"God, I love watching them," my wife sighs with happiness. "I don't know if I could eat one now."
I see my plans for hunting wild turkey evaporating. I had taken the mandatory weekend course, acquired the certificate, bought the licence, camo pants, camo jacket, hat and face net, and special turkey hunter's vest with seat. I had steeled myself for cold. dark mornings, sitting and waiting and calling as they come out of roosts to feed.
|A Spring Romance|
Now my wife is turning the prey into pets.
Wild turkeys returned to Ontario after the government began a reintroduction program in 1984. Today, 70,000 wild turkeys live in areas across southern Ontario.
They started showing up at our cottage appearing skinny, so my wife decided to feed them. It was love at first sight, and now she sits by the window watching them snort up many dollars in bird feed.
They are big birds, males (gobblers) standing up to four feet high and weighing more than 20 pounds. They are tall, dark, but not handsome. They have fleshy, featherless heads and necks that look like posts where kids have stuck their used bubblegum. The colours even look like bubblegum, varying shades of red, white and blue-gray. The flesh lights up bright red on gobblers when the turkey is angry or sexually aroused.
On their beaks is a flap of flesh called a snood, which biologists say is a hearing organ five times more effective than the human ear. Their feet are odd as well, four yellowish toes making a foot. The gobblers have spurs on the backs of their legs and they use them for fighting.
Their wing and body feathers are pretty, in a way. Dark buff or chocolate brown tipped with white. The body feathers are rich looking with a copper-bronze iridescence. The feathers on males are spectacular during spring mating displays when the tail feathers are fanned.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell gobblers from hens, but one way is to look for the beards. The beards are tufts of feathers that grow out from the chest an average of nine inches long. However, just to complicate things, a small percentage of hens also have beards.
You have to be able to distinguish between gobblers and hens for hunting purposes. But judging from the romance developing through the cottage window, I won't be out hunting them anyway. Or if I do, I suspect I’ll be doing my own cooking.