An outdoorsy playlist

I’ve heard hunting is the great equalizer.

It doesn’t matter how fast you are, how much you can bench press or even your gender; with the right equipment and mental fortitude you can successfully take game. Hunting brings people together.

And so does music.

I love talking music in hunt camp. You learn so much about folks while discussing first concerts, chance meetings with musicians and favorite albums.

Which ones were hippies in a past life? Who will openly admit they don’t like the Beatles? (For shame…) Who might still be suppressing a little bit of teen angst?

I knew the group of outdoor media and hunting manufacturers at this week’s camp at Croton Creek Ranch in Cheyenne, Okla., was up for a little Karen music questionnaire. As soon as I plopped my rear in the rental car at the airport in Oklahoma City, Realtree’s Dodd Clifton and I toggled between 70s and 80s rock during our two-hour drive to the ranch.

And the first night in camp, Gary Sefton, one of the hunt hosts, gave us a mini concert of original songs he’s written about hunting dogs, armadillos and catfishing outlaws.

Gary Sefton’s smooth singing on a Knight & Hale pot call brought in my first Oklahoma Rio.

So after dinner one evening, I forced several of the guys to give me their quintessential outdoors song — one that gets them in the mood to hunt or fish, a tune that brings back a favorite outdoor memory.

It’s only fair to volunteer your answer first when asking such a personal question. The one song that gets me pumped to put a hurtin’ on a turkey: The Warrior by Scandal featuring Patty Smyth.

Oh yeah, I’m shooting down the walls of heartache when I pull the trigger of my shotgun.

Check out the turkey I killed at Croton Creek Ranch in Cheyenne, OK. Bang! Bang! I am a warrior!

Here’s what some of the other guys listen to:

Dave Maas, managing editor of North American Hunter, claims “Fishin’ in the Dark” by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It’s not only his all-time favorite song; it actually makes him want to fish. Want to know a little secret about Dave? He likes fishing more than hunting. (Let’s just keep that between us, OK?)

Steve Hickoff, Realtree.com Turkey Hunting Editor, loves some Travis Tritt, especially the song, “It’s Great Day to Be Alive.” It gives him the same vibe as hunting does, makes him feel good, upbeat, content.

Brian Lovett, editor of Turkey & Turkey Hunting, is a bit more hardcore. He has a fond memory of “No Breaks” by The Offspring. He remembers playing it early one morning as he drove three hours to hunt with a friend. It represents how he can’t “put the breaks” on his turkey addiction. Brian actually wrote a magazine story about it.

Back to my boy, Dodd Clifton, public relations director for Realtree: He threw down the Grand Funk Railroad’s “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home” as his top feel good song. He says it puts him in his place, centers him. When he hears it, he feels like fishing. Good pick, matey!

PRADCO Public Relations Manager Mike Mattly identifies with “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr. That song needs no further explanation.

Mike Lambeth, freelance outdoor communicator, rocks out to “Radar Love” by Golden Earring when he’s driving to a hunting spot. It gets him pumped (and also takes him back to the groovy ‘70s. Righteous!

What song would you pick? Send a comment back to me, and let’s build the ultimate outdoorsy playlist. Then we can groove, head bang and line dance our way through spring.

Ready, set, go!

My bag is packed, the wheels are up and my spring has just begun.

I’m on my way to Oklahoma to share camp with some of my turkey industry cohorts. It’s the first of six trips in the next six weeks — four turkeys hunts, one speaking engagement and a Women in the Outdoors event. I estimate that to be roughly 9,580 miles in the air, 2,490 on the road, not to mention the dozens of miles on America’s back roads by truck or old logging roads on foot.

My bag is packed and so is my spring. Y'all up for the ride?

I hear it all the time: Must be nice to get paid to hunt.

It’s a hardy-har-har statement that’s partly true. I’m about to chase turkeys in four states and I’m on the clock (which is super cool). It’s a blessing … but not a vacation.

Each trip/hunt comes with an expectation. (You didn’t think I was invited simply for my relentless charm, did ya?) I’ve got to deliver a story.

That means when I’m not in the woods, I’m interviewing folks and taking pictures, posing for pictures for the other writers and maybe get interviewed myself.

I’m not saying it’s not fun. ‘Cause it is. But my mind never stops working, even when my back is against a tree and there’s a gun on my knee. I’ll simply whip out the notepad on my iPhone and jot down my thoughts to revisit in detail later.

