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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Taking a Kid Turkey Hunting (Blog Thirty)

Today, David Brugh of Christiansburg and I took his 11-year-old daughter Elaina spring gobbler hunting in Franklin County, Virginia.  If you have never taken a young person turkey hunting, doing so is a thing of joy - actually killing a turkey becomes secondary.  Elaina giggled when David and I showed her turkey droppings, laughed when I imitated the sounds of an ovenbird, and positively hooted when I blamed our failure to even hear a gobbler on her father's lack of calling skills.
When after a few hours it became apparent that our chances for calling in and killing a tom were extremely low, we turned to bird watching.  Elaina was fascinated when I explained to her how small a nest of a blue-gray gnatcatcher is (see picture below), that chuck-wills-widows out compete their close relatives, the whip-poor-wills, because the former is a half inch larger, and that ovenbirds say "teach, teach, teach," when they sing.
Late in the morning, our trio spotted two turkeys feeding along a stand that we had vacated earlier in the day.  Always the good sport, Elaina merely smiled when her dad and I apologized for perhaps leaving the locale too soon, thus possibly ruining her chance at killing her first gobbler.  This youngster has the potential to become a tremendous outdoors woman.  The three of us hope to go squirrel hunting this spring when the Virginia season opens.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Turkey Hunting in the Rain (Blog Twenty-nine)

Today, Saturday, I was supposed to have pursued spring gobblers on a farm in Franklin County.  But with the forecast of high winds, heavy rains, and thunderstorms, I opted not to go.  But despite the weather forecast, and it was, sadly, extremely accurate, I couldn't remain inside, instead deciding to hunt on the 38-acre tract we live on in Botetourt County, Virginia.

I have never killed a turkey during a hard rain, and that fact did not change after the morning's events transpired.  My biggest thrill of the day was calling in a very wet hen, which had responded to my clucks and yelps with similar vocalizations of her own.  I kept looking behind her to see if a gobbler was in tow, but, alas, she was all alone.  Finally, she ambled by me off to who knows where.

When the rain became even more intense around 11:10 or so, I decided to begin making my way back to the house, as turkey hunters have to be out of the woods by noon anyway.  I arrived back around 11:30, drenched and cold, with having seen and heard from only that one bedraggled hen.

So was the day an unsuccessful one? No not at all, as I truly enjoyed being outside and frankly would have been miserable inside.  After killing two turkeys back in the fall (Virginia has a three-turkey limit fall and spring seasons combined), I still have on stubborn tag unpunched.  Maybe I will be able to use that tag on Monday before school.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chickens, Part III (Blog Twenty-eight)

This past Wednesday, friend Ken Rago helped Elaine and me build about 80% of our chicken coop.  A few days later, Elaine purchased a chick feeder, water column, and a heating lamp to keep the young chicks warm at night in their plastic container.  Next on the agenda, Ken will help us finish the coop this coming Wednesday, then Elaine and I will finish the fourth side of the run and position a door to the run on a post.
Finally, the first week of May, we will receive what in chicken terms is a "straight run" of chicks from the local Southern States in Troutville, Virginia.  For those unfamiliar with chicken related terms (and Elaine and I certainly were until recently) that means 10 chicks of which we won't be sure of the sex until some weeks later.
Elaine and I are hoping for at least five females out of the 10 chicks.  Our hope is that the alpha rooster will have made himself known by the two month period or so.  Then we will eat the males who are not the alpha males.  Otherwise, we have been told, constant fighting will take place among the roosters.  I guess this is where the saying "there can only be one rooster in the barnyard" comes from.  Anyway, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our chicks, trying to make sure that everything is in place.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Introducing Kids to the Outdoors (Blog Twenty-seven)

This past Saturday through Monday, I was in Tennessee turkey hunting with good friend Larry Proffitt. I was on assignment from Tennessee Wildlife magazine to do a story on mentoring new hunters.  Part of my photography game plan was to take pictures of Larry with his three grandsons and it was a joyous thing to watch as Larry lovingly worked with the young boys.

One of the most positive things we can do as outdoors folks is to take youngsters (or adults that are unfamiliar with any number of outdoor pursuits such as fishing, hunting, birding, camping, hiking, and canoeing) afield. 

Doing so is very satisfying but it is also a great way to preserve and protect our outdoor heritage.  If we are to grow/create the next generation of hunters or birders or hikers, we have to mentor the young or their parents.

My parents, although they grew up in rural Franklin County, Virginia, never had any interest in conducting any outside related activities.  Thus, they had nothing in that regard to pass on to me.  Luckily, I had childhood peers who enjoyed being outside, and I had enough wanderlust that I would also go off by myself to fish and seine for minnows.  However, it's far better for someone to have an older person, friend, or ideally a family member to tutor that individual.

This spring, consider taking your own children or a neighborhood child on an outdoors related trek.  Chances are that you'll have as much fun as the youngster does.