Gobblers vs. Humanity: Which Do I Like More?

My wife made an interesting point this weekend, basically asserting that I thought of wild turkeys and wild turkey hunting more than I thought about her and our family.  She may have been being glib or she may have been serious (reading between the lines is not my forte), but she may be on to something.  With today being Valentine’s Day I was only slightly surprised at how much more I was thinking about the upcoming turkey season (a mere ten weeks away!) than I was about my spouse and the blatant and shameless commercialism of Valentine’s Day.  So I thought I’d draft up an impromptu list of ways that the wild turkey and human worlds run somewhat parallel and through simple comparison see which species comes out on top.
Conversation Ability
There are a variety of people I’d never want to hear speak again.  The list includes (but is not limited to) Lady Gaga, politicians and pundits of every banner, Maple Leafs fans, that guy who hosts America’s Funniest Home Videos, and everyone on Jersey Shore.  I would not really want to talk to any of them, and if they were to talk with me, I’m sure my life would not be any richer for it.
The gobblers?  I’m happy to hear from them anytime they want to talk to me and I often find myself trying my best to reach out to them and strike up a conversation.  In fact, when a gobbler refuses to talk to me, or says a few things and then stops talking to me altogether, I get all anxious and paranoid; the feeling goes away when I hear the bird sound off again.
Advantage? Gobblers
Ability to Maintain My Interest
Perhaps in the last few years I could be judged to be guilty of being less diligent in getting out and hunting.  Of course, my involvement has not dropped off completely and I still get out for twenty or more days a year all told.  There is just so much more happening in life what with a job, family, housework, writing, bills to pay, and so much more demands my attention now.  Some of it is great; for example my young son is permanently entertaining.  Some of it is not so great; think laundering a week’s worth of diapers, or shovelling a four foot wall of heavy wet snow out of the driveway.  There are many priorities competing for my attention and keeping them straight can be challenging.
The gobblers?  When one of those big, strutting puffballs is around me, I am 100% focused on the task at hand.  Nothing holds your attention like a big old tom coming to check out your calling.
Advantage? Gobblers
Impressing the Opposite Sex
(As someone with very little skill at impressing the opposite sex this point will be based strictly on observational data)
At a club, bar, beach, or other suitable gathering place, men will begin a display of their physical fitness by accentuating their size and strength and by occasionally demonstrating their strength and dominance over other males by engaging in acts of physical violence. 
The gobblers? They do the same thing, just not at a club, bar, or beach.
Advantage?  Draw (almost a win for the gobblers, since they only do it for a few months in the spring before returning to normal, but I’m thinking holistically here so it’s a tie)
Surviving Unaided in the Wilderness
No contest.
Advantage?  Gobblers
Manufacturing
People can make almost anything, from hand-worked stone and wooden tools through to massive buildings and very tiny, very complex electronics.
The gobblers?  They can’t even build a nest.
Advantage?  Humankind
So with a score of 3 to 1 (with 1 draw) the gobblers win.  I’m not really surprised, what with the challenges associated with getting close to wild turkeys and observing their behaviour, and this doesn’t mean that I necessarily want to drop out of society and go live in the woods with the turkeys (in fact that experiment would without a doubt end disastrously) but I can say that I certainly find turkeys much more interesting than people, and the score seems to bear that out.  I guess my wife was right.
If any one out there has any other humanity vs. gobblers scenarios to add, feel free.

Wolf-Coyote Hybrids Study Needs Support

A colleague of a hunting buddy of mine is engaged in an Eastern wolf population study in and around Algonquin Provincial Park.  Check out the study website here and lend your support/pass the link along to other interested parties if you are able.  In this case, and so it seems with most conservation and natural resource-based studies, funding is a question mark.

I feel we all have a duty as outdoor enthusiasts to be educated about and involved in conservation, and the information gathered about wolf-coyote population dynamics in this study could be pertinent to future conservation decisions related to the Eastern wolf subspecies.

If this is something you are interested in I encourage you to take a look.

