Don't call them 'Thunderchickens'

Mike RaykoviczOkay, I’ll admit I’m occasionally guilty of armchair hunting and sometimes I’ll watch a television channel featuring hunting and fishing, especially if the episode involves fair chase. I particularly like the bowhunting segments involving elk hunting in the western states because this is something I’m not ever likely to do. What galls me, however, are the episodes in which so called “celebrity” hunters shoot. I can’t say they actually hunt deer that are grown like cattle on a farm and managed for their large antlers. I get particularly miffed when one of these celebrities spots a deer bigger than any I or even most of us have ever seen, turns to the camera and whispers, “He’s not the one we’re after. He’s only four years old and will only score around 130 so, ah’ll  think wee’ll let him go till next year.” Worse yet is when the celebrity hunter makes a killing shot on an animal, pumps his fist in the air, high fives his cameraman and laughingly says, “Ah smoked heem.” Seems to me the respect for the animal should go deeper than that.

Last week I decided to get up early to see how many turkeys I could hear on the farm which I’ll be hunting later this spring. This was my first time out and it promised to be a beautiful if not cool morning. After parking the truck, I slowly made my way along a woodland path to the edge of a hill where I expected the turkeys would be roosted. I wasn’t wrong in my choice of spots because as night began to fade I heard my first gobble of spring, followed by a second then a third and then two more from across the valley.

The sound of those birds send a chill down my spine and I was thrilled to hear them herald the day with their booming gobbles. They could have been jakes or they could have been longbeards; it didn’t matter. For me and many hunters like me a wild turkey is a magnificent, wily, worthy opponent and one in which skill and woodsmanship are required to consistently take one on a regular basis.

In my opinion they are the most magnificent game bird in the woods and deserving of respect, so as I stood leaning against a large hemlock tree I was reminded of how one celebrity hunter despairingly referred to them as “Thunderchickens.” Maybe he thought the name was funny or clever but it peeved me no end to have him dismiss a wild turkey as nothing more than a loud, overgrown chicken. Maybe this guy gets to hunt them in a dozen states and maybe he even kills one everywhere he goes, but to me disparaging any game animal by referring to it as a “raghorn” buck or “Thunderchicken” simply diminishes that animal to something less than the worthy woodland opponent that it is.

I’ve hunted spring turkeys for about 45 years now and I’ve been fooled in almost every way possible by a smart tom that lived to gobble another day. In fact, it’s happened too many times for me to ever loose my respect for these splendid game birds. A baseball pitcher wouldn’t call a batter a “patsy” just because he struck him out; he would have a respect for that batter because he knows that same batter could hit his next pitch out of the ballpark. It’s the same with turkeys. For every one that comes running to a call, there are dozens more who refuse to answer, much less come to a hunter’s call, and this is what is so appealing about spring turkey hunting.

I’m looking forward to the beginning of spring turkey season and if I call in a jake or three you can rest assured they won’t be referred to as a chickens or raghorns or anything else except what they are.

Categories: New York – Mike Raykovicz

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