And just because I’m on a work trip doesn’t mean work back at the office mysteriously stops. No naps for me in between hunts. There are voicemails and e-mails to answer, blog entries to post and magazine articles to edit.

OK, so maybe I tackle all that after a quick nap.

But I think my biggest challenge is the mental tug-of-war of not being at home with my family. There’s a tinge of guilt for being away from my little critter, leaving my husband to shoulder the load. But the tables will turn next week, and I’ll be home while he’s off somewhere. It’s a team effort that sometimes includes bringing in the second string (grandparents) when we’re both gallivanting around the country.

I think about my family a lot when I’m away, but I don’t worry. I pray.

I lift up roughly the same prayer before and during every trip. And last year I found a bracelet that has this Bible verse printed on it:

That you would bless me and enlarge my territory. Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. 1 Chronicles 4:10

I think of it as my working mother’s prayer. But it’s really a traveler’s prayer.

I’m grateful for the chance to hunt all over the country, meet new people, connect with friends, for the ability to put my experiences on paper and the means to share them with others.

Every experience enlarges my territory. And I hope your territory grows this spring as well. Perhaps you won’t make several cross-country treks to do so. But maybe your mental territory will expand in some way.

You’ll call in your first turkey yourself. Or maybe you’ll do the same for a new hunter.

Perhaps you’ll keep a journal of your experiences this spring to share with your grandchildren.

Invite a nonhunting friend over for a wild turkey dinner.

Or maybe you’ll simply not carry a gun to the woods one morning and soak in the sights, sounds and smells of spring without an agenda. You’ll only carry a grateful heart. (OK, maybe that’s a bit much to ask.)

No matter how we enjoy this spring season, let’s use it to grow as people. And I pray that God will keep us all safe as we do.

Countdown to turkey season and I’m down for the count

It’s the first week of South Carolina’s turkey season, and all I got is strep throat.

Bummer of a t-shirt slogan, but my current state of being nonetheless.

Yep, my darling little boy shared it with me, no doubt by either handing me a snot-filled tissue or through one of many lessons in covering his mouth when he coughs.

Apparently, I fell victim to the .01 percent the anti-bacterial hand soaps can’t kill.

So here I am…at home…looking at other people’s dead turkeys on Facebook. I’m truly happy for them, even though I can’t seem to muster up more than a measly like.

Heck, even yesterday as my immune system came crashing down during work, I was a horrible friend when Turkey Country Photo Editor Matt Lindler showed me a pic of his older boy’s first turkey.

“That’s awesome,” I croaked, not even asking the specifics. I’m sure I’ll like them on Facebook later.

Right now, I’m armed with the heavyweight champion of antibiotics and a new love of fruit smoothies, willing my way back to health.

I've got a fever, and the only cure is turkey hunting...and a week's worth of antibiotic (and maybe a little more cow bell).

It’s funny how many of the things we use to comfort ourselves when we’re sick come from nature.

Got cold chills? Wrap yourself in a down blanket.

Random sounds keeping you awake? Click on a noisemaker to fill the room with crashing waves or chirping crickets.

Stuffy nose? Ramp up the humidifier and pretend the mist is coming from a mountain waterfall.

Sore throat? Only a mixture of honey and lemon will do.

For outdoors enthusiasts like us, it’s no wonder. Nature is therapeutic, no matter how we choose to enjoy it.

For me, it’s hunting turkeys. Breathing dew-laden morning air. Feeling the sun’s rays hit my face. Gingerly strolling through the woods. Enjoying a good laugh with a friend.

But, for now, my reality is a couch, a can of Lysol and small, bland meals.

I just thank God this sickness happened now.

Starting Monday, my spring is packed with hunting trips to Oklahoma (with a bunch of turkey hunting industry friends), New Mexico (with top-notch taxidermist Cally Morris and his lovely wife, Annetta), North Carolina (with calling champ Mitchell Johnston) and Virginia (for some R and R turkey hunting with my hubby). I’m also giving a presentation at the North Eastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies conference in West Virginia. And I’ll head to California early May for the Bakersfield Women in the Outdoors event.

I’ll be blogging along the way. I hope you’ll join me as my life’s adventures will surely ramp up several times in the next few weeks.

