New Year’s (Hunting) Resolutions

I was pleasantly surprised to note that today was April 4th.  Somehow, and without me really knowing it, March slid quietly away to leave us with exactly three weeks to go until the spring turkey opener here in Ontario.  I blame this niggling cold that has been hanging on to me for the last week or so for using a Vicks induced haze to blur my normally acute perception of time.
Initially it appeared that the weather was wanting to cooperate as well; then we had a small blip last night in the form of five centimetres of snow over four hours.  It’s all gone now though because it was followed fast by a midnight thunderstorm…now it is 16° above zero with drizzle and it looks as though we’ll be experiencing a solid string of days above freezing.  Ahhh spring in southwestern Ontario; the place to be if you want to experience five different seasons of weather in less than 24 hours.
So barring another spring snowstorm or cold snap (because seriously, I’ve had enough of them) things should start coming together soon in terms of scouting, nailing down plans, and increased bird movement.  For me, the opener is in a way my real New Year’s Day.  I get to begin another year of hunting, and it starts with spring turkeys.
According to many unconfirmed and anecdotal sources, it takes 21 days to make or break a habit.  So in that spirit, here is another list (see I told you it was a sickness I have) of the 10 habits I intend to make or break for the 2011 spring turkey season.
1.      Stop calling so damn much
As I’ve said in previous posts, I love calling.  I can hear some of you now saying “I call all the time, and I’ve had lots of success” or “I read an article that touted the advantages of constant aggressive calling” and I don’t doubt you at all.  However, this is a the top of my list because this approach has only taken me so far, and this year I’m resolving to only call twice after a turkey stops answering me.  If he answers I’ll keep putting the wood to him, but if he clams up so will I.  I’ll report back here on how that goes.
2.      Learn to sit still
‘Nuff said.
3.      Calm down
I think a significant part of my hilarious ineptitude stems from my excitability.  Thankfully I’m not one of those yahoos that gets excited and shoots at movement or gets so jittery so as to be generally unsafe, but I am admittedly a bit high-strung in the turkey woods.  The euphemistic word would be ‘intense’.  When I’m intently listening for a distant gobble or concentrating on scanning the bush for any signs of movement I get startled easily.  Three years ago a sparrow landed on my gun barrel when I was not expecting it and I almost soiled myself.  Last year some very fresh bear sign in my hunting area had my nerves stretched extra taut.  And so on.  I still enjoy turkey hunting (almost too much) but perhaps if I can take a deep breath and live in the moment, maybe I’ll enjoy it that much more.
4.      Be patient
This is directly related to the “sit still” resolution.  My dear old dad has told me a hundred times that I abandon my stands too early, in all hunting scenarios, turkey or otherwise.  So this year if I hear a gobble and the bird doesn’t rush right in to my serenades (because, after all, they usually don’t) then the bird gets two hours by the clock before I get creative on him.  If I’m not hearing anything…that’s a different and much more difficult scenario.  With limited time to hunt, I often feel that I have to “make something happen”.  Three times in the past this tendency has resulted in me bumping gobblers.  I can’t commit to a time (because again, I don’t have a surplus of hunting opportunities), but I’ll try to hang out on stand a bit longer this year and try to wait out a silent tom.
5.      Pay attention
Twice last year I looked up and saw turkeys that had “materialized” in a place where they weren’t before.  Once it was two hens who apparently had not noticed me yet.  The other time it was a jake that trotted away, and was never really in gun range to begin with.  I’ve had the same experience while deer and waterfowl hunting so I’m really going to try to expand my field of view.  Like most, I tend to focus on key areas that I think look like probable places for a turkey to show up in; this approach has mixed success at best.
6.      Try new things
Last year was my first year of having a fighting purr routine in my calling repertoire.  While it was not the magic bullet that some product marketers might have you believe it is (I found no truth in the statement that “everything comes to a fight”), I did have some success using it to get gobbles out of turkeys, and in the case of that dastardly Pines Gobbler, it almost led to his demise.  This off-season I’ve put in some time practicing a couple of calls and have pretty much mastered the arts of kee-keeing on a pot call and of using a mouth call to gobble to turkeys.  The latter skill should come in handy as a “kitchen sink” tactic for hung up old toms, especially since I usually hunt on private land where this call can be used with relative safety.  I would strongly advise against gobbling on public land or any place else where another, less responsible, hunter could mistake you for the real thing and try to sneak in on your calling.  A face full of lead #5 is not an experience I would relish or wish on another hunter.
7.      Record every hunt (within reason)
Part of the fun of having this blog is the ability it gives me to share the hunting experience with others (seemingly on a worldwide basis).  So this year I’m going to give it my best shot to record every hunt here on Get Out & Go Hunting.  Please stay tuned for stories, lies, photos, cameo appearances from my hunting buddies, and maybe even some video from my 2011 Spring Turkey Odyssey.
8.      QTIP (Quit Taking It Personally)
I’m a very competitive individual, so failure does not sit well with me.  That said, I was raised with the ethic (and I still strongly believe in it) that hunting is not a competitive sport, it is recreation and it is best enjoyed as such.  It is nice to shoot the biggest bird or the trophy buck, but those goals should not be the sole driver of the hunting experience.  Reconciling these two opposing pulls on my personality has led to some hilarious outcomes, and it has deepened my overall understanding of the hunting experience.  Like everyone else, I’m always learning more every time I go out into the forest.  A soccer coach of mine once said it perfectly.  To paraphrase, he said “Winning isn’t everything, but then again, who likes losing?”  To put it another way, the ultimate goal of hunting, obviously, is to bring home some game.  Failure to do so does not necessarily make the hunt worthless, but then again, besting a perfectly adapted wild animal in its natural element, when all of nature’s advantages are tipped in the game’s favour is a pretty special feeling too.  If you’ve been following this blog at all, you probably have a feel for my personality, and I do consider it an affront to me as a hunter that I don’t shoot more game.  That said for 2011, I’m going to put aside the small shred of pride I still have left and just accept whatever hands are dealt me.  Much like resolution #3, this may make the experience even more enjoyable.
9.      Share with my readers
Like I said above, in my efforts to record all the hunts from this year, I likewise intend to put as many of them up here on the blog.  I’ll share what works and what doesn’t work, but this will serve as a proactive disclaimer to state that doing anything I do does not necessarily mean that you’ll be successful.  In fact, given my track record with spring turkeys, quite the opposite is the more likely outcome.  That said, with these tales of hope, failure, and possibly success I hope that can give some incentive for readers to pop in here throughout the season.
10.  Make some new friends
Since I’ll be sharing with you, I encourage anyone that feels so inclined to contact me here with any hunting stories or photos that you may want to share with this little corner of the hunting community.  I’ll apply the filter of the Comments and Terms of Use policies (I don’t think they’ll prevent me from posting anything) and post your experiences up here.

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