I think I should have realised years ago that turkeys are wild animals in the USA. Unlike here in the UK, they don’t just live in a Bernard Matthews enclave, spending the whole year dreaming of Christmas. The first hint that I got about this alternative turkey lifestyle was on a trip to the supermarket.
In a modest branch of Walmart (only twice the size of my local Asda) I found myself in the hunting section. The “entry level” hunting aisle was dedicated to turkey shooting. Clearly turkey shooting is a mild hunting activity. Only extreme sportsmen go in for shooting deer which are quite a bit heavier to pack up and take home.
Not all turkeys run the gauntlet of hunters. We found a wildlife “preserve” (they mean “reserve”) near Minneapolis airport with a big visitor’s centre. Sadly it was shut on a Monday but the turkeys were hanging out on the rear patio. They turned their backs and walked off but left us a beautiful feather to admire.
I’ve been to the USA quite a few times but I have never seen much wildlife. Years ago in Colorado I saw a rattlesnake and a marmot. I saw deer and a bluebird in Yosemite one time but that’s it. On this trip through the midwest we saw dozens of swooping bald eagles (pity I have no functioning telephoto lens), deer, a red and orange snake, ants half and inch long, butterflies the size of our hands and caterpillars as big as my thumb. We smelt a skunk once near New York too, bleurgh!
Wildlife and Hunting
I can’t imagine living in a country where wild animals exist in such abundance that hunting is a normal leisure activity. Near where I live in Yorkshire there is a popular grouse shooting season but landowners have to go to great measures to maintain the habitat and population of birds. Sometimes those measures are controversial. In the USA the hunting lobby point out that their members donate large sums for conservation. The work done to maintain habitats in the USA is much less of an intervention than it is in the UK. For British grouse, moors must be burned and other wildlife excluded.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of hunting may be, I always feel tremendously lucky to see wildlife. Have you had any good sightings this year?
The Judging a Photograph series will return next week. Please let me know if there’s anything you would like me to cover as the series returns.