ERNEST HEMINGWAY, a writer I admire, was a fine novelist and a truly dedicated hunter who wrote one of the hunting classics of this century, a slim little book titled “The Green Hills of Africa.” In it he recounts his adventures on a two — month safari in 1935, accompanied by his wife, another friend and, of course, a large party required to make up such a lengthy safari.
Ernest wrote that a true hunter should never be tied down with limitations on the time spent hunting. In other words, a hunter should be able to hunt anytime he felt like it and for as long as the idea appealed to him. He was regretting the near end of the safari, making it clear that a two-month restriction was a terrible imposition on a real hunter.
That's an attitude I agree with fully! Long ago I found that short-term hunts from which the hunter had to go back to the office at a certain time of day or a camp hunt where the hunter could only spend a night or two were simply unsatisfying. I decided long ago that if I could not stay and hunt as long as I pleased, I simply would not go. This has some serious drawbacks, like unhappy wives, unhappy bosses and businesses that flounder without the Boss around, but I still believe it is a pretty good attitude. I have never regretted indulging in it as completely as possible.
My admiration for Ernest eventually took on a sort of “personal” note when I met his sister Sunny Miller, a friend and neighbor of my friend Byron Dalrymple who in the 1950s lived in the little hamlet of Wolverine, Mich. I was up there enjoying a grouse and woodcock hunt with Byron one October and met Sunny and her husband, Ernie Miller. They were both charming people and next spring I invited Ernie and Byron down for a turkey hunt at the fine Burke Club. Back then, turkeys were almost unbelievably plentiful. Nevertheless, I was the only one that bagged a gobbler. Byron shot at one and missed. Ernie Miller consoled himself with seeing a great number of turkeys and hearing them gobble but he never got a shot.
After that hunt, I regularly received a Christmas card from Ernie and Sunny, with Sunny, of course, doing the writing and mailing.
Down through the years I have had many fine hunting friends who were unable, for one reason or another, to follow my and Ernest's philosophy about hunting as often as you wished and as long as you liked.
I have felt something like pity for these unfortunate fellows who had to leave a morning turkey hunt at 8:00 a.m. — just about the time for old gobblers to leave their hens and become subject to your own calling.
One such fellow made it a habit of hunting until 7:30 a.m. and then rushing back to the office. I will say he was a superb hunter and caller and often bagged a bird before “quitting time,” but this too is unsatisfying. When a man kills a big gobbler, he should be allowed to spend the rest of the day gloating and perhaps even bragging to friends about his remarkable success. This is a very important segment of hunting — especially turkey hunting. If you must rush back to the office, your chances of bragging to anyone remotely interested or jealous are almost nil. Big gobblers and big wide-racked bucks should be bragged about in the company of your hunting peers.
I have been made almost foolishly happy the past few days by encountering three more large droves of this year's young turkeys on property that I hunt. One drove in a woods road showed me 18 poults and two hens. I believe there were a few more that had made it to heavy cover. On the same day on the same road, I ran up on another nice drove. I counted 11 poults and I am quite certain there were more in the brush.
That assured me that we have had and may still be having a good hatch behind the levee. The flood came before nesting time and the smart old hens have evidently done quite well. The poults I have seen are of different ages, all the way from quail size to full-grown pheasant size, which makes them able to fly quite well and dodge predators. Chances are good most of these poults will survive to adulthood, for which we hunters are eternally grateful.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This Outdoor Observations column is a reprint from the August 22, 1997, issue of Delta Farm Press. Mabry Anderson continues to recover from recent illnesses.