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A hunter celebrates our planet

It’s Earth Week, a time for people to pick up trash, students to write essays, industries to tout their "green cred" and for the country to think about celebrating the earth.

I did my part — I went turkey hunting.

Hunting is one of many ways to celebrate the earth. Others are fishing, camping, birding, hiking, looking at spring flowers. This just happens to be my week to hunt, so I do what’s in season and what feels right.

As hunters, I suspect we don’t think enough about the earth, or at least don’t talk about that feeling of celebration. Yet it’s one of the most challenging, fascinating, maddening ways I know to take the first step in saving the earth. You save what you love, and you can’t love what you can’t understand.

If I hunt well — or get lucky — I will end up with a turkey in the freezer. But I’m guaranteed to renew my fascination with woods, water, flowers, fish and wildlife that started more than 50 years ago.

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Let me tell you about Monday’s hunt, and why it was a celebration.

The hunt started about an hour before sunrise in some lovely blufflands near Kellogg. As I walked in, a loud buzzing of nature’s frog chorus came from a small wetland. The frogs have come out of hibernation, and it’s a thrill to again hear the buzzing.

After setting up two decoys in a field, I sat against a tree, pulled on my camouflage mask and waited. Surely on such a perfect day, the toms would be gobbling wildly to attract hens as part of their breeding ritual.

Yup, any minute, the woods would be alive with the sound of gobbling. Any minute, it’s going to start. I couldn’t wait to again hear that gorgeous chorus.

Nothing. I was surprised, but that’s normal. Unpredictability is part of what makes nature so wonderful.

As I waited, I heard a battle of woodpeckers hammering, grouse drumming and a pair of wood ducks whooshing through the sky, sounding like small jets. Robins, nuthatches and other birds flitted around. At times, I’ve had songbirds land on my hat or gun barrel.

It’s a celebration of birds, of the earth.

Across the valley, a pair of jakes got into a brawl, yelping, whining, making a raucous racket. I’ve never heard that before.

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Wow!

The first true gobble echoed just before 9 a.m. and I hurried over, or as fast as I can rush toting 20 pounds of equipment up a steep bluffside.

That was all I would hear. But on the forest floor was a small, stunning patch of purple — hepatica, my first opened wildflower of the season. Hunting is not only my best time for birding, but also seeing wildflowers.

Wow!

The rest of the day was boring. For reasons that still puzzle me, toms weren’t responding to calling. But that’s part of hunting. You never know when something will happen; you just to be ready for when it does. Sometimes you wonder at nature, sometimes you wonder about nature.

Three spectacular large birds soared overhead, dancing with the wind. They were turkey vultures, a species without the glamour of bald eagles, but they are magnificent. As a hunter, you see the famous and unknown, and celebrate all.

When the day got too long, and hot, I left, tired and puzzled. I was in a rotten mood.

On the way down, however, on a rocky hillside was a flash of white. About 30 bloodroot were blooming.

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Wow!

The hunting was poor, but the hunt was great.

It was a day to celebrate.

John Weiss is the Post-Bulletin’s outdoors writer. If you have comments or story ideas, call him at 285-7749.

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