“Man, there must’ve been 60 turkeys around my wife’s backyard bird feeders this winter!” barked the guy at the Maine turkey checking station the other day when I registered my opening day gobbler. “They’re nowhere to be seen now of course.”

“Are you a turkey hunter?” I had to ask. You know how the fellowship we share goes. Oops. Wrong question.

“Turkey hunter! It’s fishin’ season, boy. The salmon are runnin’ up on Sebago. You fish?”

“Yeah, I fish a little . . . when it’s not turkey season.” This was getting interesting.

He wound up and made the next pitch: “Anyway, what do I need with a ratty, dirty bird like that?”

I swung and hit for what I hoped was a single up the middle: “I’m pretty much addicted to these ‘ratty, dirty’ birds,” I smiled, looking down at the gobbler I’d just killed that morning. He laughed a good one.

To each his own, I guess. Over the years I’ve had friends, turkey hunters and non-sportsmen alike, call the biggest gamebird in our woods and fields various derogatory terms.

They refer to “jakes” (juvenile gobblers, of course) by the term “jerks.” The word “ugly” gets a fair share of lip service, too. I don’t know about you, but I can’t get the image of the close encounter I had with multiple gobblers in the Maine woods the other day out of my mind.

Nor would I want to. What wild turkeys have is a presence that faces no rival in the big woods I hunt. When a spring gobbler walks into view, with that head all red, white and blue like the American flag, I am awed. It never gets old. My heart fires up and my pulse quickens. Obsessed? Heck yeah.

Ugly? Hardly. Ratty? C’mon, man. I love salmon on the dinner table too, but please.

So what do you guys say? Send us your word for the greatest gamebird that walks the planet. Mine: awesome.

(NWTF media photo)