I find myself with a whole new sense of purpose this spring. Well maybe new isn't the proper word but certainly I've confirmed my springtime purpose. No longer will I simply be purring and clucking at my wife around the kitchen. As of a week ago Friday I officially became a licensed turkey hunter in Ontario. I passed my turkey hunting course.
The course I took was set up by the Ontario Federation of Angler and Hunters. It was a good course to take because it was only 3 hours. I probably could have written the test in 3minutes but sadly the Ontario government still likes the dollars they get from the program. I'm not sure of the courses current relevance but it definitely made sense 20 years ago.
For those who may not be aware the turkey population was extirpated from Ontario in the late 1800's. The Ontario Government, OFAH and others, decided to get together and reintroduce turkeys to Ontario about 25 years ago. The dollars from the turkey hunting course were earmarked to support those efforts. It was a brilliant success. Over the first five years of the program a total of 274 turkeys were released into Ontario. That small kernel of hope has grown into a province wide flock of 40,000+. Apparently we only had to trade some moose. Not a bad deal I think.
With the completion of my turkey course I embarked on a weekend of fun at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show. It was a pretty sweet set up with the Turkey course. All at the same place and my admission was included. I didn't get to see a lot on the first day. Alissa was there working with her dogs. She trains service dogs for a living and they had a booth and were doing a demonstration. I got a brief round of look see and then off to intercept the kids coming home from school.
The next morning we had arranged to attend the morning session of The Ontario Federation of Angler and Hunter's conference to see Dr Randall Eaton speak. Dr Eaton wrote "From Boys to Men of Heart: Hunting as a Rite of Passage". He is a behavioral scientist and the premise of his discussion was what kind of adults we create if we introduce our children to hunting. Granted, he spoke mainly about young boys but he did explain why. I would highly recommend you see him speak if you get the chance. He had lots of interesting things to say. Things like pointing out that Nelson Mandela and Jimmie Carter grew up to be Nobel Prize winners and they both hunt avidly. I also like the part when he discussed hunting as a sport. He asked the room to indicate who had come within shooting range of their prize and declined to harvest it. More than half of the room put up their hand. His next question was quite telling I thought. He asked "have you ever seen a basketball player not take the shot?" Of course we haven't. He asked if it really made sense to call something a sport when you don't take the shot? I tend to agree with him. It isn't a sport. It's life. A part of being a living organism that must feed on others to survive.
We spent two more days at the Sportsmen Show. The first day it was just the adults and the last day we took the kids. I won't do a blow by blow but there were some positive things that happened on both days. The first one being the dogs. There were a lot of dogs doing a lot of things. Our favourite was watching the Purina Gold Whistle Retriever Trials. Mid way through the Saturday competition Allissa leaned over and said quietly into my ear. "I'd really like to do this. And you can hunt the dog in the fall." Is that sweet or what? A trial quality trained hunting dog done by a dog training professional. The only thing that could make it better is if she gives it a full range of service dog training and it can get the beer from the fridge as well. Maybe carry all the decoys to the boat and if I'm really lucky teach it to drive to the marsh so I can sleep. Can service dogs do that?
I only had one problem at the Sportsmen's Show. It was at the Gobblestalker booth with the owner Kevin Bartley. He is way to good on the turkey calls and could out purr me. It was hard to keep Alissa at my side after I've conditioned her to respond to purrs and clucks on my turkey call. I'd get her back and Kevin would purr again and I'd be struggling to hold on. Oh the pressure. To stand there and watch your wife melt to the purr of another man's turkey call is hard on the ego. I will not be beaten though. It simply inspired me to practice more so that I can defend my hen.
In truth the guys at the Gobblestalker booth were fantastic. www.gobblestalkercalls.com Kevin makes custom made turkey calls and they are pretty good. I bought one and even with my little experience I could tell I had something exceptional. They name them all and they're all colour co-ordinated. I can tell you that I like the green one I got. Not sure what it's called but it's definitely green. So for now it's simply known as "the green one".
The first couple of days some great guys shared the gobblestalker booth. They were there promoting the Trophyline Tree Saddle. I don't know if you folks have looked at these but they make my nice new ninja tree stand look pretty non-ninja.
I looked seriously at these last year but they were too much money for something you can't really test. That's changed at the Sportsmen's Show. Rick Bullman, a neighbour of mine, had built a fake tree and you could climb up and try the treesaddle in a life like test. They even had a bow you could handle in the saddle. The thing was great and the price was brilliant. I own one now and am super pleased with how I felt hanging from it and how NINJA I'm going to be now. Rick was fantastic. After swapping stories of all the similar names we knew in the community he joked with Alissa and did a great job discussing the saddle frankly. He had some great ideas they've developed on their own for tactics and gadgets. I received a model that differed slightly from the one that I tested. Rick has loaned me his personal harness and after I'm done experimenting with them both we'll see what works better. He even said that if I wasn't pleased with the one design change I questioned he'd give me his personal one but I think that's going beyond the call of duty and I wouldn't feel right about taking him up on it. The thought was nice.
Another great guy I met at the booth was Steve Fowler. Steve is an outfitter from Wolfe Island area here in Ontario. (look it up it looks pretty incredible). He told me more about my bow in 5 minutes than I've managed to learn since I started to shop for one. It was great and I warned him he was going to end up in this blog as punishment for his help. Right now he's helping me select shafts. His emails in the last few days have been absolutely indispensible. He even suggested a source for new strings and what to modify in the cables when I change them so I can fix cam lean that can occur over time. I would put up his website but he doesn't seem to have one. If you want to go have a hunt with him let me know and I can hook you up. His card says he goes by Island Wolfe Whitetails, He's been at it since 1998 and "On private leased land in Bow Only Zone 69A. Meals, Accommodations and stands included. No Trophy Fee's and Non-Resident Buck tags available over the counter without lottery". I'm hoping if he reads this he'll build a website so I can simply post a link in the future.
So that about sums up last week. I joined QDMA and am looking forward to reading what they send me. I'm not sure how into the management I can get as I hunt other people's land and lots of Crown Land. I don't think the government would like me modifying their properties. It's still good things to know if I ever buy another farm. So now it's just a waiting game until turkey season starts April 26 and practice my purr. Next year Kevin….Next year.