2011 Turkey Season Challenge–Fundraising for The United Way!

For those of you who know me, you will also know that I took up running in 2010 and that since then I semi-regularly participate in 5km races.  This change was adopted to improve my overall health after I noticed how winded I was one day during the 2009 deer season.  It has also helped in the weight loss department.
So how does this relate to hunting?
My next 5km race is the ENDUR-Race on April 9th, 2011 and I am using this race as a conditioning tool to prepare for the spring wild turkey season.  The race also doubles as a fundraiser for the United Way through the 2011 Waterloo Running Series
This is the part where I (figuratively) kill two birds with one stone.
If you would like to donate to The United Way you can sponsor my run as I prepare for the upcoming 2011 turkey season, .  If I receive $250 in pledges I will run this race in my turkey gear (pants, fully-loaded vest, shirt, facemask, gloves, and hat).  $400 in pledges and I will run this race in my turkey gear with an additional 20 pounds worth of weights on my person to simulate carrying a harvested turkey.
The only exceptions to equipment that I’d be carrying are as follows:
  • For obvious legal and safety reasons I cannot run the race while carrying my firearm or ammunition
  • I’ll be wearing running shoes as opposed to hunting boots.  This is both to prolong the life of my boots and to protect my feet from blisters
Everything else that I would normally carry in the spring turkey season (i.e. all my calls, a decoy, water bottle, etc) will be in my vest and making the race with me….provided I hit the fundraising targets.
The Waterloo Running Series is a key supporter of a number of charities including The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and The United Way
Pledges to the United Way of $20.00 (CAD) or more are eligible to receive a tax receipt for the ENDUR-Race.
If you’re interested you can email me here and we can hammer out the logistics of making donations.
Thanks for your support.

