As we marched up the old road bed, the anticipation of the morning hunt filled the air. Brad Crawford spotted a couple longbeards strutting in the meadow the evening before. With that being said we had a good idea of where the birds were roosting. We planned on getting up on the ridge above the meadow for the morning hunt. Brad led the way up the road bed. Sam Poulos and Tank Johnson both armed and ready followed behind. I was pulling up the rear armed with my video camera.
Brad called out an owl hoot with a dead on response from the longbeards. We sat up on the ridge and got ready for the action. As Brad sent out a series of yelps there must have been four more birds gobbling off in the distance. It seemed that we were in prime position. With another series of calls it seemed that the gobbles echoed a little louder. Back and forth we went when all of a sudden a soft yelp from a hen could be heard in the distance. As Brad said later it was as if the hen grabbed the gobbler by the beard and said oh no you don?t. The gobbles faded into the distance. We got up and planned our next move.
We heard one gobbler move to our left off in the distance so we figured we could get down in the meadow and see if we could draw him back. As we moved down the ridge, Brad sent out a crow call and was answered by a gobble. We scurried down the hill and called briefly and realized the bird was coming. Brad stayed back on the ridge about thirty yards. Sam sat out on the main field which is where we thought the bird would pop out. Tank and I sat behind Sam about twenty yards in a little cove. Tank and Brad both called for a few minutes. I was in a good position to film Sam and any birds out in the main field but I realized I wasn?t in a good position when I saw Tank ease his gun around to my left and click off the safety. With Brad and Tank calling the birds split the difference. When the birds didn?t see anything out in the cove or meadow they got a little weary and all I could hear was a few putts that signaled the show was over. Tank had a shot but it was a Jake so he didn?t take it. Up the ridge Brad had a better vantage point and could see the longbeard in the back fanned out. Too bad he?s tagged out. Oh so close!
It was an awesome morning hunt with a lot of gobbling, awesome calling, and tons of heart pounding action at the Poulos Sportsman Club. I was glad I had some Wildlife Energy shots because I was whooped after a weekend of early morning hunts. I got a kick out of Brad saying that he doesn?t sleep in April. That?s about the truth.
Although our hunt ended without filling a tag another hunter, Mark Cody, had better luck. Mark was able to take his first bird by calling himself. He was pretty pumped when we got back to the clubhouse. I was able to snap a few pictures. 18 #, Double Beard 10 ¼ and 4 ¼, ¾ inch spurs.
Check out my recap video of the hunt! Turn up the volume and listen to some gobbling action.
A while back someone on twitter saw a link to our site and checked it out. Their response tweet was that they liked the design of the site and that it fired them up and made them "want to go kill something?" Obviously this individual doesn''t have a clear understanding of what hunting is all about as his words were a window into his personal view of hunting ...or should I say his trouble distinguishing the difference between hunting and killing.
I often meet people who are non-hunters and sometimes over the course of conversation we end up talking about hunting. Inevitably the conversation trends towards the hunting vs. killing debate. It usually surfaces in the form of "How can you shoot those helpless little creatures?" or "You try to kill Bambi?" This statement is typically a strong indicator that the person asking the question has never hunted.
I'd like to take a look into the hunting vs. killing debate from a hunter's perspective. Let's use a critical lens to analyze and deconstruct the meaning of hunting and also killing. What are the differences between hunting and killing? Where do the differences lie? What are the signs of both a "hunter" and a "killer"? Let's start the investigation by looking at hunters.
Hunters, first and foremost, have totally different motivations, thought processes, and core values than a "killer" does. The fundamental values of a hunter affect the way he/she views the sport. A hunter's beliefs and values prompt actions that are direct indicators that the individual is a true hunter. Over time these fundamental differences are outwardly manifested in the activities in which hunters engage. For this reason, you will find hunters involved in activities in which you will never see "killers" involved. These belief-motivated actions can be noticed both in-season as well as during the off-season.
