Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Hen

Let me first say that contrary to popular belief, the wild turkey is not a flightless bird. Almost dinosaurish in stance and posture, I have watched wild turkeys countless times afield, and have sketched about as many. A turkey can burst into powerful flight at any moment, although admittingly, they tend to use it as a last resort unless crossing an obstacle (such as a stream or ravine) or flying to and from their nighttime roosts.

With a bird that ways anywhere between 10 and 25 lbs however, flight is never the safest mode of transportation. Especially when you're flying around a forest full of trees and branches -- and for this particular turkey, a collission with a tree trunk proved to be the end of her life.


She stood, eyes blinking at my father, a fully adorned turkey hunter with a loaded shotgun and an arsenal of handmade 'turkey calls' used to lure in her kind.
the hen

Something was awry with this particular hen however, and dad, a seasoned turkey hunter, knew as much. He approached her, and she didn't even run. He'd seen her the day prior, but she was in slightly better condition...still sick however. She would walk around aimlessly, and then tuck her head into her wing on occassion, as if trying to get in moments of rest.

Now, standing just feet away from her, it was obvious that she was unable to fly. Her legs had grown weak from a spinal injury caused by the freak accident; flying into a tree. By evening, he returned to her, and she was unable to stand.

Wild Turkey Hen

Here he was, a turkey hunter, toting a living, breathing, wild turkey in his hand. Oh Field and Stream eat your heart out, if only I had gotten pictures of him carrying her around. You would've thought he'd found a child in the woods.

Anyone who says hunters have no compassion for wildlife are simply ignorant. My dad worried all day about that damned turkey, to the point that he went out of his way to find her a safe haven, and build her a shelter.

An uprooted Hemlock lay on it's side, and the uprooted earth left a large crevace in the ground. Dad, hen in hand, walked toward it and placed her within the crevace, and surrounded the outside of it with broken branches and the like, creating a refuge from coyotes, bobcats, bears, and foxes so long as she lay still, and camoflauged.

the hen

The next day, dad returned, and to his surprise the turkey had survived the torment of predation. The thought of a coyote or bobcat ripping her apart in her immobile state kept passing through his mind, and I told him that if she survived the night, that he needed to put her out of her misery.

The next day, he passed the hens refuge. Her shelter was untampered, and she layed there, resting quietly in her leafy bed. Having probably spent night after night without being able to roost, the hen would finally succumb to sleep. She returned to sleep when she realized dad wasn't going to kill her.

That evening, he passed the hen again, and she had died in her sleep. If turkeys could be thankful, I'm sure she would've been.