Hunt Like a Woman

Thus begins my first post, although very likely not the last, on the sometimes touchy topic of women and hunting.  I must admit that this is a topic that has always intrigued me and, as a man with no female hunters in my social circle, that I have no point of reference on at all.
I suppose I’ll just start off with the following disclaimer: I have a history of in no way being capable of understanding what motivates women.  I assure you that it is more a function of my personal inabilities than some innate character flaw afflicting all of womankind.  If everything I write here turns out to be flawed drivel, this statement is my proactive means of defense.
By extension, I in no way understand the challenges facing women that want to participate in hunting, primarily because the barriers to entry into the sport for a man are low.  What follows is simply myself, in a good-humoured fashion, attempting to shed some light on what I’ve observed in the male/female hunting dynamic.  Sadly my only exposure so far to this is in my parent’s marriage (where Dad hunted basically anytime he chose to), my own marriage (more of a mixed bag approach for geographical and financial reasons), the relationships of my friends who hunt (all male) and what I can glean through web-based research on the subject (since I have not yet mustered the courage to approach random women and politely ask them if they have ever been duck hunting).
What I can observe is the following.
When I go to the hunting section of Bass Pro Shops, the boots, jackets, waders, firearms, and various other items are designed to fit me, and frankly they take up most of the hunting section.  Certainly for the hunting man, there is an embarrassment of riches to be had in terms of selection and sizing.  My wife once brought to my attention that there seems to be a limited amount of women’s hunting apparel, although there appear to be no shortages of casual wear, t-shirts, and the like for women.  Despite this difference in marketed apparel and equipment there strangely is not often a gulf in the number of men versus the number of women I observe in the store.
Hmmmmm.  Are the women there in some sort of ‘support’ role for the men?  Are they just good-natured and tolerant of us fellas while we drool over our camouflage and blaze-orange bounty?  Do they really care about the differences between a short-reed style goose call and a flute-style goose call?  Are they there with a list to buy for a father, brother, uncle, or significant other?  These are all the stereotypical reasons I could think of.  The one scenario that runs counter to the stereotype is that the women are there to buy some gear, maybe try out some new equipment, and then get out in the field.  Since I (as I mentioned above) personally do not know a single woman who hunts I can only assume that they would do the same things I would do at Bass Pro Shops if similarly motivated.
When I go into the field to hunt it is always with men.  When I meet other hunters in diners or at gas stations, they are invariably men.  I can say with certainty, that at this moment in my life I have never been hunting with a woman who was actually participating, and I do not know personally any women that actively hunt (let alone maintain a license to hunt).  I have seen women hunting on television (more on that below), one of my father’s friends is married to woman who once hunted but does not anymore, and I have had my wife tag-along on a couple of trips with me, although she was merely a by-stander (also more below).  So it begs the question, why?  Are women apprehensive or in some way fearful of hunting?  I don’t think so.  Are they too sensitive to be able to take an animal’s life so that the animal can later be eaten?  Again, I think the answer is an emphatic no.
Could it simply be a matter of non-involvement?  Maybe women in hunting has become a growing demographic?
Take for example my younger sister.  While my brother and I were following our dad and uncles into the forest and fields since before were 10 years old, my sister never seemed that keen to come along, in fact I can count on my left hand all the times she has ever come hunting with us (and still not even need all the digits).  There was some peer pressure from her friends I’m sure, and it might not have seemed cool to hang out with your brothers and dad at one time.  There was even a brief period where I think she was ‘off’ meat (but that was a short-lived phase).  Likewise I remember Christmases and birthdays where almost all the gifts my brother and I received were focused on hunting (boots, jackets, compasses, books, magazines, etc).  My sister, not so much, but I think that was less of a focused attempt at gender roles on my parent’s behalf; more accurately it was really just tailoring gifts to what we kids showed the most interest in; between my brother and I the common thread was hunting.
But things have changed and now, and with us all into our twenties and beyond.  My sister sees how much fun we have when we hunt, she hears (sometimes ad nauseam) of the shared experiences gained from the field (even when we get skunked) and, lastly she sees how much we enjoy just being out in the wilderness.  And now that she has seen all the positives objectively, and not refracted through the lens of sibling rivalry and the schism of brothers vs. sisters, there is talk of her getting licensed and coming out to join in on some waterfowl hunts.  She’s welcome to join me anytime she wants.
Also a sign, or maybe a symptom, of the dearth of women in hunting comes in the form of mass media.  As far as I can observe, television shows about hunting only occasionally feature women afield; there are of course mainstays such as Vicki Cianciarulo, Brenda Valentine, Tiffany Lakosky, and other influential and successful women hunting on television, but still my ad hoc research has men outnumbering women in hunting shows by more than 2 to 1.  Then again, this segment of the demographic looks to be growing and will likely continue to grow…I’m just not sure.
What is most heartening, though is the progress in the environment where I have seen the most honest dialogue about the topic; on the Internet.  Blogs and sites devoted to women in the outdoors are all over the web; some of the more diverse and interesting I’ve found to date are the Women’s Hunting Journal, The WhiteTailed Doe, and Gordon Setter Crossing although my research has been far from exhaustive and I’m certain I’ll come across others as I continue to research the subject.
So where can men who, like me, do not know any female hunters have the greatest impact on developing an inclusive, (since for all the self-styled macho history of hunting, I think it is likely in the best long-term interests of the tradition to be inclusive of women, or anyone else for that matter) welcoming environment?
Primarily, and this is from my own experience, it is in being a good mentor and ambassador for hunting.  My forays at including my own lovely wife (and a very limited numbers of girlfriends before her) into hunting were fruitless, primarily because I was a bit of a jerk.  When I took my wife on a Thanksgiving weekend goose hunt in 2004, I was constantly reminding her to keep her face hidden and to sit still.  That compounded the fact that she did not really like being awake that early in the morning.  When we went snowshoe rabbit hunting for the first time, I spent as much time telling her to be quiet and to stay behind me (both points important for success and safety respectively) that the afternoon turned into a bit of a power struggle and in the end an argument, never mind that she almost openly wept when I did end up shooting a rabbit. 
The moral of these brief, self-deprecating anecdotes is that maybe my wife with her aversion to early mornings, sitting still, being quiet, and the all-important ‘killing’ part of hunting would not be a suitable long-term candidate for the sport; which is fine.  Hunting is not necessarily for everyone.  But perhaps if I had been less didactic, overbearing, and focused on my own success, and just a bit more accommodating and interested in her having a good, safe time (because one can never be too safe) than maybe I would have had a recruit, or at least an even more supportive partner in this integral part of my life.
Instead, my wife is still supportive of the important place that hunting has in my life, but she likewise has really no interest in even trying deer, turkey, or any other kind of hunting with me.  Despite the polite jokes I sometimes make about that, it is a bit of a loss for me.  After all, should she not get the same enjoyment out of hunting that I do?
And I think that is all my wife or any woman really wants when it comes to hunting, and that is not to be treated like a man, and not to receive any special treatment or lectures because she is a woman.
Maybe, and this time I’m pretty sure, they just want to be treated equally and with the same respect you give your buddies.
But I could be wrong, because again…I have a history of missing the point with these sorts of things.

Hunting. Not Hype.