The Value of Life

I have harvested hundreds of animals over the years if you count the ones with feathers. Contrary to what the anti-hunters believe, I don’t actually go around killing animals constantly. I harvest more than most, but not more than what’s necessary for my freezer and for conservation and population control. What I do in the outdoors is part of a larger picture; thousands of like-minded conservationists and hunters who band together to raise money for conservation and the animals that we love. Our dollars go directly to protecting the animals that we hunt and the lands they live on.

When I see a video of nature taking it’s course in the wild, like lions killing a small giraffe or two bucks dying because they’ve locked horns and can’t unlock them, it hurts my heart. My eyes don’t want to see what I know to be the natural way of life. I want to imagine that such pain and suffering don’t exist, even though I know that it’s all a part of a larger picture that has to exist.

That must be the way that the anti-hunters look at us. They know in their hearts that we, the hunters, are necessary to the survival and overall health and wellness of the animal species that we hunt. But their hearts hurt for the animals that have their lives taken from them.

As a hunter I believe that my respect for life has increased as the years go by. I value all life, and I know the difficulties that all living things must go through in order to grow old in this world. For an animal to survive in the wild they must be constantly working towards that one goal. And as a hunter I value life because I have taken it. My hands have harvested animals for their meat, and my heart does not take that lightly.

Why is it that I find it difficult to watch a video of a predator taking down an animal, but I can go into the wild and harvest meat for my family? Because I have compassion, empathy and respect for all life. In the same way that a vegan does not want to watch me harvest meat for my family, I have a difficult time watching a predator do that in the wild. It’s natural to turn away from things that are more raw and powerful than what’s in our own nature. My experiences of watching wildlife videos has given me a new level of understanding for why the anti-hunters talk to me the way that they do. They cannot speak with respect about something that they cannot empathize with. Experiences breed empathy. My empathy for the predators of this world grows with each passing day because I respect them, and also because I know that I’ll never be a predator on their level. I value life because I have taken it, and I think that speaks volumes for the hunting community as a whole.

Turning Miles Into Memories

I walked a lot of miles for my turkey this season.

When I scroll through my social media and see photos of people who are taking home their 4th or 8th gobbler for the year I can’t help but feel a little jealous. I love wild turkey meat. I have so many turkey recipes that sometimes I battle over which one to use first, and most of our turkey breast is gone within a month of closing day. Harvesting multiple turkeys in a season means that we can enjoy that meat while we re-live the stories over and over at the dinner table.

I hunted in 4 different states this year for turkeys. Granted, not every hunt was meant to fill my tag. I hunted with other people and carried camera gear to document their journey, but I consider it a team effort. If they had got their bird, it would have been a success in my book.

In Georgia we were too early. The Tom’s were barely starting to talk out loud, and the conditions just weren’t right. We had every intention of going back, but our schedule fills up quickly and it wasn’t in the cards.

In Montana we found the most difficult, and most rewarding, turkey hunt waiting for us in the backcountry. It was similar to elk hunting, with the only difference being the size of the animal and the noises they make. Spot and stalk for turkeys? We don’t usually do that back home. But the Montana turkey hunt, although unsuccessful, will always remain one of my favorite adventures.

South Dakota was beautiful, and we had some close calls. The birds were smart, fast, and they all survived our trip.

Tennessee will always be special to me because it’s my home. Our birds typically cooperate well, and the backdrop couldn’t be any more scenic. I tagged a bird in Tennessee on my last day. It poured down rain, not a scrap of clothing was dry on us, and we gave up to go have breakfast. A chance glimpse of some birds led us to a backroad, which led us to a quick hike up a grassy hill, and then we ambushed the birds from the honeysuckle vines that were in full bloom. Is there anything as memorable as pulling the trigger while that sweet smell envelops your senses?

Last night I made wild turkey breast in the slow cooker for my family.

We hiked a total of close to 80 miles for that bird over the course of this season.

We drove a total of 4,900 miles within 5 weeks chasing the thunder from state to state.

We slept an average of 4 hours per night.

And we are completely in love with the entire process. It has nothing to do with tagging out when you enjoy every little detail from beginning to end. Daniel Lee took every step with me. He drove those miles, and he called the birds in every time. I have to also mention that he tagged a Tennessee bird a week before I did by putting a perfect 50 yard shot on a huge gobbler. I don’t shoot that far, but he rarely misses.

Even though we work in this industry where television personalities have access to some prime hunting spots, we mostly guide ourselves when it comes to turkeys. We hunt a lot of public land. We put the hours in. We carry our own gear and call our own birds in. And sometimes we go home with nothing but memories, sore feet, and b-roll footage. IMG_8796But not this time!