The season had been a rough one, but finally I had birds standing broadside at just under 20 yards.
The first photo of this article is entitled Jakes: First and 20. Now you’re probably thinking that’s kind of a weird title and that perhaps there is a great little story buried somewhere within. Well guess what, those of you that were visionary enough to think that are correct; and guess what again, I am going to share it with you whether you want to know or not!
The photo depicts three handsome, young tom turkeys strolling past an arrow stuck in the ground. There are actually three arrows visible in the shot and just for the record they mark spots that are 20, 30 and 40 yards from my blind. I had temporarily misplaced my rangefinder (an occurrence that seems to happen more frequently as I age) so I had to settled for using old arrows to mark distances in the two shooting lanes this site provided. It seems fairly obvious that the arrows don’t bother turkeys and the small bullseye that one has to shoot at in a wild turkey mandates that he or she correctly judge the distance between the crossbow and the target. Being blind in one eye since birth, it is almost impossible for me to judge range without some kind of assistance; therefore the rangefinder is the most important tool that I carry in my daypack.
This particular photo was taken on the last day of my 2010, 5-day turkey season. Bad weather and pending deadlines had kept me for taking full advantage of the season, but finally everything fell into place and I was happily in my blind for the final, full day of hunting. I had drawn the second season, which was the first part of April and had proven to be very poor hunting. The toms were hanging out with the main flock and had plenty of open hens to keep them busy. I would hear gobbling at dawn as the birds came off roost, but there were no responses to my beckon call as the toms were in the middle of a smorgasbord of hot hens.
The two times I’d been out I hadn’t even seen a Jake; but the last day of my season dawned bright and clear with the promise of temps in the mid 70’s from all of the weather prognosticators. It was going to be a great day to hunt turkeys and I was determined to fill my tag. I set up my blind and just to make sure that I didn’t, in the excitement of the moment, misjudge distance I placed the markers in both shooting lanes.
Around midday the Jakes materialized out of the dense woods and joined my decoys in the bright, late morning sun. As the photo verifies, I had the trio of birds standing broadside at just under 20-yards from my blind and considering that I have yet to kill a wild turkey, that probably would have been a good time to put the camera down, pick up my crossbow and get on the boards. I didn’t do that, however; instead, for the next couple of hours I took pictures. They fed, scratched, laid down to nap and then went through a variety of stretching exercises when they arose; all the while I digitally documented their antics.
Eventually they melted into the thick cover and were gone leaving me sitting in my blind with an empty tag and a camera full of turkey pictures. As I pondered what had just taken place over the past couple hours, it dawned on me that I wasn’t in this hunting thing for the killing anymore. I had been given a perfect opportunity fill my tag (which I only draw every 2nd or 3rd year) and chose instead to shoot with my camera taking a total of 679 photographs of the birds over the period of time that they shared my space. How did I feel about that? Well, at first I thought that perhaps I should have stopped at 600 photos and then launched an arrow at a bird, but some of those last 79 photos were pretty good, therefore I obviously had made the right decision.
The entire experience got me to thinking about the Stages of a Hunter, an outline that we cover in the course of our bowhunting education classes. It’s a thumbnail sketch of the different stages that most hunters go through as they develop and mature. Not all hunters go through every stage, but most of us do; and in the course of my 55 years of hunting, I can identify with each and every stage, recalling approximately when I was in each one.
What had just happened with the Jakes was all the evidence I needed to convince me that I had definitely arrived at the Sportsman Stage. I was at that stage, scratching my head in wonder, but I was definitely at that stage. Although the encounter left me unsure of how the experience had helped me in the “Improving upon their hunting skills” part of the stage, I had to admit that I sure had gotten a lot of shooting even if it was only with the camera. If I had chosen to take one of the birds, I am very confident that I could have made the 20-yard shot with my crossbow that was presented to me on more than one occasion.
In the final analysis, it had been a good hunt and I was pleased with the way it had turned out. In the form of beautiful photographs, I have my trophies to hang on the wall. There had been no bloodshed, no life lost, nor was there any gutting of butchering to be done. It was a personal experience that I would not soon forget and it had even made me feel kind of mellow and good. Yes sir, it had been an excellent hunt and I had once again proven to myself that, it’s not about the killing.
Which Stage of a Hunter are you currently in?
STAGES OF A HUNTER
Shooter stage-In this stage a hunter thinks a good hunt is a lot of shooting. Missing game is not as important as pulling the trigger to these hunters. Shooter stage hunters should be concerned about safety and proper use of hunting equipment.
Limiting Out Stage-These hunters still talk about enjoying shooting, but the number of birds or game animals shot is their goal. Their goal is to limit out.
Trophy Stage- These hunters try to shoot only the biggest game. They may travel far to find the animal they want. Shooting is less important at this stage.
Method Stage- In this stage hunting has become more important. They still want to take game, even limit out. More important to them, however, is how this is done. These hunters study the habits of their game and they use special equipment such as black powder or bow and arrow.
Sportsman Stage-These hunters enjoy being with friends and family in the outdoors more than taking game. They enjoy the whole experience, including: Improving upon their hunting skills, Training dogs, Studying animal habits and purchasing equipment.