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Smart turkeys can be quite stupid at times

It seems that all the news I've heard lately about U.S. wildlife is good. Virtually all of the Southern states report better-than-usual reproduction on most species - especially wild turkey, which have not had a real bumper hatch in several years. Hatching seasons and rearing seasons seem to have been favorable and now most of the young have reached a size and age that pretty much assure them of reaching maturity.

In addition to native game, Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agree the waterfowl hatch - ducks and geese - has been excellent. A banner season is expected when migration begins. Although the mallard breeding population was down slightly from last year, the overall numbers were high and reproduction was good. That is especially good news for hunters on the lower end of the Mississippi Flyway, where most of the shooting is for mallards and where mallards are considered the duck of importance.

Other species, such as gadwall, wood duck and even the pintail, will make hunting very good, provided nature does its job by turning cold up north and sending the birds on down. That has not happened recently. Despite a huge supply of birds, Southern hunters have had rather poor seasons recently because the birds held out up north until the hunting seasons were over or nearly so.

I have been enjoying the interesting experience of digging out and re-reading some ancient copies of old sporting magazines, like Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, some of them dating back to the late 1930s and early 1940s. It has been an enlightening experience, and some of the old writers, like Nash Buckingham and Archibald Rutledge, have been most entertaining.

Rutledge, well-known in his day, was the poet laureate of south Carolina. He wrote may fine stories, especially about deer hunting and turkey hunting. Back when he wrote, turkeys were almost non-existent in most states. The swamplands of South Carolina, however, still had a shaky population that Rutledge held in high regard.

Though is seems odd to modern turkey hunters, Rutledge strongly opposed spring hunting. On numerous occasions he wrote that he personally felt it to be very unsportsmanlike and ought to be abolished. His worries about the turkey's future apparently did not include rather hefty bag limits and hunts that took place all fall and winter, beginning about Oct. 1 and running into late February. I will say that he was very careful to never kill a hen turkey.

For the most part he seemed to have hunted adult gobblers that had bunched up in small groups (which is their custom even today). I don't recall any of his turkey tales in which in wrote of deliberately scattering a group and then calling them back. He depended almost entirely on his small cedar box caller that he had named "Miss Seduction."

One of his tales was of a time when he had been approached by two old gobblers from different directions. When one of them finally got into range, he brought it down with a well-placed load of No. 2 shot. Before he could get up and run to his downed bird, the other gobbler rushed in and began jumping up and down on the flopping turkey. That allowed Rutledge to get in another shot and bag both birds.

He recounted the tale as if it were quite unusual, but I have had that happen on several hunts. Once I shot a huge double-bearded bird from a group of four. Even though I jumped up and crashed toward the downed bird, the other three went berserk and began jumping up and down on my flopping turkey and screaming their heads off. It was a spring season with only one bird a day allowed, so I kept myself under control and watched them collect themselves and fly away.

Turkeys do strange and wonderful things. No matter how smart you think they are, they can be awfully stupid at times.

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