Category Archives: reflections

The Times They Are A’ Changing

I’ve probably written about this weekend before, but if I did it was over a decade ago and to be perfectly honest, I can’t even find it anymore in the morass of scribblings and jotting that I’ve put down here. Perhaps I imagined I wrote about it, but really didn’t. No matter.

You see, for me and many in my circle, this is the most important weekend of the year.

Now, like most of you, I look forward to all the annual milestones that make up a hunter’s calendar but this weekend, the much-heralded Double Opener, is without a doubt the only one that has become sacrosanct and essentially non-negotiable when it comes to my attendance.  As a disclaimer, I did miss one in 2010 as I had parental duties with my wife as we navigated sleep training of a 13-month-old child with her then weekend work schedule, but the less said about that the better.

I have not missed one since and I have no intent on missing any future ones so long as I can control things. My employer, my family, and my friends understand the importance and they respect (or at least tolerate) that I am but a faithful servant to the waterfowl gods for that few days.

For a long time now, the Ontario “early goose” season has had a split in it whereby we can hunt resident birds starting around Labour Day, but then the season closes for a brief window in mid-September. There are conservation and biological reasons around this, and far more qualified minds can likely comment on it, but what is important is that the goose season reopens on the same day that the duck season opens in our zone. Hence the creatively-named Double Opener.

Early iterations of this weekend were famous for their debauched gluttony and heavy partying. We were but a bunch of dumb, invincible twenty-somethings, with little regard for our brains, livers, gastrointestinal tracts, or prescribed bedtimes. The memories are comical, the photos unfortunate, and the hangovers were the stuff of legends. Our mentors and parents shook their heads at us and reprimanded our behaviour, but we felt like we were the vanguard of something new and exciting, and man did we have fun. Those weekends in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s did more to age me than all the workplace and marital stress I ever experienced, but we bonded with friends, we hunted as hard as our pounding heads and wobbling stomachs allowed, and we laid the foundation for a tradition that still goes on. We laughed, argued, teased, and occasionally we physically fought, but we also killed geese and ducks, and we ate like soldiers about to face their final battle.

Then there was a shift, and although the precise year is tough to pinpoint, sometime in the mid-2010’s we actually became good at waterfowling. It is not an immodest overreach to say that at least in the locales we frequented, we developed a name. Guys wanted to hunt with us, guys wanted to eat with us, and guys wanted to party with us. In some ways it almost became an outfit, an operation that required planning and maintenance, and the weekend took on an identity of its own. For one weekend a year we ran a restaurant/hotel/guiding service and by the end, some of the luster would fade when hunts did not pan out, or when we had to split the group and track who had what decoys, who was calling for what group, and did we even have enough trucks and fields to accommodate everyone. It is not melodrama to state that we grew big, and we grew fast, and despite the challenges when our ranks grew, and the equipment at our disposal grew, and our access grew, we enjoyed some absolutely heroic waterfowl hunts. Big limits with big groups, more ducks and geese and memories than I could process in this space, and even to this day I’ll hear a story from one of those Double Opener weekends and say “Right, I was there for that” and quietly lament that I had forgotten those particular finite moments, while also wondering how many others I had filed away gathering dust in my mind. In those same moments that we matured from a bunch of rowdy yahoos into seasoned successful waterfowl hunters, we were also maturing into family men with careers and businesses to run, wives and children to consider, and mortgages and obligations to service. Double Opener was now also a reprieve, a chance to be immature in pantomime, and a time to keep forging those new experiences in the fields and marshes and “on the cricks”.

And now, I’m afraid to say, I notice it changing again. The demographic has changed. The professionalism we once aped has actually blossomed in the form of leaseholding guide operations forcing out the locals, as well as a whole new generation of goose hunters that have come into the mix. The lands we used to monopolize (for better or for worse) have been sold and changed hands, and with that, so has our once seemingly easy access.

None of this is bad, but as the song goes “competition’s getting younger, tougher broncs I can’t recall” and I don’t say that in bitterness, or to begrudge them their success. They are what we once were and now we’re the “old fuckers” we once laughed about when we were the impudent upstarts. All things change and as frustrating as a closed field or another set of guns after the same birds can be, I do smile to know that maybe in a small way, we contributed to strengthening the tradition.

