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The Last Windrow: Try turkey hunting to beat the winter blues

During this "spring of our discontent," I was thinking of anything possible to get me out of the dumps. Then the wild turkeys appeared below our birdfeeders.

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Only recently did my part of northern Minnesota become a turkey hotspot. Somehow we've been missing the cruel winters of our past. Rarely do we see two straight weeks of minus 40-degree temps and snow up to your waist on level land. This year winter was relatively mild until it was supposed to be spring. Minnesota DNR photo

During this "spring of our discontent," I was thinking of anything possible to get me out of the dumps. Then the wild turkeys appeared below our birdfeeders.

They scratched, clawed, picked at each other and chased each other around the birdfeeders. Our community of red and gray squirrels took to the treetops, and the chickadees fled to the budless lilac bushes while the big birds gobbled up whatever sunflower seeds were left on the ground. My wife's rock flower garden took a beating.

Some might say that the wild turkey is a pretty bird. Ben Franklin actually wanted them to be designated as the national bird. Thank goodness someone talked him out of it and the country went with the regal bald eagle.

Well, maybe the tail feathers of a turkey are pretty, but the face of a wild turkey looks like it came out of a horror movie. There are a lot of beautiful things in nature, but the wild turkey's head is not one of them. Give me a green-headed mallard or the red face of a rooster pheasant anytime.

I know that wild turkey hunting is a big-time sport in parts of the country nowadays. You can hardly tune in a satellite outdoor channel without tuning into some sportsmen's show focusing on hunting the wild turkey.

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A whole industry has sprung up around the bird. You can buy clickers, clackers, chalk calls and putters and purrers. Some purchase hoot owl calls, which evidently bring out a gobble from some love-lorn bird thinking it is about to be eaten by a silent, flying owl.

Shotguns are made in camouflage colors so as not to spook the strutting turkey as it approaches your position in the woods. Turkey hunters spend untold amounts of cash dressing themselves in clothing looking like tree bark or a pile of grass. It's big business.

Only recently did my part of northern Minnesota become a turkey hotspot. Somehow we've been missing the cruel winters of our past. Rarely do we see two straight weeks of minus 40-degree temps and snow up to your waist on level land. This year winter was relatively mild until it was supposed to be spring.

But the turkey flocks made it through again, and evidently there aren't enough timberwolves or owls around to diminish the numbers. There are now hunting seasons on the wild turkey around here. I'm reading up on the regulations. I just might be tempted to participate.

I've heard different opinions on the eating desirability of the wild turkey. The one wild turkey I had a chance to chew on many years ago was indeed chewy. I think the cook wasn't totally versed in handling the wild bird.

Recently I've visited with people who have found ways to make the meat tasty and less like chewing on a piece of wang leather. I guess you can buy something called an oil cooker and dunk your bird in that, or you can smoke the bird or make turkey jerky.

So, progress has been made to make the turkey palatable. I hear pickled turkey gizzards are quite tasty.

My brother has hunted wild turkeys, and he has mentioned that he might be interested in hunting the birds behind our house. He has all the gear and the ground blinds. In order to get me out of this long winter funk, I may just have to borrow one of the tents and see how this sport goes.

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I'm practicing my purrs and gobbles in the shower in the morning. My wife thought I was having a minor stroke. But no, I was talking turkey, honey. Purrrr ...

See you next time. Okay?

Related Topics: THE LAST WINDROW
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