birds slinking along on gray November days, the sort of days when you hope against all hope that a white-horned stag might come slinking out of the thickets and into rifle range.   When the bipedal fantails come trudging out of the gray gloom, I’ve been sorely tempted, but I’ve held my fire.

Not in season. Let them be.

My grandpa killed 8 turkeys in one season. The limit is 2.

He saw them as the Holy Grail of wild game.  He made his own calls and spent hours scouting and “chumming” them.  “Chumming,” of course, meant the copious dropping the “yellow call” in the March woods,  and “yellow call” was cracked corn. Baiting turkeys was illegal as taking more than the yearly bag limit.

He and often argued over conservation issues, but he liked playing the scofflaw, a sort twentieth century version of the old European poacher who loved to flaunt the king’s edicts about the king’s game.

Turkey hunts in spring begin before the sun rises.  The birds start moving and then start courting once there is just enough light to see, and the big tom birds drop from their treetop roosts and go about the business of fighting and fanning before the often reluctant hens.

The trick is to hit the woods before the birds come down and begin the process of “talking turkey.”  The talk a man gives the tom bird is supposed to be that of a dopey but receptive hen that is looking for a male company but just can’t make her way toward him.

If a tom is “henned up” with plenty of female company, he’s not likely to leave them to look for the yelping idiot on a distant ridge. He’s going to be content to stay with his harem and fan and puff  up for them.

The best hunters have strategies for the birds, but the very best– the ones who shoot 8 birds in a season– use the yellow call. They risk the game warden’s fines, but if he really wants the bird, it’s a risk that some will take.

Before there was ever a turkey season, my grandpa set out a bunch of game-farmed Eastern wild turkeys in the back country. The dumb things were too tame to be sporting birds, so he took to harassing and harrying with sticks.

And they soon learned to fear man, and they thrived in the backwoods.  When their numbers were high enough, my grandpa opened his own season and shot a tom.  He was totally flaunting the North American model of wildlife conservation. He’d set out private birds on private land, and now he was opening his own private season.

I can’t say that I approve of such things. I’m more or less in love with public wildlife model that has served our game species so well. I don’t hate conservation laws, which are mostly based upon the most rigorous science available.

But a few days ago, I saw a few big toms out fanning in a pasture. The greenness of the new April grass painted a pastel promenade ground, and the bird’s iridescent feathers were shining in the April sun.

I saw in them the beauty that had so beguiled my grandfather. They drove him into the scofflaw world of sniping turkeys with a .243.  They were what led him the regular haunts in the March woods with buckets of yellow call.

“You gobble. You die,” said the vanity plate on my his Ford pickup.

And for the turkeys he took, it certainly meant death.

But in their gobbling, he truly lived. He was a wild beast of the woods as his ancestors were, hunting hard the wild game without any regard for such artificial abstractions as law and conservation science.  It is the way that our kind lived for much of our 200,000 year existence. It is a way that has brought down many species, including the passenger pigeons which used to fill the skies on warm spring days.

The pigeon died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914, more than 19 years before my grandfather was born. They died off as the wild turkey nearly did. We just couldn’t stop killing them.

The turkey was saved, though, and is doing well.  And the bag limits and seasons get more liberal every year.

I think of my grandpa when I see these birds on clear April days. I know that he would be out there questing for them, yearning for them, coaxing them, ready to harvest as a wild hunting man should.

And I can only come up short. I’m an ersatz hunter-gatherer, wet around the ears, domesticated by the post-industrial world.

Yet still seeking that essential wildness that lies in gray woods of my people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Dog Alerts Owner to Stranded Dolphin – Saving the Sea Creature!

Leia the dog saves baby dolphin

When most of us go walking along the beach with our dog, we might come across some cool sea shells or beach glass. One man came across a stranded baby dolphin!

According to NTD.tv, the unnamed man was fishing and taking photos of his dog, Leia, along a beach in North Whales on the day in question. He was near the mouth of the River Dwyfor when, as he wrote on YouTube, “I heard my dog barking at me from further down the beach….clearly she had found something!”

When the man got closer he saw that she had found a stranded baby dolphin. The shore there was rocky and the waves were crashing hard. Normally if one finds a stranded dolphin on a beach, it’s recommended to call the local emergency services for help. “Unfortunately,” the man wrote, he “didn’t have a mobile signal” that day at the beach and “there was nobody around for miles” to help.