Let me know how your springs are going too. Share your successes on my Facebook page or shoot over a Tweet when you can.

In the meantime, let’s collectively pray my antibodies work overtime. And that we all have a safe, healthy spring.

Take care out there.

NWTF brings in the GEEKS with new iPhone app

When Jeff Hughes worked at the NWTF as a graphic artist several years ago, I thought of him as more of a goofball than a geek. He’s silly, funny and creative … basically, a big kid. One you’d find in the gifted classes and art studio, not wheeling around TVs for the AV club.

Before you peg me as a snobby head cheerleader picking on social underlings, let me tell you Jeff is cool and he calls himself a geek … and a nerd … and a dork.

He co-founded a technology company, Hunt Geek, with Chief Enginerd Jim Stolis. They specialize in iPhone and Droid apps for other geeks who love to hunt, shoot and fish.

And just out TODAY is the brand spankin’ new NWTF app, the Turkey Hunting Toolbox, ready to install on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. (A Droid version is in the works.)

The Hunt Geeks and NWTF staff put their noggins together to come up with this complete turkey hunting tool that fits in your pocket. (No, I’m not still talking about Jeff!)

The app features audio clips of common turkey calls to help you hone your yelps, cutts and clucks. Then calling champions like Mark Prudhomme, Matt Van Cise and Chris Parrish, tell you how to put your skills to the task through video tips.

You’ll also find hunting advice from NWTF pros, from patterning your shotgun to making a spur necklace — and everything in between. It even allows you to score your bird in the field.

There are ringtones, state regulations, an up-to-date list of NWTF events. Heck, you can even renew your membership with it. What DOESN’T it do?!?

I caught up with the head Hunt Geeks, Jeff and Jim, to chat about the new app, asking them questions that only a person who hasn’t updated her phone software in six months could:

Karen: What goes in to creating an app? Simple, general terms please…
Geeks:
Usually, it starts with an interview with the client. We identify a useful set of features or a message the company is trying to convey, or maybe we look for a gap in existing apps that would be useful to outdoor folks. Then we nail down the features, do visual mock-ups of all the screens you see on your device, then tweak them until the client likes the basic flow/look. After that, we start breaking down the assets and coding each screen to match the mock-ups.

Carry a Hunt Geek in your turkey vest this spring: The new NWTF Turkey Hunting Toolbox app is now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

Karen: OK, you’re starting to lose me. What does this app have that’s different than others?
Geeks:
It’s a ridiculously useful resource for turkey hunters. The app’s information came directly from the best turkey source around — the NWTF. It’s a definitive resource, including subspecies ID, tips and tricks, audio samples to help you practice calling, video tips and articles from the pros. It’s overloaded with great info, and at $1.99, it’s a steal!

Karen: No doubt, that’s cheaper than downloading two songs from, well, No Doubt! What’s your favorite feature of the app?
Geeks:
The turkey sounds and video tips are perfect for improving your success in the field. And the NWTF gets money from every sale; it’s a win-win for hunters and conservation of the resource.

Karen: What do you want NWTF members to know about the app?
Geeks:
Only a small portion of the app requires an Internet connection to use, like the state agencies’ regulations.

Karen: Not judging, just curious: How do you find balance between the tech world and the natural world?
Geeks:
Our take on technology in the field is that you’re already taking your device with you in the event of an emergency (or to call in sick if the hunting gets good). Why not use it to your advantage? It’s a lot lighter than hauling around reg books, how-to articles and such. When started Hunt Geek by tackling things that nagged us in the field, such as sunrise/sunset tables, stand locations and even rangefinding. We rolled them into killer mobile applications, making an outdoorsperson’s life easier, keeping them legal and getting the most out of their time afield.

Karen: Since the app went live today, I’m sure there are already plans for updates.
Geeks:
Apps like this are always evolving. We want to make sure the user gets the best bang for his or her buck. There are several additional features coming in the next few months that will further enhance the app. And user feedback is very important and oftentimes steers a product’s direction. We encourage users to let us know how they are using the product.

Karen: So I should give everyone your home numbers?
Geeks:
They can reach us through www.HuntGeek.com. Would love to hear from them.

Cabela’s Turkey Classic: A gift card to conservation

I don’t know about you, but I L-O-V-E gift cards.