In the off-season a hunter still enjoys many aspects of hunting. This is because being a hunter doesn't come for a season and then leave, its not seasonal, it's a way of life. Some examples of these off-season activities are those such as "shed" hunting where finding a deer's shed antlers is the goal, or with training any hunting dogs that a hunter may have, doing off-season scouting, competing in target shooting competitions and/or calling competitions, attending trade shows, moving deer stands, building duck blinds, practicing calling techniques, researching, planting and maintaining food plots to help with the health and nutritional diet of the deer, turkeys, ducks or other game in the hunter's area, or even watching hunting TV shows.
During the season a hunter doesn't merely look to harvest anything that walks through the woods, but rather is selective about the game that he or she does choose to harvest. A hunter won't shoot more meat than he or she needs in his freezer. Hunters also help less fortunate people by donating deer meat to them. It's common to find hunting clubs or deer processors working with local organizations supporting the needy. A hunter takes pride in being able to watch an animal mature over time and is challenged to hold the game in their area. A hunter also has a true appreciation for nature and the patterns found within nature denoting intelligent design from above. Hunters grow to appreciate the stillness of being in the middle of the woods, field, swamps, etc where one can momentarily elude the business and noise of everyday life. Sitting on the ground, in a stand, or in a blind offers one the time and place to ponder the wonders of the universe or anything else that may come to mind. The serenity hunters find out in nature can't be found in too many other locations and gives some hunters a natural high. This tranquil and peaceful place is where the hunter remains until he/she either encounters the game or the end of the hunt. Sure, a hunter wants to harvest an animal, yet he/she still enjoys the hunt whether an animal was harvested or not. When the game does arrive, whether it is a duck, boar, turkey, deer, etc hunters enjoy the instant rush that comes over us. The instant rush of adrenaline, rather than the kill, is what gets hunters hooked.
A hunter also has the discipline to watch their game for hours and never pull the trigger. When a hunter does pull the trigger, it is a calculated moment that has been in the making for some time rather than being a moment that randomly happens by chance. Harvesting an animal is the culmination of many factors some of which are: off-season scouting, scent control, successful hunting tactics, food plot, land/game management, successful calling, well trained dogs, and yes, an accurate shot. All of these factors coming together at once is not an easy feat to pull off. Therefore, when an animal is harvested it's the intersection of preparation, patience, and nature.
Hunters usually have hunting partners with whom they go hunting and spend time. Having a hunting partner is a good safety measure, it helps when any work needs to be done, and offers a chance for fellowship while participating in an activity that both individuals enjoy. It's commonplace to find fathers and sons hunting together. You see hunters also care about passing the tradition on to younger hunters. Because of the burden to share the sport and experiences in the outdoors, hunters strongly support activities which promote and educate hunting to youth. Fathers also appreciate the opportunity that hunting gives them to spend time with their children.
To see what happens when a non-hunting, father-son, duo goes hunting and realizes the rush of the hunt and the experience that they'd just had together see the below video
Hunters also get involved with organizations that support their sport and focus on the conservation of the sport so that everyone can continue to enjoy the outdoors. Organizations like Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), Ducks Unlimited (DU), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), and the National Rifle Association (NRA) are ones that you'll see true hunters get involved with. These organizations bring a wealth of research, information, and synergy to their respective sport of hunting and work for the greater good of the hunting community as a whole. Hunters get involved with these organizations because the core principles and values of the organizations align with the core principles and values of the hunter.
The last thing I'll mention is that, due to the strong differences between hunters and killers, you'll seldom find hunters associating with killers, the two just don't mesh. Sure they may bump into each other at a processing plant every now and then, but you won't see them together much other than that. The old saying goes "You are what you hang around" and because of this notion, hunters are careful about the company they keep. Take a look at the people around you who hunt and think about who they do and don't hang around to see if it holds true.
We all have different perspectives, but the above is my perception on what makes a hunter and how you can identify and distinguish a hunter from a killer. Since I've elaborated on what I believe comprises a hunter, now let's look at the other side of the fence. Let's look at characteristics that I believe make up a "killer".