Now to say we “inspired” something would be too much, and archetypes we are not, and all of this is to say nothing of the future that all of our kids have in this greatest of sports we call waterfowling, because just as we built a tradition that grew, morphed, and evolved, as will they hopefully with the positive parts of whatever lessons we can impart on them in hand. If one day I cannot hunt a Double Opener because my kids or the kids of my friends have all the good spots on lockdown and are filling all the beds in the cabin, then I’ll lay down the calls for a little while so they can experience what I loved. There will be many other mornings for me to squawk at geese and pound my shoulder with fruitless winghsooting.

But still, this piece is not a eulogy to Double Opener, but more of a reminiscence and a recommitment. All the above notwithstanding, we are still going to have a sometimes raucous, definitely memorable time in just a few short days. We will eat with abandon, and we will crack cold ones. We will pretend, in some ways, that we are 27 years old again, and we’ll be slow to rise. But this time it will be backaches, and bum knees, and frozen shoulders, and hernias hobbling us, and not the rotten guts and well-earned hangovers of 15 years ago.

Enjoy every part of the duck camp experience friends, for they can be fleeting.

Memories & Guns

The dog was awake before my alarm was. He’s not a hunting dog, but he knew when I laid boots, and shells, and a gun case out the evening before that I was planning an early morning excursion.

He followed me to the bathroom in the pre-dawn, and his tail thumped hard against my thigh as I brushed my teeth.  For a brief moment I considered taking him with me, but he’s a big dumb rescue dog that likes to zoom and bound headlong through the woods. He would have fun, but every bird for a hundred-yard radius would be busted and even if one flushed in range, the big white frame of the Husky-Shepherd-coyote-whatever mutt that he is would almost certainly be between the barrel and the target.

So, I patted his side and softly sighed as I told him “Not today, pal.” As dogs are, he was unoffended and trotted back to the bed, hopping up and making himself comfortable on my side of the mattress with a stretch and a groan.

I dressed in the dark, feeling somber and tired and not as enthused about the prospect of chasing ruffed grouse in the county crown lands as I had been when my head hit the pillow the night prior. In the kitchen I grabbed a granola bar and threw back a glass of milk while a purring tomcat circled my calves and tried to get me to feed him. I nudged him aside with my foot and he trotted to the door and took to rubbing his face on the corner of the gun case. I bent down and with one hand picked up the case, while I used the other to scoop up the cat. I set the cat on the edge of the couch, and I swung the door open to set the gun case on the porch, followed by my boots and my ammo box. Indiana Jones-style I grab my blaze orange hat just as I have the door swinging shut.

It was cool and breezy that Thanksgiving Monday. It had been raining for the last hour or two, but by the time I put my boots on and surveyed the coming morning from my porch, it was barely a sprinkle. I was bulldozed by the silence; in the very early morning of a long weekend in October, no other people were up driving the suburban streets of my neighbourhood.

I pulled out and in minutes was headed down a county road towards a tract of Simcoe County Forest that I’d been hunting for more than a decade. The radio was jarring babble so I switched it off as quickly as I’d put it on. I headed down the road in pensive silence, never encountering another vehicle.

Things were not great. Now I know that as an employed, well-fed, generally healthy, middle-class white dude in Canada my worst day is a lot of other people’s dream day, but that also doesn’t preclude things from sometimes getting shitty. A high-pressure project at my 9 to 5 with an imminent and pressing deadline. Two kids, that frankly are simultaneously wonderful and absolutely maddening, were going through a maddening phase full of pre-teen drama, stressing my wife and I and taking up a large piece of our relationship. Fall chores around the home needed doing before winter hit, and a further litany of self-inflicted commitments that loomed large all combined to put me in a bad spot mentally.

Irritable. Apathetic. Terse. Weighed down. Tired.

I took the time on the drive to try to organize my thoughts and reconcile all of the puzzle pieces, but that made it worse, so I just thought about the woods as I drove westward. The late-setting full moon glowed like platinum ahead of me as it snuck in and out of the wispy clouds.  It disappeared behind the trees for good as I turned onto the gravel road that led to the forest that I intended to wander that morning.

I pulled off to the soft shoulder and popped the trunk, fishing a double handful of .20 gauge shells out of an old cardboard box that was sitting open on the front passenger seat. I grabbed way more than I needed really, but there’s no optimism like that in the mind of an upland bird hunter before they start walking, so I stuffed my pockets and zipped them up. Walking around to the back of the vehicle, I reached into the trunk and unclasped the hard gun case that had seen close to thirty-years of hunting trips, before softly slipping the trigger lock off the one gun I covet more than any other.

A smooth, sleek, light, intuitively-pointable Ruger Red Label Over/Under. It is dad’s gun and I find myself borrowing it every fall in that period after the opening of grouse season. I shot my first wild game (a single snowshoe hare ahead of a beagle) with it in the winter of 1994, and I have been fairly adroit with it chasing ruffed grouse for the last five or ten years…when I can get my hands on it.

I flipped the lever on the top and the gun fell open invitingly. Dropping two rounds in I flipped it closed with a snug ‘thunk’, checked the safety, and started down the bush road. A blue jay scolded me as soon as I was past the gate at the roadside, and somewhere deeper in the bush a squirrel chattered and barked an alarm at my blaze orange and faded denim frame in response. A thought that I might kill that squirrel crossed my mind, and I filed it for future consideration.

Right then my thoughts were only of plump ruffies, intruded upon now and then by a wave of all of life’s problems.

The woods were splendiferous in their colour, and although many trees clung to leaves that were still green, birches and elms and oaks in their various hues of yellow and orange were mixed in and here and there the woods were spiced in flashes by blood-red flames of fall maple leaves. Nature abhors a straight line and everywhere she was trying to rub out the tidy, arrow-like rows of pine trees planted by the county, and she was having some success with ferns, and saplings, and thorn bushes obscuring the understory.  The pines, for their part, had been shedding needles for years and years, making the trails pillowy soft and hushed under my bootheels. Still early in the autumn, many of the trees still held many or almost all of their leaves and their limbs reached for one another over the trail to make a cathedral ceiling painted in a kaleidoscope interference of fall foliage. For a while I think I was just walking in a trance and staring at leaves, not really looking for grouse, just listening for their peeping calls or for the abrupt whirring of wings.

Solo hunting ruffed grouse without a dog is not for everyone. It is long on walking and short on action. It can be chokingly thick in some areas I frequent, and just as often as not the clever little buggers will hunker down until I walk slowly by before thundering off with a startling thrum of clumsy, short wings headed back the way I came. My strategy has always been the same when doing this on my own: walk the trails until one flushes, shoot it if I can, or mark it’s flight path and stalk slowly up on the bird, hoping to get a crack at it on a second (or sometimes third) flush. I do this with that lovely Red Label when I can, holding myself to wingshooting as often as possible. When that particular gun is not availed to me, I will resort to a .22LR, which takes wingshooting completely off the table, but does pose its own unique challenges in stalking up on the deceptively cagey little birds.

I was forty minutes into my morning when the sun finally broke through the clouds and began to warm the day. About this time, I found a wide, open clearing to one side of the trail, and I stepped into it almost unconsciously. In all directions all there was to see were the orderly rows of pines and their shed needles blanketing the forest floor.  Here and there a low stump served to memorialize a tree taken down, and I found one appropriately wide enough to serve as a seat. I leaned the gun against a tree a few feet away and just sat there. For how long, who knows. Couple of minutes at least.

Some chickadees flitted around, and far off a crow rattled a staccato series of calls. The breeze lifted and fell. Another blue jay screeched and flew by, and I just looked at the forest and listened. For some reason, I looked at the gun’s blued steel coldly stark and the rich brown wood gleaming in the morning sun, and I was struck by melancholy thoughts.

Dad’s gun.

Someday dad won’t be around anymore, and all that will be left will be memories.

Memories and guns.

Then another thought.

My guns.

Someday I won’t be around anymore, and all that will be left will be memories.

Different memories and different guns.

What kind of stories will those be?

You see, not every hunting story we churn out is a feel-good tale.