(Hint, hint … friends, family and charitable strangers.)

Some people think they’re an impersonal gift, a cop out if you will. I think they’re wonderful. Gift cards give you license to shop guilt free. You’re spending someone else’s dime, after all.

Dozens of new NWTF members are getting Cabela’s gift cards this spring for simply being at the right place at the right time.

Folks who come to 14 Cabela’s stores for the Turkey Classic events, either by accident or design, and signed up for a $35 NWTF annual membership receive a $25 gift card to the store.

What a bargain! What lucky sons of guns!

Just think about it. An unsuspecting person heads to Cabela’s to pick up a gadget for turkey season. A friendly NWTF volunteer stops them and asks them to join the greatest conservation group around. Then Sally or Sammy Shopper thinks to herself or himself, Gee, I love to hunt turkeys. I should really join the NWTF to do my part to ensure turkeys are around for my kids and grandkids to hunt.

He or she forks over $35. They get a membership with many privileges, including discounts, a super duper magazine and the knowledge they helped make a difference in conservation.

Voila! Mr. or Mrs. Shopper is now an NWTF supporter, and because they’re at one of the Cabela’s Turkey Classic events, they get $25 toward that gadget they were after.

What a win!

And you can win, too. Just go to one of the weekend in-store Cabela’s Turkey Classics:

WHEN                    WHERE                        
March 3-4               Buda, Texas
March 17-18           Fort Worth, Texas
March 17-18           Allen, Texas
March 24-25           Kansas City, Kan.
March 31-April 1     Hazelwood, Mo.
March 31-April 1     Rogers, Minn.
March 31-April 1     Hamburg, Pa.
March 31-April 1     Prairie du Chien, Wis.
March 31-April 1     Richfield, Wis.
March 31-April 1     La Vista, Neb.
March 31-April 1     Owatonna, Minn.
March 31-April 1     Dundee, Mich.
April 21-22              Triadelphia, W.Va.
April 28-29              Scarborough, Maine

Now that the commercial is over, here’s the real scoop.

According to Cindy Williams, NWTF marketing manager, Cabela’s donated 60 gift cards to each of the NWTF local chapters listed above to help them recruit more members. NWTF volunteers hang out in the stores to sign up members and raise public awareness of the great work the NWTF is doing to conserve upland habitat, creating more places to hunt and educating new hunters.

Each chapter that signs up 60 members gets a $500 Cabela’s gift card to use how they want, like to buy equipment for outreach events or auction items to raise money for the NWTF’s mission.

Again, a win! The NWTF gets more members, and Cabela’s gets more happy shoppers.

The commercial and reality are really one in the same. So stop by your local Cabela’s Turkey Classic, join the NWTF and get the gift card. You’ll be better for it (and so will the future of wildlife).

Grab your March-April issue and let’s go for a walk

Who’s gotten their March-April issue of Turkey Country yet? Who’s already read their copy? Of course, you all have…

Well, here’s the deal on my side of the desk.

By the time an issue of Turkey Country reaches your mailbox, it’s all but a distant memory to us on the magazine staff. We’re already halfway through producing the next one (May-June in this case), with the articles for the one after that (July-August) in the hopper, waiting for us to put our baddest ninja moves on them.

Spring won't have officially sprung until next week, but the season has arrived in Turkey Country!

So, when I make these why-I-love-the-current-issue-of-Turkey Country posts, it’s really a walk down Memory Lane. And that lane has a fork in it.

The happy prong of the fork, the one paved with candy, with friendly blue jays chirping in the trees, is the path where I am reminded of all the great information that goes in each issue.

That’s not simply a pat on the back of the magazine staff (though they deserve one). It’s more of a GO TEAM NWTF moment, when I realize how much good work we’re doing as an organization.

The other side of Memory Lane is the one where you trip over the gnarly roots of the mistake tree. Some genius once said, ”I do my best proofreading after I hit send.” Same goes for a magazine. Just goes to show we’re hard working, not perfect.

Let’s hop back over to the other path and chat about my favorite stuff in the March-April issue. There are so many articles that make me do a happy dance, I’ve grouped them in sections. Here goes:

STUFF THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE AN NWTF MEMBER/STAFFER

Even though it seems as if EVERYONE was talking about the Outdoor Legends Tour the last couple weeks, some folks might be a bit late to the game. In this issue’s On The Horizon (more affectionately known as CEO Notes), George Thornton sets up his trip to visit our troops overseas. Read his notes in the magazine to get the background, then send your cursor on a short trip to the right and click on George’s Outdoor Legends Tour link for seven days of diary entries from his experience.