A "killer" is essentially the opposite of all the characteristics mentioned above that encompass a hunter. In my opinion, killers give hunters a bad reputation. In the same way that you'll see a hunter involved in specific activities and carrying out certain behaviors, you'll see killers not taking part in certain activities and also engaging in contrasting behaviors. Most of the time a killer's behaviors are in stark contrast to those of a hunter.
In contrast to a hunter, a killer does not appreciate the hunt because the hunt is what stands between them and a kill. Killers don't genuinely appreciate the wait, the silence, and the necessary time in a stand/blind that most hunters love because a killer doesn't really enjoy the peacefulness of nature, but rather is in a hurry to pull the trigger.
Killers don't respect the land they hunt on or animals they harvest. They don't mind littering or damaging the land they hunt on because the environment and conservation is not of their concern. Killers are also what we like to call "trigger-happy" and will shoot the first deer, turkey, duck etc. that they see. In the deer hunting world killers live by the motto "If it's brown it's down" because they're not concerned with game management or limits. I remember an instance related to this topic that happened when I was a kid that still sticks out to me.
In the mid 90's we were at one of our locals processing plants and everyone was talking about deer hunting while the guys were cleaning deer. The environment was the normal, upbeat, good-humored, environment that you've probably experienced before at a processing plant. We had been there about 20 minutes when some guys came up and bought in a very young doe. The deer was so small that it looked like it had just got rid of its spots. At the time I didn't really know what was going on because I was so young, but I distinctly remember the old man that was processing the deer's reaction to the situation. The guys drug the small deer up and immediately the whole processing plant went silent. Tension was in the air and it was thick. I vividly remember the awkwardness of the moment. The guy who shot the deer said he wanted some "tender meat" and that did not go over well at all with the processor. He gave the guy a death-stare and then shook his head in disappointment to let him know that what he had done was wrong. After that the whole place remained quiet until the individuals who brought the deer in left. Being young, I didn't exactly understand what had just taken place, but my dad explained it to me on the way home. In retrospect, I now respect the processor even more because even he didn't want to make money cleaning a deer that was so young because he respected the game and disliked doing business with a killer.
Another sign to look for that denotes a killer is what they do in the off-season. Killers rarely participate in, and do not enjoy, the off-season work that hunters love because its actual work and it doesn't involve or even come close a kill. Hunters know that working in the off-season can help their game and also keeps the hunter's flame burning year round. Killers on the other hand may do some off-season work, but from what I can tell, they don't seem to be too motivated about it.
After a killer does harvest a deer, they commonly boast about the kill as if it builds social status whether their animal was a trophy animal or not. Of course a hunter may brag about a nice deer, duck, turkey, etc they've harvested, but they won't go to the extent of self-promotion that a killer will. A true hunter doesn't need any self-promotion and doesn't thrive on his reputation because to a hunter it's not a competition, but to a killer, it is.
Killers aren't interested in taking others hunting because it only lessens their chances of making a kill. Sure everyone hunts by themselves at some point in time, but (if okay with the hunting club and/or land-owner) a hunter is always open to taking another person hunting, especially a kid because a hunter wants to share the enjoyment of the sport. A killer's viewpoint on that matter is the opposite because he/she isn't interested in sharing the sport as much.
Killers aren't concerned with adhering to the state/county regulations on game and don't mind breaking the rules because they don't respect the game, land, or sport as much as a hunter does. Due to this lack of adherence to rules & regulations killers will do things such as spotlighting deer at night, shooting before legal shooting time, hunting on land that isn't theirs, harvesting more animals than they are legally supposed to, etc. For whatever reason, a killer seems to feel above the law.
In the above paragraphs I've used a critical lens to compare, contrast, and note my view on the characteristics of both the "hunter" and the "killer". Looking deeper into the debate and deconstructing the meaning from a hunter's perspective provides unique insight with which you have the right to agree or disagree.
