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Talking turkey, firearms and black bears

During a recent baseball game between the Reds and Pirates a few weeks ago, I heard commentator Bob Walk laughing over the curious sight of a gang of wild turkeys that were chasing a mail delivery truck up a street.

Every time the truck would stop, the turkeys would catch up and attack the truck, pecking it viciously.

I don’t know how they got rid of the birds but I laughed to myself at the thought of all the attacks by wild turkeys that I have witnessed. They are territorial and will strongly defend against anything that gets too close.

More than once I have seen a few Jakes (immature birds not yet old enough to be on their own) that ganged up on mature longbeards and put them on the run. It is a hysterical sight to watch.

And more than once I have been spurred by turkeys that I thought were dead suddenly came to life when I picked them up. I’ve been spurred and beaten by their great flapping wings, sustaining some injuries because I refused to let go. I’m sure many hunters have endured the same treatment. When it happens to you it is not very funny.

Even as I was writing this, I got a message from a big-wig in the Turkey Federation, lamenting that while he was out turkey hunting last spring, he came home to find a flock of turkeys scavenging in his yard.

Many strange, unusual and dangerous things happen in the woods and we need to be prepared. The most dangerous is the tiny tick, who sticks to our clothes and to our skin if it finds a loose place to get in. Some ticks carry the Lyme Disease and will mean years of misery if you get that malady.

When I think of the many rattlesnakes I’ve jumped over, stepped on those years ago when I lived in northern Pennsylvania, I get new goose bumps. I truly should be dead of snakebite but my squadron of guardian angels was on duty then and is still on duty. I took a hard fall last spring gobbler season in an area where they had been cutting trees. I fell straight backwards, my head bounced off the ground a couple times and I hit my tailbone hard which kept me out of the woods for most of the rest of the season. But no broken bones, and when I saw the logs lying within feet of where my head hit I was scared all over again.

I tell everyone that someday those angels are going to be taking a coffee break and that’s when you’ll read my name in the obit column.

Of great interest to me in this political year is a recent report that almost half of the recent gun sales are being made by women. I’m not surprised by this.

Most of these firearms being purchased at this time I believe are being made by women more interested in personal protection than in hunting, although more and more women are taking up hunting as well.

One thing I have stressed on this point over and over is that just having a firearm lying around in your house somewhere is no protection at all. You must be trained in the use of a firearm. Believe me, you must be “fast and furious” when you pull out a firearm to protect yourself.

You must be able to click off the safety, get the gun into shooting position, know how to aim and to pull the trigger, all without looking down at the gun. If you can’t do all this rapidly and without really thinking about it, you will be overcome by whomever is threatening you .

Remember too ladies, if you are one who has recently purchased a firearm, that there are people running for office who are against your right to do that.

As I have often said in this column, I have protected myself several times in my life against real threats. I’ve never had to shoot; the looks of a woman with a gun in her hand, who obviously knew how to handle it scared them off each time.

But I stood my ground with certainty that had one more step toward me been taken. I would have had to defend myself.

I have had more personal encounters over the years with black bears in Pennsylvania’s woods than most people have ever seen. I’ve had bears scratching at the back of my blind a couple times, no doubt lured by the peanut butter sandwich I still had in my pocket.

But I know when a black bear is preparing to attack, thanks to the personal tutoring on the subject by then black bear biologist for the Game Commission Dr. Gary Alt, I knew what to do.

I also have put together a personal emergency bag, things that fit in a large sized plastic freezer bag. In it I have fire-starter, a space blanket, waterproof matches of course, any medicine I need for an overnight, unexpected stay. And other items that you would need.

Only once in my 67 years of hunting did I come close to having to stay in the woods overnight. The items I have in my little survival bag would make such a stay much more warm and comfortable. I have an outdoor friend who made me some fire-starters, and I am never in the woods without them.

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