One of the biggest conundrums for any turkey hunter is deciding whether or not to turn to have a look when a twig snaps behind you.
In a perfect world, you should sit still, remain silent, and not twitch a muscle. You should then wait until whatever is snapping the twigs comes around into your line of sight. Then, if it is a legal turkey, you can decide whether or not to shoot. And, if it is a bear, you can make the decision as to whether you need to soil your pants retroactively.
Of course, encountering bears during a turkey hunt is a rarity for most of us.
In the many years I have turkey hunted, I have had only one experience in which a bear was within a few yards of me.
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But it was quite an experience.
That bear was big and seemed even bigger since I was sitting on the ground. Eventually, it walked between my decoys and me while I sat still with my back against a tree. Luckily, that encounter happened shortly after first light, so my gun was uncased. Because of this, I was not fearful or nervous. There’s something about having a loaded 12-gauge shotgun in your hands that alleviates those sentiments. So, I just watched it move on and enjoyed the show.
Later that morning, however, when I began hearing twigs snap behind me, I did get a little nervous – and I have been nervous whenever twigs snap behind me ever since.
This is probably ridiculous. As I said, it’s rare to have close encounters with a bear when turkey hunting and nothing most of us should worry about. I mean, there are so many other things that could cause a twig to snap, right? And, as a rule, a bear wants nothing to do with a human.
Nevertheless, every time a twig snaps behind me, the following occurs.
My mind says, “Don’t move. Stay still. That could be a turkey trying to sneak in from behind you.”
Then the little voice in my head whispers, “On the other hand, it could be a big predatory bear…”
My mind typically responds with “It’s probably a turkey. For the love of God, don’t move.”
And the little voice says, “Sure, it’s probably a turkey…though it seems pretty loud for a turkey. Is your will up to date?”
Then my mind answers, “If it’s not a turkey, it’s probably a deer, grouse, moose, racoon, squirrel, porcupine, fox, coyote or hare. Heck, remember that opening day when a pair of wood ducks walked past you?”
Then the little voice says (this time a little bit louder), “Or it could be a bear… A big hungry bear. They’re ravenous after hibernation. Maybe you should turn your head slowly and have a look. It could be your last.”
That conversation continues until the twig snapping ceases. And I will not yet have moved.
That’s when my brain notes, “Whatever it is has gone away.”
Then the little voice says, “Or maybe it’s just ready to pounce. Hey, I know you don’t believe in all the cougar stories, but what if there’s something to them?”
I will then turn quickly to see a red squirrel, who proceeds to give me crap.
And feeling kind of stupid, I snicker. Then, I’ll turn back to face my decoys just in time to see a big gobbler U-turn quickly and sprint over the rise.