Gobble, gobble: turkey hunting could soon be reality near Acme

If everything goes according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s plans, hunters in the North Puget Sound area will soon have the opportunity to don full camouflage or ghillie suits and engage in an grand old American tradition, hunting wild turkeys.

Working in cooperation with the National Wild Turkey Federation, the groups are putting together a program for the WDFW to release wild turkeys at a site approximately five to 10 miles northeast of Acme in Whatcom County.

With the price of gasoline these days that almost forces a fella to take out a second mortgage on the house or give up his first-born male child as collateral for a fillup, having to drive a relatively short distance for a crack at a “long beard” makes good sense, (or cents, however you choose to spell the word).

Turkey hunting is a real kick and just like going after deer and elk with a bow, the successful pursuit of the wily gobblers requires the same amount of patience and skill.

Trust me, just getting a shot at one of the big fan-tails isn’t quite as easy as they make it appear on the Outdoor Channel’s “Hawg Quest.”

Back in Michigan years ago, the Department of Fish and Wildlife came up with the brilliant idea to release turkeys in certain parts of the Yankee Springs Recreation Area. This was one of the first stockings outside of Pennsylvania and Virginia that had been undertaken in many years.

Naturally all the “frontiersmen” in Barry County were fired up and eager to give this new hunting opportunity a try.

The traditionalist that I am, I wrangled my way into a Connecticut Valley Arms (CVA), black powder, percussion double barrel shotgun via a trade.

I figured I was in good shape and didn’t need any more equipment, seeing I had a bunch of camo gear from duck hunting.

I forgot about having to get one of those friction slate callers and an audio tape to teach this neophyte turkey hunter the ins and outs of “turkey talk.”

After a month or so of practicing squeaks and chirps, I came to the realization that it took both hands to use the slate caller. What would happen if one of the long beards walked right up on me? How was I going to be able to shoot with both hands engaged? I’d been told that turkeys are spooky critters so I figured if I dropped the slate and grabbed the gun, old tom would probably take off like a 747.

As a result, I switched to a Knight&Hale diaphragm that went in my mouth. Even if I didn’t sound like a turkey, at least my hands were free.

I spent a bunch of time practicing and I got be, at least I thought I was, a half-decent shot with my “charcoal burner” CVA. At least I created large clouds of sulphur smoke and managed to hit targets with reasonable accuracy.

I figured there would be less hunting pressure and it should be safer as well, Yankee Springs being notorious for people taking “sound shots,” I took Monday off from work and got out of bed long before the sun came up to make my way to turkey country.

Finding a comfortable place to sit under a large tree I was ready for my first-ever gobbler hunt and the excitement was building.

So I sat, and sat and sat, occasionally letting out a chirp or two with my diaphragm call.

As the hours passed the excitement waned, but at least it wasn’t raining.

This was in the days before decoys became a popular and a required item for successful hunts and as the clock continued to tick, self doubt and questions of sanity arose.

“What kind of critter is going to come near some dang fool wearing camouflage, who really doesn’t know what he’s doing, sitting under a tree chirping his brains out?” I thought.

Seemed like a logical question with no logical answer.

I stuck it out for eight hours or so and saw nothing resembling a fan tail anywhere in the neighborhood.

As I headed back to where I’d parked the rig, two crows strayed by. Dropped one, missed the other.

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