Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Turkey Lurkey!

My son came home last week with a special project called “Turkey in Disguise” for homework. He had an outline drawing of a Turkey and his task was to use any materials he wanted to, to disguise his Turkey. I didn’t quite understand why but assumed it was something to do with Thanksgiving which is the end of November. We disguised his Turkey as a Christmas tree with lots of glitter and sparkle. I say ‘we’ but he wasn’t allowed to participate. I liked the irony of disguising the Thanksgiving Turkey as a Christmas Turkey tree. Thanksgiving seems to steal all of the traditions of a British Christmas and put horrible gravy on it!
The completed turkeys are on display in the school hall. I am now wondering if the project has an extra dimension linked to a big local sport. Turkey hunting! It must be big; the local Wal-mart has a whole aisle dedicated to it. I took a photo of it because seeing is believing. I had to wait quite some time while a man in a lumberjack shirt and hunting cap stroked the merchandise… for a long time. Every time I went back to take a picture he was still there picking things up and putting them down again. I’ve seen women do that in dress shops, feeling the fabric but never in a Turkey hunting aisle in Wal-mart. I posted the picture on Facebook and people thought I had taken it off the internet. It was real! It was local. It is a tiny bit scary!
So – is the ‘Turkeys in Disguise’ project ‘training’ the kids to spot real ones out in the wild? I was going to do a bit of light research on Turkey hunting but it is serious stuff. Nothing light or humourous about Turkey Hunting…except just how seriously people can take it! There is a National Wild Turkey Federation of which Houston has its own chapter… and the people who like hunting Turkeys have guns and stroke stuff in the hunting aisle of Wal-mart. I should know when I am on dangerous ground. Besides there are some things I don’t want to know about Turkeys, like male turkeys are called Gobblers and their red dangly bits are “‘major caruncles’ that are large and fleshy and engorged with blood during the spring.” I could have got by not knowing that. I disguised my son’s Turkey caruncles as blue icicles. That’ll stop any engorgement!
It is so serious that they hold special work shops to learn the call of a
Turkey and have contests in the ‘off – season’.  I am a little bored – I wondered if I should go along to a workshop or two but I can’t see myself putting the acquired skill of sounding like a turkey to any practical use. You can learn to mimic the female to attract a gobbler- not something I would be keen to do with all those engorged dangly bits!
You can buy all sorts of Turkey disguises, in this case to resemble a Turkey rather than disguise one! I bet you can even buy a special hat so that when you are lying in the grass doing your clucking, putting and cutting to attract the gobbler your head looks like the back end of a hen! Worry if you hear the ‘purr’ of a gobbler. You might need a new hat
I looked at the safety tips for hunting Turkeys on the National Wild Turkey Federation website  How dangerous can it be? …well you would be surprised but it isn’t the Turkeys that anyone needs to fear…

Here are some tips from the NWTF to consider when you're in the woods this fall:
  • Keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction, and leave the safety on until you are ready to shoot. I have to say – the guns used for hunting Turkeys seem ridiculously large – especially as it isn’t likely to end in a ‘kill or be killed’ situation! I read an article that said 20 million women own guns in the US. This Texan shoots quails with hers – big gun for a little bird!
  • Positively identify your target, and know what is beyond your target before you shoot. See – that school project – Turkeys in Disguise will come in handy! Make sure it is a Turkey not a hat made to look like a Turkey… or a Turkey made to look like a Christmas tree! Or a person… although it is a mistake it would seem any Turkey hunter could make…
  • Avoid wearing white, red, black or blue since these are the colors of a gobbler's head and body. This includes handkerchiefs, socks, T-shirts and even items such as candy wrappers and insect repellant. This is very important advice incase another Turkey hunter didn’t complete the elementary school project ‘Turkeys in Disguise’ and cannot tell the difference between a Turkey and a big gun wielding twat in a red neckerchief!
  • Select a spot that is in open timber rather than thick brush. Eliminating movement and camouflage is more critical to success than heavy cover. Erm! You’re hunting Turkeys. It ain’t ‘Black Hawk Down’
  • Sit against a large stump, blow-down, tree trunk or rock that is wider than your shoulders and higher than your head when calling wild turkeys. …and put your head between your knees and say wobble wobble gobble! ...And don’t wear your Turkey hat disguise with the top poking above the rock. Don’t want a home goal from another hunter! (I was going to say home run but they may be OK in American sport! Although judging from warfare- home goals might be too!)
  • If you imitate the sound of a gobbling turkey, you could call in other hunters. You should always be cautious, but especially when hunting public land. And if your Turkey sounds are that good – there are competitions you can enter… The fame! The glory!
  • If decoys are legal and you use them, place them off to one side and make sure you can see anyone approaching your decoys before the other hunter is within range. This is very important advice incase another Turkey hunter didn’t complete the elementary school project ‘Turkeys in Disguise’ and cannot tell the difference between a real Turkey and a pretend one!
  • Leave the area if you suspect there's another hunter already working the same bird. This is very important advice incase another Turkey hunter didn’t complete the elementary school project…
  • If another hunter enters your hunting area, never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert the other hunter. Remain still and call out to them in a loud, clear voice to get his or her attention. This is very important advice incase another Turkey hunter didn’t complete the elementary school project…

I don’t think I will be engaging in any Turkey hunting during my stay in Texas but I am glad my son has learned some potentially life saving skills in his ‘Turkeys in Disguise’ project and I have again been reminded, when in America… ALWAYS stick to the path. There is some weird stuff going on out there! This Thanksgiving I will be notionally giving thanks to the ‘other’ Turkey aisle in Wal-mart – the one with pre hunted and plucked Turkeys in the Freezer… if I can ever bring myself to eat Turkey again!


  1. Invite all your friends for thanksgiving dinner, under the proviso that they all attend a Turkey recognition course beforehand. Then they can all come and stalk your disguised turkey lying on the dinner table.

  2. I'm not sure they would recognise a proper Turkey dinner!
    I know it isn't strictly Turkeys but if the Turkey hunters learned a good tongue twister they could call out to other turkey hunters with the confidence of not sounding like a gobbler and getting their heads blown off:

    I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasnat pluckers mate. I'm only plucking pheasants because the present pheasant plucker is late.

    I learned this at a very young age but never could quite get my tongue around it...

  3. oo-er matron!!!

    I thought it went

    I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant pluckers son. I'm only plucking pheasants because the pheasant pluckers' gone.