Taking An Animal's Life Is One Of The Most Confusing And Exhilarating Things I've Ever Experienced
I am sure people have seen clips and pictures by now, but for the first time in my life I hunted and killed a living creature. Turkeys in Western, Nebraska. Two of them. Dead at my hands. I had the opportunity to hunt deer with Sydney down state in Illinois at the end of 2021, but was unsuccessful. I blogged that first hunt below.
This was different. I had overcome some of my issues with hunting from before. Mostly, it was about the gun. You can call me a little bitch if you want, but I don't think I will ever be 100% comfortable with guns the way some people are. Having said that, accidentally hurting or killing someone with a gun wasn't the primary thought in my head as we were traversing through the canyons of the Nebraska sand hills.
When I finally had an opportunity to pull the trigger on our second deer hunt I missed. I was extremely disappointed, but there was a small percentage of me that was relieved. I love animals. I've never had a single issue with hunters so long as they ate what they killed, but when I was faced with it and it was in my hands there was a tinge of guilt that accompanied the adrenaline rush.
I had a similar experience with the turkey hunt, but less so. I am not sure if it was because I had previously done the deer hunt or if because it was a bird instead of a mammal, but I had less nerves, less adrenaline, and less guilt than I did on the deer hunt. When I did finally pull the trigger and took that big Tom's head off my immediate reaction wasn't to celebrate. I kind of had to be coached into that reaction by our guide, Nebraska Nate. My initial natural reaction to taking a life was to pause, exhale, and feel some sense of guilt. After I approached the downed bird and picked it up I was like overcome with a sense of euphoria. I accomplished something. Like I checked a primal human box and the reward was going to be dinner. I provided for my household even though my girlfriend is a vegetarian. Literal goosebumps for killing the turkey. We used a reaper method which makes the turkeys charge and want to fight you. Shooting that first turkey almost felt like self-defense.
That guilty feeling came back when we gutted and cleaned my first turkey. My turkey had gangrene. Male turkeys often fight each other and the result is this bruising and internal bleeding that can turn into what we saw and smelled. This gross looking blackish green tissue on the muscle which makes the turkey unsafe to eat. Male turkeys will also loose some feathers on the lower part of their torso from fucking all the hens. My turkey had ALL of his pubic feathers. That means he was basically a virgin. Just some sad little loser virgin dink turkey who got beat up and never got laid. I basically killed 17 year-old me in turkey form and it was all for nothing because he was inedible. I felt bad for him. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I took his life because a hen took his v-card.
I wanted that turkey meat though so we went back out the next day. This time we used the traditional method with decoys and called them in using this little plastic disc thing that you scratched with a stick that looked like a pencil but with no lead and no eraser. I never would've guessed in a billion years that those things would be capable of making a noise that sounded like a turkey, but it worked. We also had a turkey blind that I lugged down to a spot in a ravine, but after 45 minutes of swearing under my breath trying to get it set up I gave up and me and my local guide just hid in the woods. I am glad I couldn't get it set up though because finding a hiding spot and then covering it up with branches made it feel more authentic. We hunted those turkeys the way people in America have hunted turkeys for over a hundred years.
Sitting in that makeshift blind, dead silent, and watching a big Tom strut in to our decoys and respond to the call was exhilarating. Call by call, step by step, breath by breath...a big beautiful turkey walked right into range. This time...no guilt, no nerves, minimal adrenaline. Just simply and calmly squeezed the trigger from about 18 yards away. Once he was down my excitement went through the roof. Dinner was on the table.
I've heard Steve Rinella say to anti-hunters that he loves and appreciates animals just as much if not more than PETA types who are repulsed by hunters. I think he is right. When we were out hunting you really get to see animals in their natural habitat. When you're hunting you really have to know the animals. You need to know how they move, how they behave, what their strong senses are, when they eat, where they eat, where they sleep, and what their anatomy is. I got a crash course in turkeys. When Dave and I were on our drive we joked about how ugly turkeys are. I mean, in someways they are. Their beards, necks, heads, etc...gross looking, but at they same time they're amazing. I had no idea that their heads can turn blue, red, or white depending on what they're doing. I also had no appreciation for the rest of their bodies until seeing them up close. They're an American Peacock. They aren't a dull brown like they're depicted on Fox NFL Thanksgiving graphic. They're a shimmering copper with a creamy white trim and other colors that seeming change color in the sunlight. The feathers are incredibly soft. They're a magnificent looking animal up close. They tasted even better than they looked and I like knowing that those turkeys lived free lives in nature as opposed to getting artificially fattened in an enclosed pen until a factory prepares them for Thanksgiving dinner.
I wrote 1000+ words because I don't love being on camera and can't fully capture my feelings in real time, but the video came out great. Thanks to Sydney for giving me a new hobby, experience, and appreciation