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GUNS Magazine April 2010 - Page 48

Time To Take a gobbler. urkeys are the only North American gamebird we shoot not only on the ground with a shotgun, but during the spring mating season. This may seem to be a contradiction, but it’s the result of both history and hunting ethics. Archaeological evidence suggests people started hunting and eating turkeys as soon as they “discovered” them thousands of years ago, but modern turkey hunting is a dance between the basic desire to eat turkeys while not taking too much advantage of wild animals. As the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset suggested in his little book, Meditations on Hunting, when hunting becomes something other than simple food-gathering, civilized humans are obliged to limit their use of technology. This isn’t to make hunting “fair,” because humans are always smarter and better equipped than their quarry, but to force us to engage the animal’s natural T John Barsness defenses, thereby entering another world. If we use every advantage of our brains and technology, then we are not hunting but merely killing. And mere killing, Ortega y Gasset famously pointed out, is not hunting: “To the contrary, we hunt not to kill. We kill to have hunted.” First Smokepoles Shooting turkeys with a shotgun began as soon as firearms showed up in North America, but the refinement of calling a gobbler full of spring lust was evidently learned from Indians. It was most highly developed in the Southeast, the last stronghold of wild turkeys during the first half of the 20th century. Many rural Southerners owned only one firearm, usually a shotgun because of its versatility. A shotgun can be loaded with anything from a single slug to fine birdshot to take a wide variety of game. One of the surest ways to locate one was to listen for gobblers in spring, and then lure a male into range by making sounds like a lonely female turkey. The hunter had to know turkeys, and call skillfully—and thus the tradition of shooting spring gobblers on the ground began. Americans made the big switch from subsistence hunting (straightforward killing) to recreational hunting (spending time amidst Nature, with a chance at game) after World War II. The new post-war prosperity meant most of us didn’t have to eat wild food, Some modern turkey hunters put scopes on their shotguns (above). When combined with modern loads with heavier-than-lead shot, clean killing beyond 40 yards becomes possible. This is where your called-in gobbler is supposed to end up, in a clearing not too far away (below). 48 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • APRIL 2010

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