Then as quick as those thoughts came, before I could neither dismiss nor dwell on them, I was startled back to the task at hand. Not by feathers, but by fur. A big black squirrel (I like to think it was the same one I had heard at the roadside earlier that day) was headed my way, bounding from tree to tree and he was making some racket. Hot on his tail was another big black squirrel, chirping and barking to raise hell. It became quickly apparent that they were going to run through the treetops in front of me, flush broadside.

As though by magic I found the gun in my hands, and my eyes set on an opening that I was sure they would have to jump through. I began to swing the gun up, and as it always has it shouldered like a dream, like it was made to measure. As the first squirrel made the leap between two limbs, I painted the stretched length of his shiny sable body from tail to nose, right to left with the shiny bead on the top barrel. As I saw daylight between barrel and snout I did it.

“Bang.” I went softly in my head.

His nemesis didn’t flinch at my movement and kept chasing recklessly forward. As he sprang through the air, I did the same to him. They rambled onward down the line of trees, skittering and knocking down acorns and tree bark until they faded from earshot and I smirked, pleased at my virtual double and sure I would have bagged the brace of them had the mood struck me.

You see, squirrels weren’t on the menu that morning, and as it turns out ruffed grouse weren’t either.  I found some things that made my morning better, like the side-by-each tracks of a doe and fawn pawing acorns out of the pine needles or the redneck-ingenious mineral lick bolted to a tree inside an old wooden wall sconce. I eventually came out to the gravel road, opened the action and slung the gun in an inverted “V” over my shoulder, walking slowly back to my car, barely interested in firing a shot really. A truck rolled down the road towards me, gravel crunching and popping from under the tires, and a smiling elderly man slowed and rolled his window down.

“Any luck?!” He shouted in the way that old folks do when I believe they are hard of hearing.

“Not today.” I shouted back, over the hum of his engine and with a head shake in case he’d missed it.

“That’s ‘cause yer on the road! Got to get into the bush if you wanna kill somethin’” He shouted and laughed hard at his joke, and I couldn’t help but laugh back realizing I had a broad, involuntary smile on.

“Think I’m about done anyways,” I yelled “that’s me up there.” and I nodded to my car.

He shouted “Thought so…well better luck next time then” and started to roll his truck forward while powering up the window, giving me the universal head nob that means a respectful, rural goodbye. I gave him a little wave and touched the brim of my cap before walking down the roadside back to my ride.

But I did feel better. Lighter. Not quite so downtrodden. The outlook wasn’t as gloomy anymore.

Maybe because I had been hunting and even though my morning was over, I had seen nature doing what nature does everyday; regardless of whether I even pulled the trigger, the outdoors have always been therapeutic for my family and I, after all.  Maybe on account of the human connection I had just had with that old fella, maybe because of his broad, infectious laugh.  Maybe for the way he was just driving around the forest and country roads early on a fall morning like I remember my grandfather doing with me when I was small.

Who knows?

There were still the problems of the real world to deal with, and as I write this I’m speeding through the night air towards Edmonton, about to tackle that big project milestone. But in that morning, just after I stood under a blue sky to put that gorgeous gun away and drop all the shotgun shells back in their box in orderly rows, as I drove home to an ever-growing list of things to do and to manage two boys who make life a joy and a headache, I stopped to get my wife a coffee, with the intent that we could just sit and connect with each other before it all got busy again and I flew across the nation and another line got added to our to-do-list.

And when I pulled into the driveway, it all felt just a little less heavy. But that’s the outdoors for you.

Some Thoughts on an Obsession

It’s a total cliché to call turkey hunting an obsession. There is a camo pattern bearing that label, there is a web series about it, and there are thousands and thousands of people who have written about it, many of them in arguably better fashion than I have.

Yep, it is an absolutely tired cliché. But the reason it is tired is because it is all-too-true.

I’ve always thought of myself as reasonably level-headed.  On occasion, especially in my much younger decades, I did some unusual things. Early in my turkey hunting career I was obstinate and inflexible, and it cost me birds.  I still sometimes have impulses like that, even though I seem to have learned that a hunter has to sometimes adapt in order to kill turkeys. Last year was one such example, and it paid off in absolutely unexpected success.   But this year, through a combination of opportunity and frequency, I can say without reservation that I was officially “obsessed”.  This obsession was with three ornery tom turkeys that live around a patch of ground I hunt in Simcoe County.  This is my tragic story.

