CANYONVILLE, Ore. – It’s estimated there are more 300,000 hunters in the state of Oregon. Several things are in season right now, and one of those will be the centerpiece on at least a few Thanksgiving tables.
NewsWatch 12’s Erin Maxson isn’t a licensed hunter but was able to go along with a very experienced hunter on a turkey hunt. In this Sustainable Table story, she shows us why it’s an option many families can be grateful for.
Before you take aim, a lot more goes into hunting: hours spent preparing gear, tracking and waiting. Having never hunted before, Erin Maxson teamed up with Mike Ayers. Ayers started hunting with his father 50 years ago and has passed the sustainable sport onto his children.
“In our family we’ve got a tradition of eating wild turkey,” said Ayers. “If you’re going to eat a turkey, it’s much more meaningful to get a wild turkey. Also, doesn’t mean you’re going to eat a wild turkey during Thanksgiving either.”
For Erin Maxson’s turkey hunt, she and Ayers headed up to Canyonville to ranch land that’s been in the family for since the 1850’s.
“Turkey’s like a combination of oak trees open fields, hard woods, and this place has got it all,” Ayers said.
Areys has hunted here for years, and before Sunday’s hunt, they toured the area, finding lots of turkeys.
“While there is a flock of 40-50 females, and young turkeys, and what we are going to do is leave them alone cause we know where they roost,” Ayers explained.
Most weren’t what Erin and Ayers wanted.
“But we wanna go after the big guys, and try to find the big guys,” Ayers said. “It’s more of a challenge, part of the challenge is finding the big birds.”
It’s a challenge because turkeys are not stupid.
“It can get to know the hunters calls. In fact, most hunters will bring 5 or 6 calls with them, and if they are caught by the turkey they’ll change their calls and change their calling patterns,” Ayers explained. “Domesticated turkeys have given wild turkeys a bad wrap. The wild turkey was almost our national bird. They have great qualities, flying at 40 miles an hour and running at 40 mile per hour, and seeing 180 degrees and seeing color; the only sense they don’t have in sense of smell.”
Once Ayers and Erin found their spot, and Erin set up the decoy, those big toms they were waiting for showed up. They didn’t get close, and they didn’t stay long; Ayers couldn’t take a clean shot, so he didn’t.
“You know the local Indians have a saying for what just happened to us: ‘vegetarian,’” said Ayers.
Remember those hens and jakes from earlier? On Erin and Ayers’ walk back, in the last moments before darkness, they found them. Those birds were also ending the day, flying up to roost safely in the trees. So despite the right gear, and the right decoys, Erin still didn’t get a turkey that day. Still, it’s an experience one can be grateful for.