This year, I celebrated a long-time goal. I got all of my paperwork squared away, got some gear and got into the woods. I’ve been wanting to for years now but a mixture of time and fear prevented me from following through. Now that my son isn’t a little baby anymore, it’s much easier for Mom to take care of him in the mornings, so I’m able to get out. After the season is up, I’m expecting to put some time in on the shores of the Grand River with my dad and my brother, too, so I’m very excited to get back to my pre-baby outdoorsy ways.
I learned a number of valuable lessons these past few weeks. Things that both directly relate to the act of hunting turkeys and other, more philosophical ideas that I’m sure to take with me, back into the woods for many years to come.
Gear is gear. Buy what you can afford.
When I first started looking at turkey hunting gear, I asked on reddit about the differences between Real Tree (or consumer hunting) and Military camoflauge patterns. I asked if there was any study, tangible evidence or otherwise, some measure to figure out if one was better than the other. On a number of opinions and with my own experiences behind me, I opted to buy Multicam. I bought a full set of TRU-styled BDU’s from 5.11, a set of Mechanix gloves, a Condor multi-wrap fleece and I’ll pick up the little bits after this season is done. I’m wearing base-layer stuff I already own and a good set of insulated, waterproof boots. So far, I haven’t had to employ one of the hot-hands packs I purchased, anticipating cold mornings.
On my chest, I’m wearing an old chest rig with a pair of Condor Multicam utility pouches. Inside, I’ve got the MAD turkey call starer kit, my paperwork in a ziplock bag, a couple shot shells, a Clif Bar and a monocular. On my back, a 5.11 Rush 12 in Tan, which I already owned and an assortment of stuff in there – knives, blaze orange game bag, turkey decoy, multi-tool and more.
Sure, I’ll change gear next season. I’ll condense and adapt. Gear is part of the fun for me. I’ll end up getting a Multicam bag and a lower profile chest rig. I’ll probably end up getting a boonie hat or something similar, too. I find, through the green touque I’m wearing now, it’s sometimes giving me a muffled sense of hearing.
One thing I can speak to, completely subjectively, is the success I’ve had so far with Multicam as my chosen pattern. I picked Multicam because of it’s proven effectiveness on a backdrop of many different palettes. For tree trunks, brush, fields and foliage, it just vanishes. Here’s a little story to back up my claim – maybe this is my first ‘hunting story’, but it’s the honest truth!
I was calling back and forth with the resident Tom, whom I’ve been calling, tracking and chasing now for 3 weeks, when an eruption of movement and noise came from my blind spot. I froze, assuming a bigger, badder Tom was trying for some new territory. To my amazement, a young doe snuck into view. With each step of her own, the sound of the forest floor beneath her legs tensed her. She walked up and into my field of view. Standing now only feet from me (when I was done for the day, I measured 3 paces from where I was sitting to her tracks) she paused and canted her head. She looked right at me, right in my saucer-eyes and just stood there, estimating the threat I might or might not have been to her. She must not have been threatened at all, having stumbled into me. She simply turned and walked away. A bewildering, spiritual experience to say the very least.
That. That’s good camouflage.
Be prepared to fail.
Turkey’s are smart, keen and have really, REALLY good eyesight. That’s what I was told before I headed out. So far, I had a day where I actually saw one fly down. I’ve also been in contact through calling one on two separate days. I don’t know what it is I’m doing wrong, but I haven’t come home with one yet.
There’s something intensely satisfying about failing like that. It seems like for everything we do, there’s a tutorial just waiting to give us the easy way out. That’s not the case with Turkey hunting. There’s tips to be found online, but every time you head out, it’s a unique, dynamic experience. Something that can’t be covered by a simple list of do’s and don’ts, hunting is a time-honoured tradition of knowledge. The best way to build this knowledge on your own is by doing.
For me, it feels a lot like fitness. Sure, you know that eating less and working out more will help you lose weight, but it’s not until you start adjusting your diet that you find out how much sugar affects your day to day life. The smaller pieces of the larger idea that make up the whole, that’s what I need to focus on. Calling, long-term comfort and building up my mental toughness, a different variety than is required to get that last set of kettlebell swings, those are the next items on my list to tackle in the fall.