Purists

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Purists, or those who believe their way is superior to all others, were the subject of part of an article published by Jim Casada in a recent edition of Turkey & Turkey Hunting.  Casada is the consummate turkey hunter, the classic example of the turkey hunters’ turkey hunter.  His knowledge and experience are broad and deep, and he is well respected as a writer and turkey hunting authority.

Recounting the details of a memorable hunt half dozing in the warmth of late afternoon, spotting an approaching turkey, and deciding not to call, Casada wrote:

   “I had picked out the spot for a shot, although the gobbler must have taken at least 15 minutes to reach it.  Twice, he stopped and stared, in that alert, upright position so typical of turkeys, for several minutes, but there was never any of the popping wings or nervousness associated with a bird about to leave.  Finally, the longbeard reached the pre-determined spot for the moment of truth.  I offered one muted cluck, and when his head went up, I squeezed the trigger.  

  “ Condemn me or look on me in disdain if you wish, but I acknowledge with pride that the turkey that flopped at my feet a few moments later didn’t fit the strutting, earth-shaking gobbling, put-on-a-show scenario that’s too often depicted as the only way to go.  I regularly hear hunters offering thoughts like, “I only shoot gobblers that are 3 years of age or older,” “Unless I’ve called him and he gobbles coming  in, I’m not going to shoot,” or, “I won’t  pull the trigger unless it’s an old, hook-spurred bird.”  Well, pardon my bluntness, but to me that’s about 40 percent blarney, 40 percent malarkey and 15 percent B.S.  I’ll be generous and leave 5 percent for those who actually find such thinking viable.  For me, any mature gobbler fairly hunted and cleanly killed is a trophy and triumph.  I’ll worry about such things as weight, beard length, and spur size when I have my foot on his neck.

   “In this case, a bird I had in essence ambushed—the cluck to make him raise his head was the only call he likely heard, because when I first saw him, it had been 20 minutes since my last series of yelps—turned out to be the finest Eastern I’ve ever killed:  two beards totaling 19 inches and perfectly matched spurs just longer than 1 5/8 inches.  It was a magic moment for me, and I’d argue it involved more than blind luck.  I had studied the lay of the land, chosen an appropriate setup, played my cards right in terms of resisting the urge to call too much, picked the right place to take the shot and executed the shot appropriately.  In short, I’m proud of the turkey despite the hunt failing to satisfy any of the parameters with which purists ostensibly burden themselves and turkey hunters.  In truth, I think much of it is fluff, and that being said, I’ll get off my soap box.  As long as it is legal, ethical and you are comfortable with the way you hunt, to me it’s all right.”

For those who have read Turkey Hunting—A One Man Game by Ken Morgan, the focus on stealth and woodsmanship is a familiar theme.  Serious turkey hunters know that calling is only one small element of success.  Besides all that, one has to wonder how purists handle the reality that a very high percentage of the mature turkeys killed are subdominant gobblers which slip in quietly, often appearing at some odd angle to the last audible gobble, causing the hunter to wonder why the turkey hooked way around.  These are the turkeys Tom Kelly dubbed, “walk-ons.”  Tom has also observed that we run a lot of turkeys off over-calling, and that one of the most important things to know is when to shut up.

  Thankfully, purists are far from a majority of hunters, but there is a disturbingly growing population of hunters who seriously want to impose their own set of arbitrary criteria on everybody else.  Dangerously, some push for laws and regulations to try to force their wishes on the rest of us.  This is where purists start to bleed over into being zealots, those convinced that they are on some lofty mission to save the rest of us from ourselves.

Not uncommonly, these self-proclaimed visionaries characterize their wishes as “good conservation.”  Biology and sound science are thrown out the window, right along with any concern whatsoever for what may be in the best overall long-term best interest of the most people.

Having previously served as Director of Alabama’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division for 12 ½ years, I can unequivocally say that purists and zealots are a far greater threat to hunting than all the anti-hunters on earth.  Sometimes well-intentioned, sometimes driven by self-serving motives, they push for regulations to suit their own wishes, everybody else be damned.  Left unchecked, this narrower and narrower tunnel bodes poorly for hunting and fishing.

Some people, bless their hearts, think that more restrictive rules are in-and–of-themselves good conservation.  In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.  A fishing-related example would be unnecessary catch and release.  Although catch and release has its place as a fisheries management tool, it is not a universally beneficial practice.  In fact, the primary problem in managing bass-bluegill fisheries in ponds and lakes is getting people to keep enough bass.  Bass-crowded fish populations abound, yet many anglers are convinced that the appropriate thing to do is return bass to the water.

And probably the most powerful psychological force at play is they sure as hell don’t want anybody else to keep and eat the fish they just put back.

For more on Jim Casada, go to www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com