I was in my local spot on the opening Saturday of the season with my Dad a few hundred yards southwest of me.  This spot is on a privately-owned chunk of hardwood and some swamp surrounded by a couple fields and some more privately-owned hardwoods and fields.  The other locations are closed to us, although I have seen vehicles in the past parked at those areas so no doubt other turkey hunters frequent them on occasion. Access locally can be tough, so we’ve always been very cautious about staying on ‘our side of the line’, but that adds to an already challenging hunt. My first solo tom came off this local property and I’ve had frequent close encounters there when, through fate or hubris, I was not able to seal a bird.

Just a few days prior, Dad had been in a run-in at this location with a couple of cagey toms that snuck in silent on him, and he couldn’t contort himself into a shot.  It was a frustrating hunt he said, but it gave me hope that birds would be frequenting the area.  I settled in against a large boulder as the breaking dawn brightened everything around me. As if on cue, three gobblers fired off at 5:20am in the posted land to the north.  They gobbled well, once breaking into a musical round that saw one tom finish and another immediately start, only to have the third bird holler as the second finished his chorus.  It was “Row-Row-Row Your Boat” wild turkey style, and it went on for three minutes.

I had chills and I could sense I was grinning idiotically behind my camo face mask.

Their gobbles changed as they hit the ground and then they fell silent.  A hen rasped away in the woods behind me and the toms briefly made their way in my direction.  They went quiet again before moving off to the west, and I got a text message from Dad that he could see them half a kilometer away strutting and not showing any interest in moving our way.  We called it a morning.

The weekend after, I killed a bird on the Bruce Peninsula in very memorable fashion, and it gave me hope that I’d be able to tag out on a Simcoe County bird with the remaining three weeks of turkey season still laid out in front of me.

The following weekend, while my brother and father were on the Bruce Peninsula themselves each harvesting turkeys, I was back at the local spot.  Once again, the three gobblers were loud and proud, roosted in the exact same property north of our access that they had been in the weekend before.  Once again, they were responsive on the roost and once again they flew down and showed passing interest in my calling before once again heading due west into inaccessible areas.  Of course, while all this was happening I was fortunate enough to be treated to a wonderful, if not slightly cool, spring morning with sightings of deer, coyotes, waterfowl, and hundreds of raucous songbirds.  That afternoon, my six-year old son went with me for his first ever turkey hunt, and although a hen circled us at twenty yards for a good fifteen minutes, the gobblers were silent.  Driving out, I spotted them in that same area they had been moving to every morning.

They had a pattern, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.  Not legally, at least.

Fast forward ahead to the next weekend, a glorious three-day weekend with the promise of incredible turkey hunting weather. The forecast was sunny and calm, but also just a few degrees on the cool side.  I love this as it keeps the mosquitoes down in the swampy spots of the property.

For a third hunt, the toms were in the same tract of hardwoods and for the third time they flew down and went north-west.  I held out just a but longer in the morning and fired them up after 8:30am, but a single shot from where I last heard them quite literally crushed my spirits.  They went silent and I packed up my things and moped to the car.  I drove out past the block where I had last heard them and was shocked to see the three birds strutting in the block just adjacent to where the shot had come from. I was grinning like an idiot again, because either a fourth bird had met his end in that area or some unfortunate hunter had missed. I’ve felt the sting of the miss myself before (and probably will again before I shuffle off) but I was pleased to see three longbeards alive and well within earshot of my preferred patch.  I resolved to be back on the holiday Monday.

It was a carbon copy of the previous hunt.  Gobblers hollering in the hardwoods to the north, that flew down into the field, gobbled some more, and never paid my calling any attention.  They were telling me something and I resolved to get out at least one more time and put a theory to the test. You see, previously, I had waited for them to gobble before calling back, and the result had always been the same: lukewarm to moderate interest in my setup before heading northwest of my direction into places I just cannot go.

Next time out I was going to be the one to wake them up.