Because of NWTF members, more than 77,000 people WEREN’T hungry last holiday season. The Turkey Hunters Care program, which started in 2001, has been a wonderful, effective community outreach effort for our chapters who donate frozen turkeys and fixin’s to families in need each year. A big high-five to the 167 chapters that participated in the most recent effort. Read about them in The Caller.

Love the wild turkey range map in the annual Turkey Country SPRING HUNT GUIDE? Wish you had a big honkin’ one to hang in your bedroom under your Jackie Chan poster? Buy one for only $9.99 at www.OutdoorDealHound.com.

Four words: I LOVE BRENDA VALENTINE. Her column, Hen Tracks, just makes me smile every time it pops into my e-mail inbox. The one she wrote for the March-April issue, “The best kind of insurance policy,” articulately explained why your NWTF membership is important, not just to you as an individual, but for the future of hunting. You rock, Ms. Brenda…

Did you read Randy Green’s Wheelin’ & Able column? It’ll be the first of many. The super dynamic volunteer from Illinois is now our Wheelin’ Sportsmen national coordinator. It’s so cool when an active volunteer joins the staff. And Randy is nothing short of exceptional. Y’all be sure to make him feel at home. Flood his e-mail with welcome notes. I’m sure he doesn’t have a lot to do, starting a new job, finding a house, relocating his family and all.

STUFF THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE A HUNTER

News Flash: Hunting safer than cheerleading! For real, you are 25 times more likely to get hurt building a pyramid for your home team than toting a gun to the woods in search of critters. GO! FIGHT! WIN! This victory goes to hunters, because you earned it. Read more about it in this issue’s Showcase.

Who doesn’t want to be associated with the cool guys? I know I do. And we just updated www.turkeycountrymagazine.com with interviews from a couple of the coolest guys in turkey calling — Chris Parrish and Mark Prudhomme. Bask in their hunting genius as they give you tips for taking on the woods this spring.

STUFF THAT REINFORCES THAT I JUST MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT IN THE HEAD

Page 52 – Cook Nook: I’m not grossed out by the thoughts of eating a turkey neck. However, my stomach turns just LOOKING at that dollop of mayonnaise. Yep, I’m that turned off by it.

Page 148 – Species Spotlight: Even though it destroys millions of ash trees that are valuable to wildlife, I have to admit the emerald ash borer is cute. But it must die…

Page 150 – Landowner Resources: I’m pretty pumped that purple has made its way into hunting, and not just in some marketing scheme to get more women to buy a product. Purple is the new “No Trespassing” in Illinois. Pretty awesome.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 6

We spent the majority of our sixth day moving to a new location on the Arabian Gulf Coast, once again a new country and a new city where not long ago there was a tribal kingdom. Compared to other places we’ve visited, the political situation differs greatly here, and it’s a much larger host country. Its cities are modern, with business infrastructure and beautiful housing. It is a strong ally.

We are the guests of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, and are running late because of an administrative mix-up between our host country and us. We have just enough time for a short visit to the Corp of Engineers work area where we are briefed on the construction history and future plans for the area. Maintaining adequate drinking water and public health is a major enterprise.

It was a long day, but we were energized by the personal warmth and energy in our reception by the airmen.

The commanding officer of the Fire Brigade is anxious for us to visit their 9-11 Monument. He was at Ground Zero on that fateful day and lost half his group there. The COE and Fire Protection personnel are extremely proud of their monument to fallen heroes, and for serving with a man who distinguished himself in the line of duty and suffered the loss of so many comrades.

It is getting late. We invite them to join us for a meet and greet after dinner.

We gathered in the Recreation Center to talk about hunting, fishing and home. The room is full when we arrive, much like the night before at the previous base.

The general introduces us and tells the group we are here to express the gratitude of their countrymen for their service. He then opens the evening to group discussions and a question-and-answer period, which goes on until 11 p.m. (That’s 2300 hours in military jargon.) The small group discussions and card games continue until after 1 a.m.

