Ten Acres of Guns and Freedom



    Dateline Indianapolis, Indiana. Your humble scribe journeyed this past weekend to the National Rifle Association Convention in Indianapolis. Not a bad drive from Beckley, but a world away as it is flat as a pancake and lots of cornfields. That’s not a bad thing, just different!

    Unless you live under a rock somewhere, you probably know what the NRA is all about. To be honest my brothers in camo, it seems to me that we live in a time where you afraid to anything about anything. But having said that I think we are safe in saying that the National Rifle Association is the leading force in America protecting the second amendment rights of gun owners everywhere.

    I don’t think most of the population knows that the NRA is the leader by far, in firearm education. Currently the NRA has 55,000 instructors that train about 750,000 safe gun owners a year. The courses they teach range from shotgun, pistol, rifle, muzzle loading, personal protection and ammo reloading. If that isn’t enough, the NRA also has over 2,800 instructors to work with young competitive shooters!  

    Something that the NRA does that is near and dear to my heart is its involvement in Hunter Education. The NRA founded the first Hunter Education program in 1949. Today the NRA offers the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, youngsters in 43 states and three Canadian Provinces can improve their skills learned in Hunter Education programs. This is just nothing but good stuff boys and girls, anything we can do to get young people hunting, and train them how to do it safely, we need to do it!

    I am going to fool around and run out of room before I get to tell you about the actual NRA show, but they have so many good programs about firearm safety and training, I need to tell you about some more. In 1988 the NRA started the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program, this is usually administered by a state agency, and here in the great state of West Virginia it is taught by the DNR Law Enforcement Section. More than 21 million kindergarten to six grade children have been to this program, this teaches them to not touch guns and tell an adult when they see one in an unsupervised situation.

    There are a lot more NRA programs, but I need to tell you about the convention itself. If you are a fan of any form of hunting, shooting, competitive shooting, gun collecting, camping, outdoor cooking, and the myriad of accessories that go with it there is more than you can see in three days at this show. Every gun manufacturer that you can name is there. Remington, Winchester, Browning, Colt Ruger, Marlin, Smith and Wesson, Glock, Mossberg, Benelli, CZ, Stoger, Bushmaster, and I knew I should not have started this list because I will forget someone. Basically if anyone is making guns, they are there. The cool thing about all the booths that I visited was you went right up to the gun displays and handled the guns directly. That is what they were there for, the friendly staff of all the companies I visited encouraged you to handle those guns. It wasn’t just guns, every kind of optics that you could dream of, sight systems, stocks, barrels, holsters, everything about ammunition that is available in the free world. You know, I was afraid that I would not do justice to what you could see at the NRA convention so, O! Wait! Did I tell you Sarah Palin was there? And Ollie North, Ted Nugent? Alabama? I think I just better tell you to figure on going to the 2015 convention in Nashville, Tenn. next year and see for yourself. I’ll see you at the Remington booth, I just got to get one of those Versa Max shotguns……..    












    The hunter eased the truck door shut and shoved three shotgun shells into his pocket. Loading up would come a little later and he hoped that he would not forget. The pale glow was starting in the east but there was lots of time. Walking out the road in the dark a small bird went by his head like a guided missile and he barely flinched, like he was expecting it.


    “Hey boy, you better stop and put some shells in that ol’ gun a ’fore you forgit.” As with the bird, he didn’t flinch at the voice, as if expecting it. Even in the dark he had no trouble loading, he could do it blindfolded, something he had been taught early. Nearing the first place to listen, he was still early; not even a cardinal had called yet.


    He fumbled for the owl call in his vest. “Now boy jest be patient and wait a bit, ain’t nothin’ wrong with hootin’ like an owl, but sometimes hit’s better to jest let them ol’ gobblers wake up on their own.” He knew it was true; he always wanted to hurry the thing along. “Jest sit quiet boy, let the world wake up on its own.” Watching the pale grow, he calmed himself and strained his ears to listen.


    The first turkey gobbled about where he thought it might. He had tramped this place with the old man since he was a kid. “When that turkey is still on the roost, you git over there on him as quick as you can.” “You don’t have to run, but git rite in there as close as you can without spookin’ him.” He hurried to his rendezvous with this gobbler.


