Bill Marchel: Turkey time is just ahead
When turkey hunting season finally arrives, we otherwise ordinary humans rise well prior to daylight, dress ourselves in camouflage from head to toe and enter the woods in darkness.
BRAINERD — At one-half hour before sunrise on April 12, the 2023 Minnesota wild turkey hunting season will commence.
Clear and calm spring mornings stir the hormones of amorous turkey gobblers. Already, despite Old Man Winter's grip on the landscape, the throaty gobbles of amorous tom turkeys occasionally echo among the oaks. And they puff up and strut for hens, urged on by an instinctive desire to propagate.
And now, with turkey season looming, we hunters annoy friends and family as we practice our calling — yelps, clucks, cuts and purrs.
When season finally arrives, we otherwise ordinary humans rise well prior to daylight, dress ourselves in camouflage from head to toe and enter the woods in darkness, the better to sneak close to a tom turkey gobbling from his nighttime roost.
Then, when the morning light is at a romantic just-so, the turkeys fly from their elevated perches to the ground where, if they are lucky, they meet with a hen. There the courtship ritual continues. Then a tom turkey tucks his chin, drops his wings and fans that giant tail, his well-kept feathers radiating iridescent gold, green, purple and bronze, depending on the light angle. He sashays ahead with a quick step or two, and when he does he emits what turkey hunters call a spit-and-drum.
And toms gobble, too. Sometimes insistently. It’s one of nature’s greatest audio delights. It’s a gobbler’s way of conversing with a hen — “Your place or mine?”
Nearby, a well-camouflaged hunter is seated statue-like with back against a tree, shotgun laid across his or her uplifted knee. The hunters’ eyes shift slowly from left to right. Hoping to entice a passionate tom into gun range, the hunter is calling like a hen turkey, emitting seductive yelps, cuts, clucks, cackles and purrs.
Sometimes the ploy works, oftentimes it doesn’t.
When it does, the hunter is afforded one of the outdoors’ greatest spectacles — and a Thanksgiving dinner to boot.
And yes, wild turkey is wonderful table fair. Turkey stir fry is my favorite. I cut breast meat into finger-sized pieces, always slicing across the grain to assure tenderness. I sauté the strips, add my favorite vegetables and stir fry sauce, and serve over rice.
BILL MARCHEL is a wildlife and outdoors photographer and writer whose work appears in many regional and national publications as well as the Brainerd Dispatch. He may be reached at email@example.com. You also can visit his website at BillMARCHEL.com.