Thank you Madam Toastmaster. Fellow toastmasters and guests, thank you for joining me on this fine evening. As you heard in the introduction, I’ve gone turkey hunting with my father and uncle the last couple of weekends. I’m going to talk about why after 26 years of being against hunting I decided to go hunting, and share a couple moments that stood out to me during our recent adventures.
Why the change of heart?
Hunting has always been a big part of my family, especially on my dad’s side. Before my grandmother passed away, all of the families would gather at her house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Much of the conversations during these gatherings revolved around hunting. I felt out of the loop on this subject because I was one of the few members of the family that didn’t hunt. I never acquired a taste for this activity; I would rather spend my time playing basketball, video games, or hanging out with friends.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t try to become interested in hunting. I had a pellet gun when I was younger, and “hunted” small birds that were in the backyard. I wasn’t really sure why I was doing this. I suppose the main reason was, “my family hunts, so I’m going to try it and see what it’s all about.” I ended up shooting a small bird and a frog. I felt a tremendous amount of remorse from taking the lives of these two creatures. After that event, I vowed to never hunt again. This past February, as part of my father’s birthday gift, I agreed to go turkey hunting with him. There are a couple of reasons why I had the sudden change of heart.
I recently read “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Sclosser. There was a portion of the book that discussed the conditions humans and animals experience inside of slaughterhouses that provide meat for most of the fast food chains in America. The way the animals are treated is shameful and disturbing. After reading about slaughterhouses, I feel the process of hunting is much more humane. As with anything in life, there are people out there that give hunting a bad reputation by killing for the sake of killing, but I feel if the hunter has respect for the animal and plans on eating the meat from the kill, hunting is much more humane than what takes place in the nation’s slaughterhouses.
The other reason why I decided to go hunting is because I wanted to connect with members of my family, especially my father. My father and I are similar in some ways, but very different in others. I felt that by going hunting, this would give us a common avenue to grow our relationship as father and son.
Spring turkey season started on April 6th, and continues until May 6th. I have gone hunting three times so far, and plan on going a couple more times before the end of the season. In the three times, I have gone, there have been a couple moments that stood out to me. I would like to share those with you now, starting with the morning of the first hunt.
My dad woke me up at 5am; we had to be ready to go once my uncle got to the house at 6am. The three of us arrived at the designated hunting spot still under the cover of darkness. My dad and uncle knew the area pretty well, and they suspected some turkeys would come strolling through the area once the sun came up.
My dad and I setup just to the west of a pond dam, and my uncle was just to the east of us along a fence. My dad had a decoy of a female turkey that he placed in the clearing just about 40 yards in front of our hunting spot. Within minutes of us getting settled in, we heard several gobbles in the not-so-far-off distance. I’m new to the world of hunting, but I thought this was pretty impressive. These two men clearly know their stuff! My uncle started using his turkey call, but couldn’t seem to woo the sought-after male turkey towards neither him nor us.
The next 30 to 45 minutes were relatively quiet. The only noises were the rustling of the trees and birds chirping. It wasn’t long after this that we started to hear a couple gobbles off in the distance. Before too long, two hens came into our field of vision. They came into the clearing just off to our south and came charging towards the decoy. These two ladies didn’t seem pleased there was this sexy new lady on their turf. They checked out the decoy for a little bit; they didn’t seem too impressed with what they saw out of the inflatable plastic hen. The two gals started to make their way off to the west.
Just as the two ladies were exiting our field of vision, a male turkey came strutting in. This guy was all puffed up, but was treading lightly. He didn’t come charging in on the decoy like the two hens did. He kept his distance, and eventually made his way behind a cedar tree just to our south. He must have caught eyes with the two ladies because he kept moving to the west after them.
A little bit later we started to hear gobbles off to the north. From where my dad and I were setup, we couldn’t see very far to the north because of all the timber. There was no way for either of us to shift positions. Not only were our legs asleep from sitting so long, but it sounded like the turkey was too close for us to start making any sudden movements. My dad and I sat very still, and this thing had to have come within 10 feet of us. We could hear it stepping through the leaves just at our back. I figured he was going to lock eyes with our decoy and go check her out, but this guy was far too savvy for that. This turkey has been around the block a few times because he took off to the north, out of our field of vision.
When I first told my father I would like to go hunting with him, we discussed what he liked about it so much. One of the things he mentioned was the intense adrenaline rush he feels when the animal comes into your field of view. He didn’t quite know how to explain it in words. After the events of this morning, I had an idea of what he was talking about. When the turkey was at its closest point to us, I certainly felt the rush of adrenaline my father was trying to describe. I brought that up to my uncle and he said, “if you don’t get an adrenaline rush doing this, you don’t have a pulse.” There were other events from this day, but I felt the most connection to the first encounters I had with the few turkeys that came around.
In closing, I can certainly say that I have enjoyed the last couple of weeks. It would be easy to say that I wish I would have started hunting sooner, but I don’t think I would have the same respect for it as I do right now. Hunting is more than going out into the woods with guns shooting animals. It may be that way for some people, but not so with my family. It’s about respecting nature. It is about bonding with those around you. Thank you for your time, Madam Toastmaster, the floor is yours.