A Yankee's Musing

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A question of ethics

Last night I ate wild turkey and although I've never eaten it before, the wildness brings me back to my youth. I am a product of parents who hunted game. It was not a sport; it was a necessity. We may have lacked money, but we never went without food, wild food: woodcock, grouse, pheasant, rabbit, venison, and moose. We drew the line on black bear that is our totem, our spiritual guide--at least my mother's and mine which my dad grumbled about frequently, but he knew enough to let it alone. Native blood trumped any debate over the issue.

Lately a large male turkey with a 9" beard took over my backyard. Finished with his spring mating frenzy, he found a permanent roost in one of my white pine trees. His actions were anything but communal; he marched around the yard with an air of entitlement and attacked and drove every living creature away. I have bruises on my legs to prove his tenacity. Whenever I went to my outhouse, he hissed, raced at me, and nipped my legs. Honestly, I came to dislike this particular bird immensely. I do not kill things, but I have a friend who is a hunter and respectful of his kills. Although a reknown birder, this would be his first turkey. He goes by the name Bubba, but don't let that fool you.

During the two day process of hunting this bird before the turkey season ended, Bubba met my off-an-on neighbors. All seemed fine, all systems go. That is, until the morning of the shoot. When I awoke to one blast, I sighed relief. No more wild male turkey monster. Good for you, Bubba. And I went back to sleep. 45 minutes later, I awoke to a pounding on my back screen door and a deep voice that yelled, "State Police, some to the door with your hands up." Hands up? State Police? I'm in the middle of the National Forest, 14 miles from town. I put on my bathrobe and went to the door. "Let me see your hands! Put them up now!" The automatic rifle was pointed at me so I made sure my hands were up--just like on TV, only my heart was pounding and I knew this jacked up State cop meant business.

"Who's in there with you?"

"No one, sir. Just my two cats."

"Whoever is in there, tell them to come to the door with their hands up."

"Only two cats, sir, and I think they are hiding. Would you like to come in?"

"Yes, open the door."

As I started to reach for the screen door hook, he shouted,"Keep you hands up where I can see them."

Perplexed, I said, "Sir, I need my hands to open the door for you."

"Ok, do it slowly. One hand."

I wrestled with the hook, one handed, and he entered with his gun still poised. Needless to say, after searching the camp, he realized I was alone, except for two scared cats. It seems the neighbors had heard the shot, saw Bubba with the dead turkey, and then somehow got it into their imaginative, prescription-drug filled heads that he was inside my camp holding me hostage so they went to the campground's police radio and called in SWAT. Luckily, Bubba saw them racing in my direction, and found out at the Ranger Station where they were heading, so he doubled back. Luckily too, the State cops are also turkey hunters.

It was a few mornings ago, Yesterday Bubba arrived with a package of marinated turkey kabobs for me to grill for my supper. He and his family would do the same. Best when it's eaten fresh. And yes, it is very good. I sat on my back porch savoring it and watching the wildlife vibrate in my backyard: finches, jays, mourning doves, starlings, purple grackles, ravens, chipmunks, red squirrels, and one lone robin---no obstinate turkey. Life is back into balance in this little part of the world.