I am amazed at the interest in hearing stories from Jim Zumbo, Jerry Martin, Michael Waddell and Ryan Klesko. The questions range from favorite hunting gear and hunts to most dangerous experiences to how did they find employment in the hunting and outdoors industry. There was a lot of talk about first hunting experiences (theirs and ours) and people who influenced our lives.

One airmen commented that he couldn’t believe that a group of hunters had been sent out after all the comics and rap artists they have seen in the past.

The questions still remain: Did we have an impact on these men and women? Were we successful in our goal?

Here’s one instance when I know we made a difference:

As we met with the troops, Ryan and Michael talked about the role their parents played in their career choices. Ryan’s mother worked two jobs and destroyed her health, while encouraging him to pursue his baseball dreams with his talents. Michael talked about his father’s support, which resulted in him winning a turkey calling contest that changed his life.

The next morning, a young airman who took part in the discussion asked a chaplain to help him contact his father. The father and son had been estranged for years and had not talked at all during his deployment. We were told that with the chaplain’s assistance they spoke and have begun rebuilding their relationship.

That evening, we offered a baseball game with Ryan pitching. Schedules rapidly changed, and we were given access to the baseball diamond between 8:30 and 9:30 the following morning.

— George

Click here to read more about the Outdoor Legends Tour on NWTF Spokesman Michael Waddell’s blog.

Peek-a-boo! It’s me! Karen. Remember?

It’s just me, peeking into my blog. Just checking on you all. Hoping you’re doing well.

Those reports from George Thornton and the Outdoor Legends Tour have been pretty cool, right? What an amazing opportunity.

Well, I’m popping back in with a little post to get you prepared for the spring season. With all this overseas excitement, you didn’t forget about turkey season, did ya? I didn’t think so.

So, here’s a question for the ages: What’s better than finding out you’re good at something?

Answer: Finding out you totally stink at something (ranging turkeys in the field), then realizing there’s something you can do about it (use a rangefinder).

A couple coworkers and I did a little experiment. We stuck an Avian X decoy in various hunting scenarios — in an open field, across a creek bed, up a hill side — and did our best to guess the yardage.

Then we were gut-checked by a Leupold RX-1000i TBR rangefinder.

Nothing beats being told you’re stupid by a piece of gear that weighs less than 8 ounces.

Click here to read more. Then watch the video below.

You’ll see me totally blow my first attempt at guessing the distance to the decoy in an open field.

You’ll witness my superstar dance as I manage to somewhat accurately guess two out of three scenarios.

You’ll understand why I desperately need a rangefinder in the field.

Don’t feed the animals

I don’t know a whole lot, but I know a lot of people who know something.

So when I received this question from Keepin’ Up With Karen follower Bernadette, who says she’s from a very rural part of Georgia, I knew exactly who to send it to — Robert Abernethy in the NWTF’s conservation department.

He’s like the Ask Jeeves of wildlife.

Here’s what transpired…

EMAIL FROM BERNADETTE TO ME —

Last spring I started throwing cracked corn behind my house. I had seen deer and wild turkeys a few times. I would toss some corn out every few days and was delighted to see the flock grow from four to 13.

Now the turkeys are coming to eat corn in the mornings and early evenings. So I’m tossing corn two times a day.

Bernadette's turkeys are about to go on a diet...

If they see me with the corn, they come running, and will come within 6 feet of me. They have become like yard chickens. They will not come if anyone else is outside, just me.

But, I’m concerned I may be hurting them in some way. I don’t want to create a dependence on the corn. I want them to still forage for their food. Perhaps they do that now when they’re off doing their thing during the day.

I am fascinated by the turkeys and their behavior, but I don’t want to do something that might hurt them. Any advice?

EMAIL FROM ME TO ROBERT —

Help.

EMAIL FROM ROBERT TO BERNADETTE (CC: ME) —

In general, it is never a good idea to feed wildlife. It unnaturally concentrates animals and can lead to disease transmission. Plus, it provides a small, localized site where predators will soon learn to hunt.

It also can become an attractant and food source for predators and cause an increase in predators such as raccoons. Raccoons are a significant nest predator on the wild turkey and increased ‘coon populations can lead to fewer turkeys. You may not have seen the coons, but they will find the corn left behind by the turkeys and get fatter every night.