The term "Epistemology" refers to one's "way of knowing" and really forces one to ask the question "How do I know what I know to be truth?" Knowledge is derived from the merging of what we know to be true (truths) and what we believe (beliefs). This is demonstrated by the graph on the right.
Given an epistemological viewpoint, one can be more informed about hunters from understanding a hunter's core values and beliefs. One must know the truths about hunters and understand the sport from a hunter's perspective in order to be knowledgeable and informed in the debate. Looking at hunting from the vantage point of a hunter offers valuable insight for non-hunters and those who are critical of hunters.
Determining whether an outdoorsman is a hunter or a killer is a judgment that can only be made on an individual basis. Stereotyping hunters as blood hungry killers is unfair because many times that is simply not the case. I'm not denying that there are some killers out there. I'm just saying that you can't call us all killers until you get to know us and understand us a little.
With turkey season opening up this past week I had been looking to go turkey hunting with someone because I?d never been before. I?ve got a friend who?s big into turkey hunting in York, some friends who turkey hunt in Chesterfield, and some in Pageland, but for whatever reason I couldn?t get anything lined up. I called up fellow Central High Football Coach Craig Hatcher and told him to put feelers out with some of his hunting buddies and see if he could line anything up. Craig called me back a day later and said that he?d searched high and low and that it turned out that he could get me a turkey hunt with one of the best hunters around. Bruce Puette is a great outdoorsmen and is also a teacher in Pageland. He?s also taught in Cheraw and I?ve always heard stories about how good of an all around hunter he is. My dad has told me on several occasions that Bruce knows his stuff when it comes to hunting?and after my first turkey hunt with Bruce, I have to agree.
I called Mr. Puette on Good Friday and we lined everything up for the hunt. I asked him when and where he wanted me to meet him. He told me to meet him at the Exxon gas station in Wallace, SC at 5:00 am! If you?re not from South Carolina or if you?re from different areas of South Carolina, it takes about 40 minutes to drive to Wallace from Pageland. Wallace is right across the county line and is located in Marlboro County. The Pee Dee River (where we caught those catfish last weekend) is the county line. Once you cross the bridge you have left Chesterfield County and are in the city of Wallace. Anyway, to arrive at the Exxon station at 5:00 am, I would have to get up at 4:00 am. When I talked to Mr. Puette on the phone I was just excited about lining the trip up and wasn?t really thinking about the timing. After we hung up, I thought to myself that I would have to wake up at 4:00 am just to get there. Bruce said he liked to get out there early which meant that I wasn?t going to get much sleep. For some reason I just can?t go to sleep until late. I usually end up online doing something and can?t get free until late. I tried to go to bed early, but still couldn?t. I went to sleep around 11:45 and rolled out at 4. It wasn?t that bad initially.
I drove down to Wallace in the truck and met Mr. Puette at the Exxon station. We pulled up at the same time and got some drinks and then headed out. We drove a few miles and ended up at one of his hunting locations. I thought that it was a good sign that we saw 2 deer cross the road in front of us as we were driving to our hunting location. We dropped our trucks off not too far from the gate and then started walking. We walked in by the moonlight and Mr. Puette was telling me about his hunting land as we walked in. It was a pretty long walk to our final destination. Mr. Puette had come out the night before and watched where the turkeys went to roost and they had gone to roost behind where the ground-blind was set up.
The area we were hunting backed into a swamp and he said that the turkey?s like to roost near the water because no bobcats or anything will mess with them when they?re over the water. As I got situated in the blind, Mr. Pruette put out 2 decoys about 15 yards ahead of us to our right. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Puette came back in and we got situated in the blind. I backed my chair up into a corner of the blind. We were there really early and it was still dark outside. We just sat in the ground blind and talked for a while. Mr. Puette was telling me that he had gotten up early that morning and read Jeremiah 33:3 which reads ?Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.? We talked briefly about this verse and we talked about all kind of stuff. It seems Mr. Puette woke up at 4:00 am too and was reading the bible while I was on my way.
