Jensen Afield: on “the myths of men” | Weekend magazine
I know it can be dangerous, but I was just thinking.
Many years ago I had a long interview with legendary wild turkey hunter Ben Rodgers Lee. And he said something that stuck with me to this day. Lee, in a long and drawn-out interview, spoke of “man myths,” a reference to certain poorly held beliefs, things that weren’t true, when it came to turkey hunting.
But I’m going to forego the myths of men and try to focus on the myths handed down by some outdoor writers, men who should know better.
I was turning the pages of an outdoor magazine a few days ago and came across a story, written by an outdoor writer, that I simply need to respond to.
Like he said, he was looking to kill a big gobbler and had a plan. And the first part of that plan was to get there early to kill that tom just after dawn. So, in his words, he was going to be sitting in the dark at the foot of a tree “for three or four hours.” In darkness.
Now, I’m not the most talented spring turkey hunter around, but I know this: there’s no reason in hell to set up shop three or four hours before sunrise. I guess you have to go in, as close to the perched tom as possible, maybe about 15 minutes before daybreak – but not too close – then call it when daybreak.
I remember reading another story, and it was probably over ten years ago, about another outdoor writer who wrote about how he was, like the guy mentioned above, in the woods, set up, before the sun comes up. As day approached, he heard a cat swallow right next to him. And his response was, “Well, I guess I alarmed that turkey” because that tom sounded with a gulp. What?
Turkeys make all kinds of sounds in the woods, but I’m sure of this: when a wild turkey sounds an alarm, to let people know that something is wrong, it sounds with an alarming, very loud “putt”. Putt putt.” He doesn’t swallow.
I bring up all this stuff, not because I want to put these outdoor writers down; no, I do so because these writers are read by turkey hunters, many of whom are new to the sport and unfamiliar with wild turkey habits. So when an outside writer imparts bad information, it’s no use to newbies who may not know better.
Come on, guys, do it right.
We have another outdoor writer, this one in Maine, who has come – are you ready for this? – with its own name for a turkey of a certain age. He took it upon himself to give all 2-year-old gobblers a special nickname. He calls them “super jakes”. Really? And how do you know, without seeing the spurs of these toms, if you are looking at a 2 or 3 or even 4 year old tom?
You can not know. Here are the facts: The Jakes, toms who are only one year old, have two distinguishing characteristics: short, stubby beards and a fan that doesn’t unfold perfectly. The jake fan rises on each side, then there is a series of upper feathers that merge above the fan.
A bird’s weight or the length of its beard is not a clear indication of an adult tom’s age. His full fan, all stretched 180 degrees, is also not a telltale sign of his age. The only real indication is the length of a gobbler’s spurs. Here’s the breakdown, as far as I’ve found: Jakes have spurs that are very short. The spurs of a 2 year old tom will be about 3/4 inch. A 3-year-old tom’s spurs can be about 1 inch long. And these smart, surviving old gobblers, at 4 years old, will be between 1 ¼ and 1 ½ inches in length.
Outdoor writers of all kinds sometimes go a little overboard when detailing their moments in the woods or on the waters.
I remember reading an article on trout, written by a very well known outdoor writer who had a number of books on trout fishing to his credit. One story that stuck in my mind was his description of what he saw on the water one morning. There were geese flying overhead. Yeah, I saw that. We’ve all seen that, haven’t we? But there was more, much more. There were a number of ducks paddling around. He had a beaver working on a branch not far away. The songbirds were singing. It went on and on, about all the wildlife he witnessed on that blessed morning.
Hey, there are days when I sit in the deer antlers all day, and I might see two red squirrels and a small group of chickadees. But this guy? He witnessed virtually all of God’s creatures in a single morning. Just to make the story sound good.
Here is my take on all this nonsense.
There are so many wonders in the world of nature, funny, wild and, yes, beautiful things. There is so much to see and write that there is no valid reason to imagine or invent anything that does not seem believable. Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.