Slowing Down, And Catching Up

Depending on who you talk to, turkey hunting is often an overlooked pastime among western big game hunters. I grew up in Virginia and spring gobbler was a big deal for us as kids. The first animal I ever harvested was a beautiful Tom that still stands as my biggest bird to date almost twenty years later. It wasn’t the size of the bird or the length of the beard and spurs that made that hunt stick out to me over all these years. It was the overwhelming sense of community I felt during that coming of age moment as a young hunter. I shared that moment with my father, brother, uncles, and grandfather who were, and still are my biggest role models. Hunting has come to define my family for three generations, and despite the commonality of something like a turkey hunt, I finally felt like I was more than just a camo-laden garbage disposal, consuming every snack my dad could cram in my turkey vest for a day’s hunt. Furthermore, it cemented my desire to carry on their legacy as a responsible outdoorsmen, catalyzing my lifelong passion for hunting and conservation.

Jimmy Dobbs and Matt Elliott from Benchmade Knife Company

Over the years I’ve spent less and less time in the woods chasing turkey for one reason or another, but I’ve still managed to find a similar sense of community among my friends and hunting partners. That being said, one of the things that fulfills me more than anything else is the opportunity to introduce new hunters to the woods, and sharing the pieces of wisdom I’ve accumulated throughout a lifetime of chasing critters. This dissemination of information is one way we can instill a passion for protecting public land for generations to come.

I recently had an opportunity to rekindle my love for turkey hunting after spending a few days at the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers 2019 North American Rendezvous. Having talked about hunting and fishing for three days at the event, we were all eager to get outside and hunt. Friends from OnX Maps, Federal Premium, Hunt DIY, First Lite, MeatEater, and the Oregon Chapter of BHA joined us in Eastern Oregon for three days of good laughs, long nights, early mornings, and one of the strangest birds on the planet. It was the perfect way to unwind after a busy weekend away from our families, and reconnect with friends both new and old.

Ben O’Brien from MeatEater Inc.

Before I get any further, I feel the need to introduce an incredible family that we had the pleasure of spending time with throughout the week. They were the driving force behind making this event happen, and it wouldn’t have been near as fun or successful without their support. Chelsea and Tanner are members of Oregon’s BHA Chapter who happened to live a few miles away from where we were hunting. They have two young children that they have raised in the outdoors with immense respect for hunting and conservation. Lane, the youngest is only 3 years old and spent as much time with us as he could over those few days, mimicking the sounds of a turkey, carefully admiring each bird we harvested, and eating his fair share of chips and apples on a nightly basis. Lane immediately reminded me of myself at his age. Curious, happy to be outside, and maybe even a little accident-prone. He is the type of kid that will be standing in my shoes one day, doing what he can to uphold our outdoor heritage.

We spent three days splintering off into groups of two and three, trying to cover as much ground as possible, congregating mid-day for lunch and a recap of our individual morning encounters. Turkey hunting is sporadic, and often times the middle of the day isn’t as productive as the mornings or evenings when turkey is in transition to and from their roosting spots. We were all relatively new to the area, but we quickly started dialing in the terrain and its critters. Turkey generally get a bad rap for being “dumb birds”, but this hunt quickly reminded me how elusive they can be, forcing me to question my own intelligence a few times. Luckily the team began to find success, as birds eventually made their way back to the cabins in the bed of our pick-up trucks.

Looking back on this trip, I am reminded of the importance of community and legacy. So much of what we enjoy about hunting is the community of like-minded individuals it provides, and a respect for the balance of the natural world. The opportunity to share camp with people that we rarely get to spend time with outside of tradeshows and events allows us all to connect with each other in a more genuine environment. It’s cliché to say, but hunting isn’t always about filling your tags. It’s the small things, like forging a new friendship at the trail head, watching the sun rise over an incredible stretch of mountains, or the opportunity to connect with a kid like Lane that will one day pass down his knowledge and excitement to someone else. The fact that there are less and less hunters each year is no secret, and taking the time to uphold this heritage of hunting and fishing isn’t something we should take lightly.

Lane Admiring One Of The Birds We Brought Back
Conservation goes far beyond the inherent revenue generated from tag and license sales each year, and it’s our job to do what we can to ensure the next generation has the same opportunity to get outside and enjoy these wild spaces. If you have a chance to hunt with new people, or share knowledge with the younger generation, take it. You’d be surprised how fulfilling it can be to get someone hooked on the outdoors, and how quickly that passion can turn into action, protecting the heritage for generations to come.

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