    To his surprise there were several trees that suited him for a calling position. “You get back up agin the biggest ol’ tree you kin find.” He heard the old man say. “Helps hide you, and might keep some fool from shootin’ you from behind.” He nestled into the tree and started getting the mouth calls ready. The turkey gobbled just enough to let him know he was there and had not been spooked. Now he heard a bonus, there were two!


    “Now boy, don’t you call too much when that turkey is on the roost, I know hits temptin’, jest give him a couple little calls, he knows where you at.” The turkey did not answer his first call, and his heart sank a little. A few minutes later on the second call, the gobbler rattled back. He chewed on the edge of the call and fought the urge to answer every time the turkey shouted. He was not surprised to hear a hen start calling.


    “When all his girlfriends is around, there ain’t much you can do.” “Jest sit still and wait it out, what you are a hoping is that they will sneak off from him and he will find himself all alone.” He couldn’t tell what happened to the hen, but a gobbler started raising Cain under the hill, this turkey was coming.


    “Boy, you git that gun pointed in the right direction when the turkey is a headin’ your way’” “You have it up on your knee and be ready; you don’t have it on the ground, leanin’ agin a tree or any of that.” The old man went on. “If’n you ain’t got that gun ready when he comes in sight, you ain’t gonna have no turkey breast that evenin’.”


    Now of all times, with his heart pounding as he squinted down the rib of the old man’s double barrel, the years came flooding back on him. Memories of the man who was the reason he was here this morning, doing what he loved. He thought of when he was a little kid. What seemed to be a giant of a man had first taken him to the woods. A big, rough hand held his and showed him everything from turkey tracks to morel mushrooms. Years later, life, and all that goes with it had taken him away from this place and the old man.


    When he finally returned, he saw through hot, wet tears that the old man was on the porch, confined to his rocker. Somehow he was frail and much smaller than he remembered. Thankfully, his old teacher could still speak and had plenty left to tell him. “You just remember what I’ve taught you boy.” The old man rumbled one fall day. “You see that you listen to me after I’m gone.”


    When he caught the first glimpse of the gobbler’s fan coming up the hill, the ivory bead of the old double was pointed directly at it. He had picked out a white oak that marked forty yards. All he need do was caress the trigger and wait. “I’m listenin’ Granddad” he said, “I’m listenin’”.






Immerse Yourself In The Hunt



“Go afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forest and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.”-Fred Bear


    He grabbed a sapling as he struggled a little to get up; seventy six winters took some toll. He had just put the shotgun over his shoulder and was fixing to start up the hill when the turkey gobbled. He allowed himself a momentary grin, for almost two hours he had been sitting here waiting for the old sinner to say something. Now, just as he was leaving, the gobbler decides to speak up. The hunter pulled down on the brim of his weather beaten hat and peered in the direction of the turkey. He was planning his next move while picturing what the bird was doing. One more grin as he started out the deer path. This move would work, or it would not. He cared not a whit; the fun was in being here this day! He was here in the spring woods with the cardinals yapping, redbuds blooming, the creek in fine voice, and the rest of the world seeming to come alive after the long winter.   

    We all must have our own reasons for going to the woods or the creeks and the rivers. We go because of tradition, or we go because we like to eat the fish and game that we bring home, at times I wonder if some of us really know why we are out there. It would seem that we are living in a world that is going nowhere at ninety miles an hour. We are not sure what we want to do, but we have to do it as fast as we can. If anything takes more than a few minutes, it is not worth the time and we have to move on to something else. Whew!

    Fred Bear (the father of modern bow hunting) is trying to tell us something in that quote. Besides the fact that we must have respect for the game that we hunt, and the woods where it lives, he is telling that us that we have the natural world as an immense gift. A God given gift for us to enjoy, revel in, and pass on to the next generation. In that gift he is saying we can “cleanse our soul”, to me that also means “rest” our soul. In the solitude of the turkey woods or a trout stream we can rest our souls while we cleanse it from all the stress and static of what too many of us just think of as life anymore.