I got in extra-extra early with my Dad on the last Saturday of the season. This time it was offering to be hot and humid and I had my Thermacell loaded and ready to do work.  I also had my mind made up that those birds were going to hear me long before I heard them.  After all, what was there to lose?  At the precise moment legal shooting light hit, I thumbed the shells into the 870 that makes every trip with me, and I pulled out a crystal pot call.  I tree yelped and did a fly down series at just barely past 5am; even at that early hour, the late-spring morning was bright.  In those moments between calling and waiting for an answer, I was a jumpy bundle of nerves.  I was waiting for the response that had come so predictably every other morning of the season.

Nothing.  I ratcheted up the volume on some yelping.  Still nothing.  I cutt hard and rasped so loudly on the call that my ears tingled just a bit.

From the hardwoods to the north came the shouted response from that trio of birds, and I exhaled with a smile.

They answered every cutt and yelp, and on fly down they showed more interest than at any other time this year.  They slid off slightly just before 6:00am, but they were still answering when I went into a fighting purr sequence (which my pot call does so well that it almost isn’t fair), and they thundered back.  Before I could call, they hammered again, closer this time.  I set the call down and steadied the gun.  Again, they gobbled, and they sounded angry then. I was sure they were in my field for the first time all season, and my heart picked up the pace just a bit. I cut my eyes left, hoping to see their forms heading into my hen and jake decoy setup.  They gobbled hard and they sounded to be nearly in range, but still I did not have a visual on them as they approached from my left.  I steadied the gun in their direction and twisted my left shoulder imperceptibly towards them.

Then, it all went to hell.

In that slightest movement a white-tailed deer busted from less than fifty feet to my right and ran out of the woods, on a bee-line between the decoys and where I had last expected to see those three gobblers. Tail-up and bounding along, snorting all the way, the doe crossed the field. I held the gun steady in the last spot I’d heard a gobble. Everything was so blasted silent that it made me temporarily believe that the turkeys had simply vanished into thin air.  I had not heard them putt and I had not heard them fly, so I clung to the hope that the deer had not pooched my whole hunt and they were still sneaking in.  For ten minutes I was silent, waiting to hear a turkey drumming or for another gobble to ring out.  Eventually I clucked on my mouth call and nothing happened.  I yelped louder, and still nothing happened.  I cutt and yelped and the three birds responded…hundreds of yards to the northwest, headed to where they had gone every other morning this year.

I lowered the gun, muttered an unrepeatable swear word and resolved to apply for a doe tag for that WMU so that I could come back and turn that deer into backstraps.

Shortly after Dad came by and I told him my pathetic story.  He’s always been fatalistic about things like that, and with a shrug and soft smile he said “if they were easy to kill, there wouldn’t be any of them left” which is true but was of cold comfort to me in the moment.  I was pretty annoyed at the turkey-hunting gods by that time, having just gone through the full emotional wringer in a matter of a few early-morning hours and been oh-so-close to actually laying eyes down the gun-rail on those three birds that had occupied my thoughts and mornings for the whole spring. But it was not in the cards.

In the self-reflective moments of the drive home, I realized how obsessive about these birds I had become and that through the lack of Sunday hunting in the township, along with work and family commitments, I was not going to get another crack at them this spring.  There was closure in that, and I was simultaneously frustrated at the outcome and grateful for the opportunity to tangle with them.  Aside from one of them actually dying at the end of my shotgun, they really were everything us turkey hunters hope for.  They were vocal, they had personality, and they were some of the most challenging birds I’ve had to work against.  My wishful thinking imagines them as hardy four-year-old birds with dragging beards and wicked hooked spurs, brothers that had lived their whole lives in the area and that I may have had run-ins with in prior springs. They very well could be, or they could just be unpredictable, contrary two-year-old toms that like all wildlife don’t really have a set of rules that they follow and just do frustrating things to people like me.

I wish for them to make it through the next ten months or predators and cars and another Ontario winter, so that come next April I will find myself seated in the same spot sparring with them once again; all I can do is hope that by then perhaps I’m a little better and that maybe they have an off day.

Fear, Self-Loathing, and Internet Trolls

This week I decided to do something miles away from my comfort zone.

Explaining something…

Since 2011, this little webpage has acted as an insulating buffer between myself and the reader.  My ‘voice’ was expressed through typeface and I had the benefit of time, editing, and occasional proofreading to refine my ethic and message dozens of times before I put it out there. I’ve had all the control so that on the (rare) occasions that hateful or crude comments show up that revile me for being a hunter, or poke holes in my logic, or (to directly quote one aggrieved reader) deride me as just some “city boy pretending to hunt”, I simply delete the offending statements and move on my merry way. Unsolicited hate mail gone forever, just like that.

