I hate to gripe. It rarely does any good, and it won’t this time either, but what the heck.
The Montana spring turkey season opened last Saturday and, as usual, I wasn’t out there chasing those sneaky birds. Time is always the enemy of outdoor recreation, especially hunting—especially hunting something that requires travel to another part of the state. I admit it’s my own fault, but my life is over-scheduled. Another way of looking at it is that I’m blessed in being able to lead a full and varied life. There are people who achieve geezer-hood and find life boring. So far, I’ve been spared that fate, for which I’m thankful.
On the other hand, I’d appreciate a little more luck in spring turkey drawings. While there are unlimited over-the-counter turkey permits for big areas of eastern Montana, the problem is, again, time. You need time to get there, time to get back, and, above all, time to hunt, which also means time to hunt up a place to hunt. Then I look at my calendar, full of meetings, rehearsals, dental appointments, jury duty, concerts, grandchildren, conferences—all things that translate to that full and varied life—and again fail to find a decent block of time to get out of Dodge.
Of course, there are turkeys here in southwest Montana. We spot them while hunting deer in the fall, while fishing in the spring, while driving along the Interstate, while looking for blue grouse on mountaintops. There are turkeys to be found. I figure if I drew a permit I could go hunting almost every day, or at least as often as I can tolerate setting an alarm clock for 4 a.m.
Every year I put in for a Region 3 spring turkey permit and every year I fail to get drawn. Then I hear from people who draw permits in consecutive years, or my oil change guy tells of a customer who put in for a permit just to see if he could get one, then got one and didn’t go hunting. I would have used that permit.
I understand that these drawings are random, which means it’s like going to a Vegas casino and putting money in the slots. Still, one of these years, before I get to be too much of a geezer to care anymore, it’d sure be fun to draw one of those spring permits. At least I’d have to find something else to gripe about.
On the topic of turkey sightings, when we were in California a couple weeks ago, one early evening there was a faint sound of wild turkeys gobbling. “My ears are playing tricks on me,” I thought. The next morning, while taking a short drive down the hill to pick up a newspaper at a convenience store, there was a wild turkey pecking away at something on the edge of the street. Was it my imagination, or was there really a sneer on his ugly face saying, “You can’t hunt me here, either.”
On the bright side of not drawing that special turkey permit, when I do have a free day, or just a free afternoon, I’ll still have time to go fishing.
If wild turkeys are thriving across much of Montana, sage grouse populations are dwindling. Sage grouse need vast expanses of sagebrush habitat and that specific sage grouse habitat is changing for varied reasons.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a program to give western farmers and ranchers financial incentives to improve sage hen habitat. USDA has budgeted some $16 million to fund projects in 11 western states where sage grouse are found.
The deadline for signing up to participate in sage grouse projects through this program is April 23. The program is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Program, and any landowners interested in participating should contact a local office (offices located in Dillon, Sheridan, Whitehall, Deer Lodge and Philipsburg) or call the NRCS state office in Bozeman at 406-587-6919.
Sage grouse are an important part of our western hunting tradition—too important to lose.