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Health Hints: The Healthy Hunter

As more people explore new ways to keep fit and trim through a lifestyle that combines healthy eating with a liberal dose of exercise, many are finding the best solution isn't really a new one at all. In fact, hunting, the choice of a growing number of women, as well as men, is downright traditional. And turkey hunting, one of the fastest growing segments of hunting today, perhaps best combines the elements of good health: exercise, mental relaxation and low-fat, healthy game for dinner.

Last year, 40 states across the country held fall turkey seasons. The great thing about turkey hunting though, is that it is often done not only in the fall, but in the spring, where 49 states (all except Alaska), boast seasons for hunting this bird during the most challenging of times — the spring mating season.

The benefits of this growing pursuit are countless. To start, turkey hunting requires a good deal of walking, still one of the best forms of aerobic exercise. Unlike deer hunting, where a hunter generally spends hours sitting still in a treestand, or duck hunting, again, sitting for hours in a blind, turkey hunting requires a good mixture of walking combined with rest. Most turkey hunts are going to require the hunter to walk healthy distances while scouting or trying to locate birds. Add the fact that he or she is usually traveling up and down hills, around trees, over logs and jumping creeks, and you have yourself a formidable workout.

In his classic, Walden, author Henry David Thoreau stressed the mental as well as the physical benefits of living a life outdoors. Thoreau's call was for individuals to learn the secrets of the natural world--the rhythm of the seasons, the ways of fish hidden deep beneath the unbroken surface of a lake and the manner of animals in the wild. Spending time outdoors, observing nature without the cement confines of a zoo or the "Keep Off The Grass" mentality of park trails, not only offers the mind a serenity unobtainable in our electronic world, but also reconnects us to the real way of nature, which despite some people's reluctance to accept, we are all still a part. While hiking and camping delivers the participant some of these insights, these pursuits are generally more disruptive of a forest's usual daily happenings, because the hiker's and camper's activities frighten wildlife into hiding. It is hunters, who must blend as unobtrusively as possible with their surroundings, who are given the most honest view of the natural world. In what other pursuit, short of the work of a serious wildlife photographer, would a person willfully blend into the wilderness as inconspicuously as possible as the glories of nature unfold.

Mental and aerobic concerns aside, wild game, including wild turkey, can be just plain better for you than store-bought meats. While much has been said about the low-fat, higher protein benefits of buffalo meat and venison over beef, wild turkey has the edge over its domestic cousins raised on additives to make them fat. Wild turkey has a little over two percent more protein, a half percent less fat and slightly less cholesterol than domestic turkey, according to a chart published by North Dakota State University. In addition, the quantity of fat is not only generally lower in wild game, but it is also healthier, since it contains less saturated or bad fat.

Of course, there's no guarantee you're going to harvest a wild turkey just because you go hunting, but trying is half the fun. While going to the store is still the most reliable means of getting dinner, spending time in the woods, getting some exercise and the pride of being self-reliant is what a traditional life outdoors is all about.



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