But this week, I lacked that luxury.  This week I did a television shoot, and went from ‘single voice among thousands of outdoors websites’ to ‘single voice talking straight into a television camera’. Those experiences are fundamentally different, and the public perception of those things are equally divergent.

For context, I was approached by Sang Kim, who is an author, chef, and television personality to talk about hunting and guns, as well as to cook my favourite wild game dish, which in this case was a wild turkey leg confit. I of course jumped at the opportunity because those are things I love talking about and things I love to do. But it did lead me to an existential crisis, and when I’m in an existential crisis, I write about it so here we are.

You see, there’s a chance I might be cast in the all-too-bright light of “expertise” which has always made me uneasy and self-conscious.  For whatever reason, even though televised media (even internet-based televised media) is ubiquitous, there still exists a sense that those with a mass-media platform have expertise. So, by way of full disclosure, here’s what I’m expert at.

  • I’m an expert at sharing my opinions.
  • I’m an expert at shoving delicious wild game into my face.
  • I’m an expert at trying new things with little forethought for how the external reaction is going to be.

And that’s where my head was during the shoot.  I offered opinions and statements on what I thought to be pertinent or what I believed to be valid on a variety of topics, some of which I was prepared for and some that I was not.  But nothing is off limits to me, so I gave it the old college try.  The demographic is non-conventional from a hunting perspective, the platform is non-conventional to typical media, and if anything, I’m not the typical ‘hunter’ stereotype (I think).

Some of what I said and believe will be unpopular with non-hunters and non-gun owners.  Some of it will be unpopular with hunters and gun owners. But all of it sits well with me which is what matters I guess.

Also, there’s that lingering and perverse fear that I have where people are going to ridicule and hate and mock me in a very public forum.  All the tough guy attitude, spunk, and bravado available to me still aren’t going to stop trolls and keyboard-social justice warriors, and other “better” hunters who might feel more representative of the tradition from trying to make me their whipping boy on YouTube.  But I guess that’s their prerogative and not mine.

Of course I’m not looking to be a martyr for the cause (although I would be if I had to I suppose) or for personal sympathy, or kudos, or bland affirmations.  Nor is this a pre-emptive disclaimer begging for kindness, forgiveness, or understanding because I waived rights to those things when I opted into this opportunity.  I’m mostly just going through prose therapy or literary diarrhea or whatever this actually is.  But at the heart of the matter, I’m writing this to clarify my hopes.

I’m hoping that I wasn’t too far off the mark in my opinions, hoping that I was representative of my personal ethics, and hopeful that my turkey calling was at least passable; the birds seem to like it anyhow.  I’ve yet to see the finished, edited product yet but the hope (there’s that word again) is that the passion and the simple message I have does not get lost in translation or flogged to death in a comments section.

Having a chuckle.

In all, the only thing I want is to represent hunting and the outdoors and my passion for both of them respectfully, humbly, and clearly. I also liked that I got to get myself a tidy new branded t-shirt with shiny dome fasteners out of the deal.

There were things that may end up on the cutting room floor.  There were things I desperately wanted to share that just never came up. Thankfully, I can honestly say that I never had a moment in the whole shoot (which was amazing by the way and an experience absolutely worth any stress or backlash that may come out of it) where my internal monologue went “Uh-oh, don’t answer that” or “This sounds dumb” or “This whole premise is ridiculous and going to negatively represent hunting and hunters”.

Still, it’s over now and nothing can be done about it anyhow, even if I had contributed something incredibly stupid to the record.  I knew the ‘risks’ about taking it on and did it gladly, because declining this would have led to regret and I like to live with a “what-the-hell” mentality. At best I like to think my opinions and contributions are benign and conciliatory.

Confit Wild Turkey Leg with Morels and Grilled Scallions

For Lucas Hunter, Chef Sang Kim, my family, TagTV and all those that supported this, I quite literally cannot thank you enough.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I’m truly glad I did it.  For those that want to actually see it, we’ll post the details once they come available.