As you have already discovered, feed can also tame the wild turkey. It has led to turkeys losing their fear of humans in the Northeast and California. When you combine this with aggressive gobblers in March and April, you can have turkeys that will jump on you, spur you and flail you with their wings. While not as dangerous as a semi-tame deer, bear or coyote, they will scare people and can become a nuisance.

We all love watching wildlife and feed brings them close, but a much better solution is establishing a food plot that provides food year round and spreads out over the landscape. Chufa is a great attractant, as well as brown-top millet and clover.

I hope this helps and have fun watching your turkeys.

I had a similar experience in my own backyard. A fluffy cat started lurking among our trees a few weeks ago. I had to fight the urge to run to the pet store and buy it cute little bowls and a food mat. I thought to myself, It’d be nice to have a mouse catcher around the house.

Then the voice of reason (in the baritone of my husband) sounded in my head: It won’t want to catch mice if it knows it’s going to get a belly full of Meow Mix every day.

Touché, CJ.

So, Bernadette, we both learned something from ol’ Robert and (sigh) my husband. It’s better to allow animals to help themselves instead of dishing handouts. Keep your feeding hands in your pockets but your elbows well greased.

However, I don’t think I’ll be planting a catnip plot anytime soon. You’re on your own, cat.

7 reasons why I’m psyched about the upcoming Turkey Country issue

The next issue of Turkey Country should be in your mailbox soon, no doubt bundled with a tree’s worth of Christmas cards and catalogs from companies trying to squeeze just one more dime out of last-minute shoppers.

Here are a few of the gotta-see and must-read pages of the January-February 2012 issue, according to me at least.

1. THE COVER — The frosted tips of the turkey’s body feathers and beard will send shivers up your spine, but don’t overlook his wings worn flat from dragging and strutting. If that doesn’t get you warmed up for spring, then you must not have a bone to pick with a boss tom somewhere. Thanks, Guy Tillett, for snapping this shot — and for making me pine for turkey season even more.

What media outlet includes hand cuffs, video cameras and a lot of grass? The latest issue of Turkey Country, of course! And YOU thought I was talking about an episode of "Cops"...

2. PAGE 15 — The often-overlooked cyber sister to Turkey Country (www.turkeycountrymagazine.com) is full of exclusive features, quick access to many of the links in the magazine and an easy entrance for members to participate in Answer the Call, Snapshots and Ask Dr. Tom. We hope to pique your curiosity with this new page of teasers. This installment of the online version has stories on using turkey feathers in traditional archery to a roundup of outdoors-related apps for a smart phone, and a little coyote hunting and outdoor humor in between.

3. PAGE 21 — I simply love this photo by Senior Editor PJ Perea. It’s incredibly eye-catching and demonstrates there’s so much beauty in the smallest details of nature.

4. NWTF TRACK STARS — We feature Kevin Howard of Howard Communications, who was 2011’s NWTF Communicator of the Year.  I’ve worked with Kevin and his team and found all the nice stuff said about them in the article to be true. What I didn’t know, however, is that Kevin starts every workday with group prayer. That’s a leader who has his priorities in order.

5. 25 WAYS TO CURE CABIN FEVER — There’s a ton of fun stuff to do outside in winter, but it’s cool (check out the pun) to see so many of them gathered in a list. Makes me wish I could teleport myself to a snowy part of the country for a day of fun, then come home to sunny South Carolina and not have to worry about putting chains on my tires.

6. TURKEY CALLS — J.J. Reich tells us about a couple companies that make turkey calls out of submerged hardwoods like cypress. There’s only so much of this old, waterlogged wood around, and apparently it makes one heckuva turkey call. I just think they’re neat because it’s pieces of natural history, recycled.

7. POACHER-PROOF YOUR PROPERTY — When a poacher’s creeping in from your neighbor’s hood … who ya gonna call? Game wardens! (Bravo, if you just sang that to the tune of Ghostbusters.) In all seriousness, I really enjoyed this interview with Game Warden Roger Tate of Arkansas. He was honored at our national convention last year for putting the smack down on ne’er-do-wells who won’t play by the same rules as the rest of us. (He’s also apparently a nice guy who has a heart for outreach.) Tate gives landowners and hunt lease holders tips for keeping these bad apples from hugging your property line and what to do if you catch one in the act.

Hope you find a couple of silent nights to enjoy these pages and the rest of the magazine over the holidays.