Wildlife sightings

October 22, 2010

Faith Outdoors

Good thing I had my binoculars with me yesterday. I used them often while out in the field with two of my sons, William, 12, and Andy, 17.

I just wish we had taken one more shotgun along with us. That would have caused me to buy a fall wild turkey tag for Andy, to go along with William’s youth deer license.

Had I done that, Andy would have been able to take his pick from a group of 16 turkeys that walked by us yesterday afternoon on a farm near Cannon Falls. Instead, we all were treated to the sight of the birds feeding contently along the edge of a corn field awaiting harvest.

Our primary focus was on trying to help William shoot a deer during the four-day youth hunt in southeastern Minnesota, a new concept that the DNR is trying this year (I hope it will continue next year). On the way down, we bought his $13 tag at a hardware store. Had I been thinking, I could have picked up a turkey tag for Andy.

Originally, I was going to buy the turkey tag I had been awarded in the lottery. But, I discovered that I am not allowed to hunt while guiding a youth hunter on the special hunt. However, Andy was allowed to hunt.

I wish I would have thought about this. Actually, the reason I asked Andy to go in the first place was I had been sick for several days and was still feeling a bit weak. I wanted Andy there in case William got a deer, so that I could get some help dragging it out.

Andy generously agreed to supply a little bit of extra muscle. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting to see turkeys. I went to this same farm a year ago on two separate occasions and never saw or heard a bird. So, I figured our chances were slim of seeing one this time.

But, I was wrong. Only minutes after getting settled inside the permanent ground blind located on the far end of the property, I heard the familiar cluck of a wild turkey. I happened to have a few calls in my backpack, so I pulled one out and made a few clucks of my own.

Predictably, the bird answered back and kept clucking even after I shut up. It kept on going and sounded like it was moving in our direction. I figured it was a lone bird looking for some company. In the fall, the birds are gathered in large flocks and really like to stick together. If you find one isolated and can get it to answer your calls, it usually will come in.

It took a while, then I finally spotted movement in the woods somewhere between about 40 and 60 yards away. First one bird appeared, then another and another and another. Eventually, the whole flock stepped out into the field to feed. We probably could have shot then, but it would have been on the outer limits of shotgun range.

The birds worked their way across the field and continued on toward the corn field. They reached it, then ducked in and out of it for about 20 minutes. Finally, they exited the corn field and started walking along the edge — right at us.

It was fun to see the birds come closer, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit sick that they were all about to come within shotgun range, and we would have to just sit there and watch them go by. Eventually, they all rounded the corner of the corn field and filed by us at about 30 to 35 yards.

I consoled myself with the thought that, if we had taken a shot, we may have spooked any nearby deer that might have come in for William. Actually, I may have been proved accurate on that point. Not long after that, two deer came out into the field about 150-200 yards away.

Now, we’re in business, I thought. I prayed to the Lord that he would cause the deer to move our way. They angled toward us and went into the corn just like the turkeys did. However, they came back out and headed the opposite way. I probably had my binoculars on them for about 20 t0 30 minutes.

Oh well. It was exciting for all of us to see both deer and turkeys. And, to their credit, William and Andy both said they enjoyed the show, even though neither got a chance to pull the trigger.

This morning, I got a chance to told William that I’m never disappointed about a hunt in which I see game animals. It’s not all about shooting something. I realize that can be a hard sell to a young hunter — or even to an experienced hunter like me!

I think it may be God’s way of putting it all into perspective. It’s very easy for hunters to get all wrapped up in the push for success in harvesting an animal. But, maybe, we should have a different definition of success — being able to enjoy the experience of seeing beautiful creatures that God has created and given to us for our enjoyment, not only to harvest, but to observe with awe and wonder.

The  awe and wonder are still there for me, even at age 49. I never tire of seeing wildlife in their natural environment, doing what they naturally do. The deer and turkeys we saw didn’t seem to notice us at all. They carried on seemingly oblivious to the human predators watching them.

We ended up with a front row seat to a show of God’s glory. How can anyone be disappointed with that?

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek