Sunday, May 31, 2009

True Grit

This last week was the birthday of John Wayne. One of my childhood heroes. He was a man's man, a true warrior. I can't imagine "the Duke" eating Arugula Salad and hugging people who openly state that the U.S. is evil.

Do you think any of us as little kids would have watched Gun Smoke if Marshall Dillon, when confronted by evil, started a petition drive? No. Our heroes were people like Matt Dillon and the Cartrights, the Rifleman, and for my older brothers, the Lone Ranger. The shows themselves all had a elemental core of justice, fair play, truth, sportsmanship. Firearms were common and shown in a positive light, as instruments of protecting the weak, weapons to defeat evil.
Such shows are rare today with regards to showing a true measure of the human spirit. That as why, as a kid John Wayne was my hero. Though the majority of his movies came out before I was born, many of them left an ineffable mark on my young spirit. No one particular film stands out for me, though all were excellent (OK, Jet Pilot was lame but it had some great aerial shots, especially footage of the F-84). I don't think it was the quality of his acting that made one take notice; it was the measure of the man he was, and portrayed. I was glad when he finally got an Oscar for True Grit, though I was too young to see or remember that.

I don't believe the award came so much for his acting in this particular film, but for his lifetime body of work. Yet I could never forget the climatic moment in the film where the grizzled old marshal confronts the four villains and calls out: "I mean to kill you or see you hanged at Judge Parker's convenience. Which will it be?" "Bold talk for a one-eyed fat man," their leader sneers. Then Duke cries, "Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!" and, reins in his courage, rushing at them while firing both guns. Those four outlaws did not provide a threat at the next sunset.

Foolish perhaps. The last time I charged multiple targets they were printed on paper. One a man, one an Al Qaeda terrorist with an automatic weapon and the other two a gopher and a squirrel (we were running a bit low on targets that day). Foolish yes. But I pray that I never become so jaded by life that I can not summon that same risk spirit to protect my country or the life I hold dear.
He wasn't the perfect man, and he was often criticized. Ironically, Wayne, who angered John Ford by avoiding service in WWII for fear it would interrupt the momentum of his career, would be remembered in a few folks people’s minds as having won that global conflict single-handedly, thanks to films like The Sands of Iwo Jima. Many people find only true patriotism in his movies and see him as flesh and blood symbol of America, the land of the free and home of the brave, while others ridiculed him as a symbol of their America, the worlds superpower, the land of Peace Thru Superior Firepower. Whichever you believe, you have to admit he had an honesty in living and a grace in the face of this criticism, that showed us all what we should be, a person of honor, an defender of what they believe is right and true, and the force of America as a nation united.

Sadly now, the West is not the West of our youth, the true cowboys of spirit being crowded inland and south, hunkering down on the open plains where you can hear the sound of thundering buffalo among the afternoon thunderclouds. The West I remember is now socialized and urban, its citizens pining for things it can not afford while looking to others to fix their problems. Where I live, if something breaks you fix it, if the fence is down you mend it. Gardens are tended and food canned, and when threatened by others we circle the wagons and care for ourselves. My friends in Reno and LA and the Valley laugh at my longing for this life, as they drive 2 hours in traffic to go back an forth to houses almost empty of furniture because they bought a 5 bedroom house for one person. They posture for social position while maneuvering for easy money. There's a few true Cowboys in spirit out West, but they are fewer and fewer. That's just not a life I want any more.


I came to the southern Midwest as a young bride, and I learned fast. Spring snowstorms thawing into mucky puddles into which new life was coming. Calving season. In the cold I learned about impending birth, in the heat of a barn I learned about death. I've pulled more than one calf from a womb when I was all alone, arm rubbed with Betadyne and lube, the contractions almost breaking my arm. I learned to cut a recalcitrant Longhorn calf from a herd of very pointy parents to tend to an injury with a shot of cortisone. Nights ran into days and days to nights with only the wet of birth water and burnt coffee to keep us going after a day spent already outdoors. It's a life that's prepared me for the one I live now.

Nothing is so very entwined with life as birth and watching the new ones come into the world with last century technology and only ourselves to assist, was a lesson that many old timers would understand. That little calf whom I assisted that last night, as my husband was hours late and the phone lay silent, took every bit of strength I had to free her. But Mama had been in labor four hours, the calf was stuck, and I had to do something or lose both of them. Yet, with work and grit he was born, soon suckling my finger as Mama tried simply to breathe, resting uncaring against the wood slicked with fluid and red. I hold him up to check and weigh him, and she hears, stumbles over to lick him. Mothers love. Wonder. They'll both be OK. Their barn this night will be filled with light.


Exhaustion drove me to the farm house, unusually dark and quiet except for the bark of our black labs, myself, quietly concerned about the darkness when the house should be lit, anxious for hot water and the sleep of life, not death. Sleep did not come that night, but the strength of the land was already in me, and life did go on, even if I did it alone.

I had my share of chores before, now I had chores for two. I had to rally myself up early to tend to the place, at the rooster's crow at first light, rising early as poets do. Lighting a fire from antique ashes, assembling my spirit from wounds and balm, from water pump to barn stall. Time beginning with measured intent, and from seeds and the dry bones of the land, I grew, I tended. Whatever the hand of circumstance had brought, it was my duty, to be there on time. To reconcile hot and cold, dark and bright, richly expanding a much bruised heart, to nourish the land or the trusting beast in the stall.

The days of living a comfy life of subdivisions and parties out West were gone. Time went back a hundred years, the days slowing to a crawl of duty and need; long nights crying for something I didn't know until too late that I needed. A time when everything seemed looming, demanding, large and unchanging. I heard a cow moan low for her calf in the distance. Or was that me?

My hero John Wayne would not have given up; neither would I. So I stayed until the cattle were gone and the small bit of land was sold to cover the debts and I could move on. Move on, not back to the city from whence I was married, but to this life that had honed me like the landscape, a life black and white in values and history. I left in an old Buick with just my clothes, some cookbooks and my furry friends, but I took with me a life that I had earned. A life I know I could not live without.

"There's right and there's wrong," the Duke said in The Alamo. "You gotta do one or the other. You do the one and you're living. You do the other and you may be walking around but in reality you're dead.".

When I arrived here I was pretty well flat bloke, and would now, not be considered rich, but what I have is mine, earned with my sweat and maintained through my own actions. The sky is clear and blue, the land rich and strong, those that tend it are pioneers, of that earth, of the principals on which this land was founded. I would not trade that for a McMansion in the city, for any amount of promise and wealth. For I have my home on the land that I love, a house in which old Westerns would play, and rustlers and shooters and renegades would gather around, but only for lasagna and an old John Wayne movie after our successful gunfight with some bowling pins and steel plates.

Look to future, John Wayne said "tomorrow - the time that gives a man just one more chance - is one of the many things that I feel are wonderful in life.". We do get other chances. With the birthing of heifers sometimes there were losses. But I never cursed the poor things as they lay dying, nor threw their bodies into the truck with more force than was needed. The past is past. You can cry and rant and rave, but that won't change what's ceased to breathe. We can only fight for what we have. What we still have.

Tonight, I pull the little barn door closed one last time, heading in to see if there's anything decent on TV. Something other than the news on the Hill of greed and finger pointing and the hollow words of those that wish to change the very core of what made the West at one time great.

Like Mr. Wayne, I'm intensely proud of being an American. The being and cadence of a life of freedom, to work, to arm myself, to defend and expand that which I've worked for. Influenced by a bygone era of good guys and bad guys, it is part of who I am, defining both fury and faith. It influences my passions, and resonates always in the sound of a gunshot across the land that I own, gathering food for my cupboard, gathering strength.

There are so many things that are great about life, about this country. But many of them are already in the past, and we will have to work hard to retain and protect our tomorrows. As The Duke said, tomorrow is the most important thing. It comes in to us at midnight very clean, it's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. The hands may end up stained with blood and sweat but they are the hands of hard work. The hands of hope. I hope those hands are strong enough for the tasks that lie ahead.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gun Ban Thought

Don't laugh - there has been a number of bits of legislation in various states that ended up outlawing guns used by hunters. New Jersey had a proposed piece that would in essence have banned many guns used by sportsmen. It passed. If you are new to the shooting sports, here are the basic details. On June 12, 2008 the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee passed A2116 by a vote of 5-1, virtually banning ALL firearms over .50 caliber. Proponents of the ban attempted to demonize an entire class of firearms and their owners by claiming the only intent of these firearms were criminal misuse. They said "we're after the criminal, not the hunter". You know, those criminals that use the Thompson Center Deer Hunter to knock off a bank or that old Buckskinner flintlock Carbine to take hostages.

But it banned more than that, banning many popular hunting guns and historical American firearms based simply on alleged public safety concerns. Included were replicas from the Revolutionary War and Civil War eras, guns that last time I checked, were favored by Historians not criminals. They were banning guns on the size of the barrel rather than that old fashioned method of actually punishing criminal behavior.

In 2005 Rep Jim Moran (D-VA) tried to do the same thing, introducing H.R. 654, which he called the ".50 Caliber Sniper Rifle Reduction Act." As with other "gun control" bills, the name didn't accurately reflect the bill's fine print. In addition to inventing the term ".50 caliber sniper rifle", it included ANY rifle "capable of firing a center-fire cartridge in 50 caliber, .50 BMG caliber, any other variant of 50 caliber, or any metric equivalent of such calibers." In addition to rifles that use the venerable .50 Browning cartridge, many other .50 caliber rifles would have fallen under that broad definition. Such rifles, all designed and/or widely used for hunting, not for sniper use,were invented between the 1860s and 1970s.

The bill didn't become law, but that doesn't mean it won't come up again. Sure, you can hunt with many guns that are smaller than that, but the point is, once they start banning the muzzle loaders and the historical .50 cals that MANY hunters use, when does it stop?

There's more of these bills out there, and more to come. Read the fine print, check with the NRA and your state gun rights organizations, many of which track current legislation and provide information on what you can do. For those in Illinois there's http://www.isra.org/legislation/. If any of you have links for your states, please put them in the comments. I'll organize them and put them in my sidebar for reference.

Because I'd just as soon save those golden delicious apples for myself.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Art of Dinner

There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.
Sun Tzu - the Art of War

A traditional Jiangsu dish called Pork in a sugar and vinegar sauce is considered the ancestor of one of the more popular Chinese dishes that is a staple at any American, Canadian, or British Chinese restaurant. Sweet and Sour Pork can be truly wonderful or an overly sweet mediocrity. You've all had the typical cheap "take out" version - Heavily battered Ping-pong ball-sized pieces of meat with the texture of Kevlar, laced with red food coloring and accompanied by canned pineapple.

For the HOTR version of Sweet and Sour Pork you start with a fine quality pork tenderloin which you marinate first in soy sauce and sweet rice wine. The result is a spoon tender piece of meat. The fruit and vegetables are fresh, not canned, and the sauce is ambrosia. It's not made with the cheapest version of vinegar and ketchup as you find in the typical Americanized versions. Rather it has a little plum sauce (that sweet hot spicy heaven that is mu shu pork) added into some Muir Glen Organic Tomato Ketchup (which has a fresh tomato taste with more of an undertone of cloves and cinnamon, than vinegar like most brands). Then the secret ingredients - oyster sauce, a dash of Worcestershire sauce (gives it a nice surprising depth) and lastly, some transparent rice vinegar.

The batter coats well but is delicate, and the meat remains tender and succulent. I'm not sure how well it keeps because I don't think there have been much in the way of leftovers.

Sun Tzu had it right.

Monday, May 18, 2009

May 18th

Oman/Combs; 1980; Volcanics

It's the 29th Anniversary of the Eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I have two much older brothers in Washington State as well as other family. I was visiting about 23 miles away on the downwind side when it blew. The earthquake knocked me out of bed. But those had been going on for a couple of days, so initially no one was excited. Then someone looked outside. A sight I will never forget. It was a Sunday. We missed church.

I'd gotten my pilots license as a junior (couldn't drive my Dad's car yet but. . ) So I took my Dad up to take a close up look at the devastation that stripped and leveled trees 10 miles away after it was safe to do so. Going back, even months and years after, it was still barren. It took a long time for life to return to the area, but it has.So for today, just a remembrance as to why we shouldn't underestimate mother nature. Fifty-seven people lost their lives that day because they, or someone they trusted, did.

We have another volcano perking away in our country. Go visit new Range sidebar member Rev. Paul - Way Up North to see all the latest on Mt. Redoubt as well as ponder some beautiful photography and stories of the Alaskan landscape with he and his family.

With that, I couldn't help but post pictures of supper, as, come to think of it, it sort of looks like a volcano -
Shrimp and Bacon Eggs Benedict
Home on the Range Style

(Not a force of nature, but if you have these with a bourbon brownie your pant seams may explode)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

DAYS OF WINE AND RUGERS

It got me thinking. People spend large amounts of money on good wine. I have too, yet sometimes with a hearty meal, a simple glass of inexpensive red wine will do. Such it can be with a gun budget. I keep a watch on my spending (hey I'm mostly Scot) and I found I was spending a LOT on 45 ammo. Sure I love my 45's. There's absolutely nothing like it and the .45 is ALL I will have close to my side for home defense and my concealed is larger caliber as well. But the thought of having a little .22 to plink with, so I could shoot more, was intriguing. An inexpensive but well-built little .22 would be even better. So after trying out someone's Ruger Mark II, I bought a Ruger Mark III in a nice blued finish at the local non big chain gun store when it was there for a VERY good price.
If all you are familiar with are the Mark I and II, there have been some changes. The Mark III has been seriously "lawyered up" to keep some states happy, with a lot of additional safety features, some nice, some, not particularly necessary. But they're there. There's a magazine disconnect safety that prevents the pistol from being fired with the magazine removed from the weapon (as in lower picture). But be careful, removing the magazine doesn't mean there isn't a cartridge in the chamber and if you're going to handle it you need to remember to make sure the weapon is unloaded. But the magazine disconnect should prevent someone from discharging the weapon by accident after removing the magazine, I would think.

Another safety feature, required in some places, is the internal key lock. A key is inserted after the thumb safety is applied, into a little (and I mean LITTLE) hole just below the thumb safety and then rotated. If you have Shrek sized hands you are going to learn to hate this little key. But it serves to keep the thumb safety from being slid into the "fire" position until the internal lock is de-activated with the key. I'm ignoring mine, but unfortunately, there are some jurisdictions in the US that require such an internal lock. On the plus side, it's quite unobtrusive for those that don't have to, or like me, don't want to, use the device. Sort of like that exercise bike in the barn.

The third safety feature is a loaded chamber indicator. If you blow up my last photo you can see that the side of the gun is flush. That indicates that there is not a round in the chamber. If there was, there is a thin bar, the rear of which protrudes slightly from the left side of the receiver when a bullet is in the chamber. It can be easily seen and felt by the shooters finger.Some people are going to hate the looks of that, but I didn't mind. The bar is activated by a spring-loaded piece of steel that touches the rim of the chambered bullet. There was originally some concern, and perhaps a proven problem, with the earlier Mark III models in that one could drop the weapon on the loaded chamber indicator (the buttered side down bread theory) and the gun could go off. Ruger did redesign this. The new design is said to have fixed the problem by modifying the one piece loaded chamber indicator. I don't need to remind you that this feature is NOT a replacement for gun safety practices, it's just an "extra".

Another nice feature is the magazine release button has moved from the heel of the grip frame to a position on the left side of the weapon, just aft of the trigger guard. A left handed shooter can easily press it with the forefinger, or the thumb of a right handed shooter. The rear of the bolt which is grasped to chamber the first round has been skinnied up a bit, providing a secure handle while remaining "finger friendly". The grip is good though one I would call the "Hollywood Starlet model" (thin and plastic). I've heard some say the low profile grip is a bit too thin for them, but I did find it comfortable in my large hand, though I would prefer a lower grip base of metal.

The loading button on the left side of the magazine follower is also larger than that of the Mark II pistols, and aids in easily loading the magazine to its ten round capacity.

As I said before, the one I have is a MKIII512, with a 5-1/2 barrel, drilled and tapped for Weaver-style scope adapter (included). ALL of the Ruger 22/45's, however have the same grip shape, feel, and familiarity of my favorite 1911 .45 caliber pistol. This makes for a low cost trainer for some quiet practice with that familiar 1911 grip. Reliable as well, in my first brick of ammo through it, I only had just one that failed to feed, copper plated, probably my sixth shot. But after the second brick I think I could have fired gumdrops through it and it wouldn't have had a problem.

The trigger out of the box was good, similar to the 1911 model – short trigger reset and follow through is minimal. I don’t have a trigger pull mechanism to weigh it, but I'd guess it replicates most factory 1911 models at being about 4-4.5 pounds. I honestly don't think I'll need a trigger job on it. An internal cylindrical bolt construction that ensures permanent alignment and higher accuracy potential than conventional moving-slide designs.

Here's a target from my first shoot with it, about 30 feet, outdoors, which I held up to the light so you could see. The first three shots went, in order, high, then quite low, then a bit left, then right on after I adjusted my sight for windage and elevation (OK. . OK. . there was no wind and elevation issues, but if I have a new toy and I can tinker with it I'm going to). After shooting much of a small box, there wasn't much left of the center, a tribute to its accuracy, not so much my skill :-)The downside to this gun? It IS a pain to take completely apart, even with the directions. A degree in mechanical engineering may help. Or standing on your head. I'm open to suggestions. The mag safety is problematic when stripping the gun, because you have to insert a mag, press trigger, remove mag, pull bolt, etc. And if you forget to remove the mag? Don't ask.

I've also been told that if you put it back together really wrong, it's going back to Ruger. Not encouraging words. Yes, I have a friend could take hers apart in about 30 seconds, but she can also build a radio out of a paper clip and a piece of gum. But I'm not going to give up. Everyone told me I couldn't put a transmission back into my MG and it was done, so we will see. For now, the first few times, I'm field cleaning with a good quality brush/rod and some Hoppe’s #9 Bore cleaner and keeping the complete tear down for "on occasion".

Like anything, it might get much easier after that first time. Note: be certain the any chemical you’re using to clean this firearm is “plastic safe.” It might be a rare occurrence, but certain solvents may deteriorate the lower frame

If you can find a nice Mark II used, snag it. I got this gun at such a good price I couldn't pass it up. Depending on where you live, or your needs, you may want some of these safety features, It's a nice choice. Not for self defense, I don't recommend .22 for that. But for something inexpensive to practice with or simply a gun that would make learning the fundamentals less intimidating for yourself or someone you love, compared to recoil of a 9mm or a .45 caliber.

For me it was a good purchase based on keeping the costs of practice down. Sometimes you don't need a $59 bottle of 2001 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino. Sometimes you've had a long day and are watching your budget and you just want a glass of "Three Buck Chuck" from Trader Joe's. There's a place for everything in life, and my budged-minded little Ruger will be a nice little alternative to a Saturday of shooting practice.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Turkey Season - Time to Grab Breakfast

Getting up early to go hunting for Spring Turkey? There are many things to consider. Weather, wind, gear, environment. But one thing most people don't consider is having breakfast first. I admit, especially during whitetail season where I'm jumping up and down by the door like Barkley, I often just grab a piece of homemade bread with peanut butter and I'm gone. But there's something worth getting up an extra 45 minutes early for, to make a stick to the ribs hunters breakfast. Sausage and Bourbon Gravy and Biscuits. The bourbon doesn't add enough alcohol to impair your performance, and you don't really taste it until the end of each bite, where it lends just a light but deep finish.Watching your refined carbs or looking for something meat free? Grab a cast iron skillet for Red Pepper and Potato Frittata. Now - don't you feel better. The sun's almost up time to head out into the farm fields, and the woods. I've given you some hints for a couple good nourishing hunters breakfasts but how about some hunts for the new turkey hunter. Gear - Unlike whitetails, turkeys have been found to see and assimilate some colors. Both the females and the subordinate toms react to the changing blues, reds and whites of a dominant gobbler’s head and neck during the spring breeding season. For the female turkeys (hens) the color-pulsing head stimulates them for mating, for the beta toms, it suppresses the breeding urge (no thanks, you take the pretty one. . ) Even so, laws are such that you must wear some hunters orange on your person when hunting turkeys. I've known people that turkey hunted in "street clothes" but if your clothes are not patterned to be in harmony with the local environment and you stick out like an elephant at a steel plate shoot, you might as well say goodbye to the hunt and go home. I like RealTree products, but spent my first few seasons in an old set of coveralls from BigBoxMart. But whatever the manufacturer, you want clothing that becomes part of the environment you are in that day. Care of your care is also essential. If you are a female hunter, I can about bet you will be doing your own laundry. Trust me gents, we know that "look I did the laundry for you and (insert one here) shrunk, dyed pink, ruined your favorite shirt" is a plot to get out from doing laundry again. It's OK. We know that, and we love you anyway. Call me old fashioned but I like taking care of your stuff. But no matter who does the laundry in your house, use a soap free of scent. If UV brighteners are utilized, the dyes present in some fabrics make the UV wavelengths stand out or "bounce"(look at me Mr. Turkey!), making them more visible to game. There are specific detergents that prevent this from happening; absorbing the UV so the clothes do not fade easily. When not in use, store your hunting clothes in airtight bags after thoroughly drying (I dry outside on a line) to keep them safe from dust, insects and household "man-like" odors.
Turkey Physiology Basics - You don't need ear lobes to hear like no one's business. Turkeys have amazingly acute hearing. Using small holes in the sides of their head, they can pinpoint the location of another turkey (or a hunter mimicking a turkey) with remarkable precision. As you go out to where you are going to hunt, remember, heavy footsteps, the slapping of body or hands against brush, or even that distinctive "click" of you pressing your shotgun safety can send the turkey running and ducking for cover. You may NOT see him again, that day. On the plus side, turkeys have a poor sense of smell. You don't have to study the wind to the degree you do with whitetail hunting. I don't have to worry my shampoo will be too much scent and if I put on some cherry lip gloss, it won't scare away the game.

A turkey has monocular vision (eyes set in the sides of its head). But they make up for the lack of 3D sight by cocking the head left or right to gauge distance between them, other turkeys and danger, including you. If you thought that grade school teacher had eyes in the back of her head, think again. A turkey can twist it's long, limber neck 360 degrees, literally giving it eyes in the back of its head. Their night vision is poor, which is why I set up while it is dark. During the day, the turkey sees more sharply than a human with 20/20 sight. These laser-like eyes are the turkey’s primary method of "home defense" and you can be assured he is looking for you.

Turkeys are fast, preferring to run. You think you've got the perfect shot, turn your head where he can see you for just a microsecond, and he explodes!. Ducking his head and tucking in low to the ground he'll dart off faster than a 67 Cuda. Turkeys have been clocked at up to 12 mph, and their lean, strong muscular legs, though making only for good soup stock, not eating, can catapult him into the air for flights up to 400 yards. Turkeys have been recorded at flight speeds up to 50 mph, and even after that short burst of flight, the turkey can set its wings and glide another half mile to elude you. This is one area I will caution the beginner. You do need to learn to sit still. Scratch your head, lift your arm and if they sense or see you -bye bye, bird. Turkeys are skittish from the moment they peck out of their shells, growing more so each day of life as they elude their many predators. A falling limb, the shadow of a hawk, that turkey you are hunting is burning holes in the brush with his sharp eyes looking for danger. It is not a hunting sport for the fidgety. You also might want to consider who you invite to tag along. On one hunt, right as we called in three nice Jakes (young male turkeys), the vegetarian girlfriend of one of the guys, who begged to go along, jumped up and yelled. "Run, Mr. Turkey, Run for your life!" Nice girl, but I didn't ever see her again when we all gathered for beer and war stories.

Calling - a mouth call is popular, but I certainly didn't take to it like a "duck to water" or even a "turkey to Spring". So mostly I have used a slate call. There's lots of good info on the web for choosing a turkey call., so I won't get into it here. It sort of goes without saying that in making your call in Springtime, it's best to mimic a love starved hen. But don't rule out some gobbler clucking and yelping. That might work better than you think as you sound like a happy drifter amongst turkey society. A subordinate longbeard who's getting neither "lucky" or rich, looking for a buddy to hang out with may come to check you out. Or a dominant gobbler may strut over to kick your ass.

I once had a helpful fellow at my favorite outdoors store in Springfield sell me a hoot owl call, guaranteeing me it would get the turkeys to gobble. He also gave me some guidance on good places to hunt, close to town, but "off the beaten track" and open to the public. A park service road would take you up to a perfect hillside spot to hunt, with lots of turkeys. So I drove in a ways to hunt, deep into that forest in southwest Missouri, setting up on the side of an Ozark mountain. You want to sneak up as close as you dare to a roosted turkey, then set up and
listen. If the tom thinks he's Tom Jones and starts belting out love tunes and you hear no hens clucking, yelping or throwing their underwear at him, don’t call too early. Wait until the sky glimmers pink, then cast out a tree yelp and a few soft clucks to let the bird know you’re there. There on the side of that desolate Ozark mountain hillside, I did just that. As light broke the landscape I hooted. I waited. I heard another hoot. Then silence, then another hoot, and another, and another. Oh My Lord- it was an OWL convention! I never did see or hear a turkey, or see a turkey. Going back to area's only hotel, I ran into about a dozen empty handed hunters in the lobby grabbing coffee, who apparently had the same idea to hunt this remote spot. I looked at them and said "hoot owl call? Salesman Bill at Springfield Bass Pro?" They looked at me and said "yup".

I had better luck closer to home, where I drew a nice Jake in with a slate call. Remember if he gobbles at you loudly, BE QUIET! He thinks you’re a hen, and he knows where you are. If you don't hear him trying to chat you up though, cluck and yelp just a bit more to get his attention over to where you and your trusty shotgun are sitting. If it's too quiet, relax. Listening carefully for thumping wings as he heads down out of the tree. As he lands, throw out a little cackle his way. He might wander over to check you out. Once he starts walking your way, you may not have to call again.

Allow the turkey to approach within 30-35 yards. Do not raise your shotgun quickly, so not to spook him. Bring the shotgun up slowly and smoothly and take aim for the turkey's head or the eye. Body shots often results in a wounded bird or a big mess to clean up to prepare him for the pot. Be sure of your target.
Do not shoot through brush, thinking you see a turkey. As in ANY shooting, clearly identify your target before getting near the trigger.

These are just a few tips I've learned. I'm always learning, never the expert, just someone that loves to shoot, and the shooting sports. Make a friend of a turkey hunter, someone to learn from. There are organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, made up of men and women that know turkeys and hunt turkeys. If you don't know any turkey hunters, ask at your local sporting goods dealer. He or she will know most of the turkey hunters in your local area from purchases made and may be able to steer you towards individuals, clubs or groups that love to share their knowledge. Don't forget your state's Department of Conversation. They may well know those in your area that can teach you as many states have a hunter mentoring program. If you have a mentor, your chances of learning quickly and more easily are assured.

Will I get a turkey from these tips? I hope so because I've got this recipe for cornbread succotash stuffing I'm ready to try. Those hunting breakfasts are great, but they do wear off.