As the sun started to come up we could see 3 deer way out in the field. I tried to get them on camera, but the lighting was so bad that I couldn?t get them in focus + they were way out there. As we talked in the ground blind, Mr. Puette told me that patience is what kills turkeys, not turkey calling. He said ?Patience kills turkeys, not great calling?put that in your blog.? He said that you don?t have to be a great caller to get turkeys to come in; you just have to be patient. He said that his patience while hunting turkeys has made him more successful than his ability to call them in. Though, from sitting in the blind with him, I?d say that he?s not too bad of a caller either. Throughout our turkey hunt he used a slate call and a diaphragm call.
The light was starting to slowly shine through the trees and Mr. Puette started calling with the slate call. Off in the distance we could hear turkeys responding back to his calls. He would call a little, listen a little, call a little, and listen a little. I would say that about 70% of the times he called there was some kind of response. Slowly but surely, the sounds of the responding turkeys was getting closer and closer. We initially heard these turkeys responding back to us around 7:30 am. In time, the sounds got louder and closer and finally we spotted the first turkey that entered the field. It came out to our right about 50 yards down the edge of the field and was headed straight to the middle of the field. It was a hen and it seemed as if the decoys spooked it because it started a quick trot out to the field after it cleared the edge. (In the video I say it was a Jake, but I was wrong?the first turkey was a hen) We couldn?t really understand why the decoys may have spooked the turkey, but we were still hearing more turkeys behind us on both sides. Randomly we would hear gobbles coming from the right and the left.
As we were situated in the blind, we were looking out of mainly 2 windows. I had a window right beside me to my left and then there was one straight ahead of me that I could see out of. There was also a window behind me, but I was backed into the corner and couldn?t really see out of it without turning completely around. Though, Mr. Puette could see out of it easily.
We kept hearing calls and then 3 more turkeys entered the field from the same direction as the first one had. This group was a group of Jakes (young males). They did the same thing as the first turkey did?they kind of ran out to the middle of the field. This was puzzling us. Soon thereafter another Jake darted into the field following the first three. We had 4 turkeys out in front of us and then we saw 2 more coming from way out down the left side of the field as well. The sun was up by now and we could see well. The mixed group of hens and jakes was out in the middle of the field, but no big gobblers had come yet. At first glance we thought some of those Jakes were big ones, but after seeing them out in the open we could tell that they weren?t mature birds. Mr. Pruette even had his gun up on one of them, but then took it back down when he saw the bird wasn?t big enough. They were close enough to shoot, but that wasn?t what we were looking for.
We sat there and whispered to each other about the locations of the turkeys. Mr. Puette had been saying that the big boys won?t be too long behind the hens and Jakes. The group of turkeys had been out in the field for about 20 minutes now and Mr. Puette told me that this was the time-frame when most turkey hunters mess up. He said that there was always this time in between when the hens get out and when the big gobblers arrive. He told me that most people don?t see any big beards on the males and so they ?overcall? or start calling too much. This is where his lesson on patience was tying back in to our actual hunt. So we sat and watched the turkeys out in the field for a while.
The majority of the turkeys that were in the group out in the field entered from our right side. So we kept looking out the right window just waiting on a big gobbler to arrive from the same direction. Well, we never saw or heard any more turkeys from our right. Matter of fact, we hadn?t heard anything gobble for some time now. I was beginning to think that we wouldn?t see a good turkey. It had been a good while since we heard any kind of turkey sound at this point. Then Mr. Pruette leaned over in the ground blind to grab something. I don?t know if he was grabbing for crackers or for a different kind of turkey call because he had a few different types of calls in his bag. As he leaned over, I heard something moving in the woods behind us. Since I had never been turkey hunting before, I didn?t have an idea of what a turkey sounded like walking through the brush. Mr.Puette leaning down gave me the space to swivel and look out of the window behind me. When I turned around all I could see was feathers about 15 yards behind us. I got excited and started tapping Mr. Pruette really hard. I didn?t want to talk because I didn?t want to scare off the birds because I knew at least one of them was big. So I was tapping him and pointing behind me while trying to be quiet. He looked out of the window and saw the bird and his eyes got real big. I grabbed the camera and turned it on. As he grabbed his gun, I stuck the camera out of the blind and was literally just pointing it behind us in hopes of getting the bird on video. I wasn?t satisfied with ?hoping? to get the shot on video so at the last second, I brought the camera back in the blind and videoed Mr. Pruette taking the shot. You?ll see it in the video below. He said ?Big Beard, Got?em?. We sat for a second and made our way out of the blind. Mr.Puette made the shot somewhere around 8:00 am.