    My brothers in camo, I want you to think about this. Too many of us live with a self-imposed burden. We think that we must bring home a deer or turkey or a stringer of fish for this trip to be “successful.” What are you doing while you are only thinking of this? Are you living in the day? Did you notice how nice it was in the woods today? Did you pause as the boat glides down the river and you can lean over and watch the motion picture of the bottom as it goes by? How about just enjoying a day with friends or family in the outdoors? There is no prerequisite that you must bring home fish or game to enjoy these days.

    Hat pulled low, the double barrel on his knee; he sent three soft yelps down the hollow, an invitation. All creation held its breath for a second, the cardinals and towhees stopped as did the spring peepers. Just when he thought it was futile, and he would hear no more from this turkey, there came an indignant gobble, then another. One more quick grin, this turkey might come up here, and he just as well might not. It did not matter, there was nowhere else on the green earth that he would rather be.     





The Mystical World of Calling





    Do you think that calling wild turkeys into shotgun range is some sort of art form that can never be yours? Or do you see yourself as a Master Caller, a being with special powers sent from above, because you have been successful in the turkey woods the past few years? I have come to tell you, turkey pilgrim, neither one is true. Any hunter can learn to call turkeys with a little practice and perseverance. On the other hand, just because you have carried turkeys out of the woods the past few years does not mean that you are Ben Rogers Lee incarnate. (If you don’t know who that is you should!)

No part of turkey hunting has been more talked about, mystified, distorted, and downright lied about than the subject of calling. Beginners often look to it as some sort of magical gift that they can never learn, this fallacy is usually helped along by the older hunters who want to maintain their throne in the hierarchy. When I started hunting turkeys, right after the last ice age, old turkey hunters were famous for not sharing knowledge about this world with young converts to the sport. I am not a competition caller, and I don’t play one on TV. Yet in the past forty some odd years of chasing these crazy birds around, I have called in the occasional tom turkey. You can too, if you follow a few simple steps.

  1. Get your hands on the best call you can find and practice with it until you feel comfortable. I would start with a friction type call, either a box call or a glass or slate call and learn to make a passable yelp. Part of the fun here is watching the other members of your household as you practice for hours on end, they will love it! (OK, maybe not)  Don’t worry about any other call until you have a good yelp. The wild turkey has an extensive vocabulary, but often this is the only call that you will need.
  2. Practice in the woods. Your calling will always sound better outdoors. Take a buddy and have him positioned forty yards away while you do the calling, then one hundred yards away. Now trade and let him call while you sit off at a distance. I think you will be amazed how much better the call will sound when you are not right on top of it. This should give you some confidence while actually hunting, when you are playing for keeps.
  3. Practice, practice, practice, get comfortable and confident with your call. Learn to use it in different situations and weather conditions. Most friction type calls, (boxes and slate calls) must be kept dry. You will need a large zip lock bag or even a bread bag to carry your calls in when it rains on you out there.
  4. Once you master the yelp call, I would move on to the simple cluck of the turkey. After that you might try the excited cutting of a hen turkey. All of these calls and many others are now available on videos, discs, and many sites on the internet. The modern turkey hunter has a wealth of resources out there. Back in the day you had to shadow a grouchy old turkey man and hope against hope that he would show you something.As you enter the world of the wild turkey with a call in your hand, you will come up with more questions. Should I call more or less? Do I call every time he gobbles? Do I call back to hens?  Most of this you will learn on your own, but I would offer a few suggestions.In general, try “less instead of more” when calling. If a gobbler is really fired up and seems to be approaching, don’t fire back a call to him every time he gobbles. Have patience; play it coy, give him a call now and then. If he is responding, give him time to come in. If you call too much, he may go into a frenzy of gobbling and strutting and you will have the dreaded “hung up” turkey. He is out there out of sight and may never come into range. Don’t call too much to a turkey that is still on the roost! If he is gobbling when you call to him, he heard you the first time! He knows exactly (and I mean exactly), where you are. Wait until he has flown down before you call to him more.

    That is all we have time for boys and girls, get those calls out and start driving everybody in your house crazy!