Read more about Leia saving a baby dolphin.

Halo Pets

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April is National Greyhound Adoption Month

For the eighth year, The Greyhound Project celebrates April’s National Adopt-A-Greyhound Month with a national public relations campaign promoting greyhound adoption public service announcements. What can you do to help these magnificent dogs? Tell the world. Change your Facebook profile and/or cover photo to share it with friends. Share a video like the one above, […]


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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Mickey

Micky, a 4 month old Shiba Inu, safely tethered whilst his owners enjoy lunch at Le Petit Port in Menton.
RIVIERA DOGS

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Rain

Naples – Market shopping in the rain.
RIVIERA DOGS

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And they call it Puppy Love

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Dog found alive four days after boating accident killed her owner

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Tuesday Top Ten: Worst Dry Dog Foods

Continuing with the information I first posted last week about dog food tests done by the Clean Label Project. See the top ten best dry brands Here are the worst, based on the amount of impurities and downright dangerous toxins: Orijen Tundra Goat, Venison, Mutton, Bison, Arctic Char, Rabbit Halo Vegan Garden Medley Nature’s Variety […]


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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Thank you! My dog flourishes at home with his adop…

Thank you! My dog flourishes at home with his adopted sis and my husband and I. But when strangers come in the house it's something else. Unless we're in a neutral setting, he is pacing, VERY reactive and just a totally different dog. You can't judge a dogs character by their first meet and greet in my opinion. Especially if it's their territory.
BAD RAP Blog

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How to Puppy Proof Your Home

Puppies are inquisitive and playful by nature. They can be heaps of fun, but it is important to take the right steps to protect your home and protect them from themselves, as having a big heap of energy bulldozing through your home can end in a disaster.

Destructive chewing, playful chewing, jumping on people and getting on the furniture are common behavioural patterns in puppies, but are these preventable?

Chewing and biting

To begin with, puppies may chew and damage furniture in front of you, and it is important to be consistently assertive and to tell them no. But punishing your puppy doesn’t always solve the problem, some cheeky canines continue to chew and destroy your furniture when you’re not around. Simple ways of stopping this from happening are investing in puppy fences that divide up the room into puppy “safe zones”.

Also trying out different behavioural correction techniques can be effective, each puppy will respond differently to the things you try, so don’t give up and stay consistent. Non-aggressive techniques like spraying your puppy with water and saying “no” assertively can be effective. It is important to be consistent with your training, but remember never to be aggressive with your puppy. The end game is to stop them from misbehaving, not to scare them. An unusual but effective remedy is to invest in bitter apple spray to spray on wires and your furniture, this will soon stop your pups from chewing.

Why do puppies chew and bite furniture?

A lot of dog owners believe that chewing furniture is a phase or a mild behavioural problem, such as separation anxiety. Not many people know that chewing could actually be an indication of poor nutrition or not enough food provisions. To prevent chewing from continuing to happen, make sure that you are feeding your puppy the right amount of food every day, and also that you are buying food specifically designed for puppies that have the right kind of nutrients, vitamins and protein. If you are unsure of which food to buy, then it is always useful to consult with your vet,

Over-excited puppies

Puppies have heaps of energy, they jump up at people, can run for hours and always want to play. In order to protect your home, always remember to move breakable ornaments and objects out of the pathway or reach of your puppy, especially if they could fall and result in an injury. Protecting your puppy is equally as important as protecting your home. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure you vet fits them with a pet microchip. If they are ever lost (or worse, stolen) they will be more likely to be reunited with you.

Caring for a puppy can be challenging, it is important to remember to remain consistent and to think of them like another member of the family. If there are small objects that are a choking hazard on the floor, then the chances are that they will end up in your puppy’s mouth. And if there are breakable objects in reach of your puppy, then chances are that they will get broken. And finally, if you catch them chewing or destroying your furniture, chances are that they will try again until they know better. All of these things are preventable, and the older your puppy gets the less likely they will be to destroy your home.

Cathy is a new author and has experience pet sitting and with pets in general. Three years as a pet sitter in college and extensive experience volunteering in a shelter environment, fostering, training, a year as a vet assistant, etc.


PetsitUSA Blog

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