Sure enough, Mr.Puette had dropped him in his tracks about 15 yards away from us. It was a nice turkey, but what surprised me was how this turkey got in on us and wasn?t gobbling at all. He was just walking through the woods quietly. Mr. Pruette told me that there were 3 birds in this last group and Mr. Pruette took the biggest one. We got out of the blind and the big group of turkeys was still in the field. They didn?t really scatter until we started walking out beyond the edge and then I saw how fast a turkey can really run. We walked up to the bird and took some pictures and continued rolling the video. The beard was a nice one and the spurs were about 1 inch or so. Mr.Puette said the beard was a nice one and that it was so big that it looked like a paint brush. After looking at the bird, we got the decoys up and headed back towards the trucks. As we walked back to the trucks we saw all kind of turkey and deer tracks and we even saw more turkeys down some old logging roads. We literally had birds all around us.
Let me deviate for a moment and say that had it not been for the Thermacell we had in the ground blind, I don?t know if we could have made it. I didn?t realize this until we got out to go and look at the bird. We turned it on about 10 minutes after we got there and I was glad that we did. Those things really work! I was getting eat up by bugs as soon as we got out of the blind.
I was really glad that Mr.Puette had allowed me to go turkey hunting with him. I would say that we had a pretty good time, especially for my first turkey hunt ever! I learned a lot about how to turkey hunt from Mr. Puette and it was a trip that I?ll never forget.
I guess all the stories I?d previously heard about Mr. Pruette being a great outdoorsman were true.
If you want to see the birds, it?s best if you watch this video in the HD format (720 p) and blow it up full screen. These controls are in the bottom of the player.... you'll probably need to give this one some time to load though.
I recently met our 2011 Montana Decoy Turkey Competition winners to give them their prizes. As you are most likely aware, our site audience voted and Mark and William emerged as our winners. After the announcement we had to schedule and coordinate a meeting place to deliver the prizes. Since Mark and William hail from areas distant from each other we had to line it up for different days and it even was raining as Mark received his prizes. Nevertheless we still got it done, but we didn?t shoot much video? just pictures. It was definitely a good day for William Babb and Mark Cody when we met and they were all smiles as I got the prizes out of my car.
Below are the pictures and videos from the winners receiving their prizes.
Below is a video of the winners receiving their prizes
Thanks again to our sponsors and to everyone for participating in our 2011 Turkey Competitions! Without our sponsors and participants none of this would have been possible!
One of my most favorite parts of working on the web site is to be able to give the competition winners their prizes! One of the winners quoted this past weekend ?Shooting the deer was good enough, now this is just the icing on the cake!? and that?s what it?s all about! Seeing the winners smile while they get their prizes makes us feel good and is rewarding for us too!
Again our winners were (See pics of the winner's deer):
The winners received some great prizes from our sponsors and each left with a handful of goodies to play with and we hope to get some ?field test? reports from them as well. I think in total we gave out just short of $2,000 worth of prizes to the winners. This is pretty good for the site just being a little over 1 year old and we hope it will get even better in years to come.
We did get some interviews from this year?s winners so check it out in the video below. Thanks again to the sponsors and to everyone who participated. Be sure to tune in early next season to see what competitions we?re hosting, what rules we?re enforcing, and what prizes you can win.