To try and describe turkey hunting would be comparable to trying to bottle and package the sensation one gets when a large multi run salmon rises from river bottom to your dry fly or watching a black bear ghost into a bait site. I deem words inadequate to capture the moment. Be that as it may, turkey hunting has all the requisite components to make for an outstanding hunt. The birds are large, clever, make prime table fare and they respond appropriately to calling. Until you actually witness a Tom strutting in the morning light, you can't visualize the colors these birds have in their plumage. What else could any camo clad hunter want? The one thing I can think of is to have a season here in Atlantic Canada.
Turkeys are flourishing in places like Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ontario, and now apprently in New Brunswick, which all have seasons ( Other than NB), agriculture, and natural food sources such as Nova Scotia. One year I was in a hunting store in Ontario buying a couple calls for my upcoming turkey hunt and began talking to a local hunter who happened to be in the store the same time as myself.
I asked him if he hunted turkeys. His response was an excited “Absolutely, they’re awesome!”.
He gave me a few suggestions with calls and calling. Also in our conversation he told how the birds were expanding further north every year. He told me that it was now fairly common to see wild turkeys as far North as Thunder Bay. I can only assumme he was telling me the truth. I do know that when I first started going Stateside to chase these birds each spring in nearby Maine, it was hoped they would populate and surive as far north as Bangor. They have surpassed that line and then some !. They are crossing into NB on a regualr basis.
Please don’t confuse wild turkeys with a few operations / illegal stockings that crop up once in a while. Those birds have nothing, I reiterate nothing, in common with their wild cousins. If you haven’t hunted wild turkeys, take my word, they are a genuine challenge to hunt and they would surely be a favourable augmentation to our present wildlife population. Albeit, that's from a hunters point of view.
Beyond any shadow of doubt, there are be some amongst us who perceive the introduction of wild turkeys as an unfavourable occurrence. One body of hard working folks who may be opposed are those who grow produce of some description for a living. Undoubtedly, these large birds will indeed ingest a certain amount of corn, apples, grapes, etc., but when I checked with the farmers whose acreage I hunted on in New York state, their sentiment was that while the birds do as a matter of fact eat some of their various crops, the over-all damage was manageable. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate concern on the farmers behalf.
Perhaps the poultry industry had some concerns over disease risks…..if I recall from early discussions on the subject. It is my understanding though, that any birds brought in would be captured from a wild flock and tested for desease before coming across any border.
Other circles perhaps have worries over the potential impact turkeys may have on our resident pheasant population. Whereas Nova Scotia is more or less at the most northerly region where pheasants will successfully live and breed some worry what will happen when the bigger birds are in direct competition with pheasants during our long cold winters when food is scarce. Another legitimate concern for sure, however, there are numerous locations that have both birds cohabitating within their borders, that at times have severe winters equivalent to Nova Scotia’s.
My first ever turkey hunt was almost more based on looking for a hunting opportunity for my son, who was too young to hunt in Nova Scotia. We opted for New York state as they had a two bird limit. Back then, Maine was still a draw for a turkey tag and we had missed the deadline for the draw, so we packed up the truck and hit the road. The third and final evening of our New York turkey hunt unfolded as if pre-written in a hunting show script.
Picture this: The sun is beginning to slip below the diverse stand of hardwoods we’re hunting. I’m sitting against the base of a giant beech tree. The hillside is thoroughly full of turkey scratchings (made while the birds forage for food). Hens are yelping all around us. There are possibly 10 birds approaching our calling. It’s not a matter of if we’ll see the flock, but when. While following the loud excited gobbles coming closer with each second, I see a large tom proceeding to investigate our calling. I aim at his red head and pull the trigger. The bird flops cleanly and my hunt is over.
Moments later I am securing my second ever punched turkey tag around his leg. The 4 nice birds in the cooler on the trip home will provide 6 or 8 great meals of some of the tastiest wild game meat around. From slow roasted to soup, wild turkey meat is a lean, clean source of protein.
Walking off the mountain in complete darkness, I am comforted by the hefty weight of the turkey slung over my shoulder and having had the chance to share this hunt with my son Dylan, I remember wondering to myself if it can get any better than this.
The only way I could think it would have been better was if we had wild turkeys in Nova Scotia........nearly 20 years later, my thoughts remain the same.