Both turkey hunting and golf get into your blood and when they do, you’re toast. I killed my first turkey at Whitetail Creek Outfitters in Cadiz, Kentucky two weekends ago, and after reflecting on that hunt and a memorable time at the world-famous Pebble Beach golf course, the experience crystallized the similarities.
Let’s consider the top six comparable qualities of turkey hunting and golf.
- They’re hard. Both draw a passionate following of participants, in part because of the challenge. Excellent calling skills or a 300-yard drive help fuel the passion, but even someone who’s never broken 100 or can’t use a mouth-diaphragm call can be in love with the sport. Somehow it seems a bit incongruous that they are hard—turkeys aren’t that smart and the little white ball sits stationary. Having high expectations for success is a quick way to ruin a perfectly good day outdoors.
- Others prepared the way. Someone before you bought the land, smoothed out the undulating fairways, tamed the ponds, flattened the greens, and built the club houses—a business, yes, but all that work was done because those people had a passion. In turkey hunting, someone bought the land, built lodges for visiting hunters, and planted food plots. Even if you hunt on public land, we all benefit from the restoration efforts of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and groups like it. We owe our tremendous opportunities to the thoughtful preparations of others.
- A guide helps. Whether he’s a physical therapist from Crofton, Kentucky, a turkey killer from boyhood who can throat the prettiest mouth calls you’ve ever heard, or a caddie who knows trouble lurks on the right on this hole and the putt will break hard left, it helps to enjoy the sport with the company of one who knows their stuff. If you’re Chris Pyle, who helped a writer from Minnesota kill her first turkey, or the Pebble Beach caddie who snapped on his overalls and hefted the bag as we left the first tee, it’s a darn good job with a pretty spectacular office.
- Rules apply. You’ve got to follow the rules, but both the hunt and the round of golf are mostly self-regulated. The fraternity demands it. Oh, there may be a joke about using the foot wedge or the jibe over dinner about jumping barbed wire fences, but the honor comes in knowing that we all play by the same rules. Neither sport suffers cheaters.
- Measuring success or making memories. There are numbers that measure success if you want to use them: shooting par (or, in the case of really excellent golfers, under par), handicaps, personal bests, shooting-your-age, fairways in regulation, and number of putts. We measure beard and spurs, notches of the North American Grand Slam subspecies: Eastern, Merriam’s, Osceola, Gould’s, and Rio Grande. The sports can be enjoyed across the country with great expense to the most lauded locations, or you might golf or hunt a mile or two from home. Some live for the score, for others numbers mean very little. “For me, hunting is far more about the collection of memories than about collecting carcasses,” said Bill Miller, professional hunter and outdoor television host. Miller and I co-authored a book that speaks far more to that side of the outdoors, called Reflections Under the Big Pine. “I really don’t care about the trophy numbers. Where I’m hunting, who I’m hunting with, and how the moment of truth comes makes for trophy memories.” Whether posing with a nice tom or on the seventh hole of Pebble Beach with your foursome, pictures are also a common part of the memory-saving qualities of both obsessions.
- Good times outdoors with friends. Isn’t it interesting how quickly people we meet at turkey camp or at a golf outing become good friends, like we have found our tribe? They’re places where race, gender, religion, or other differences matter not a wit, just as long as we can share something we enjoy so much together. If we walk hard and push ourselves, these treasured pastimes will give us a lifetime of enjoyment with some of the nicest folks around.
Dear turkey hunting world, this golfer is hooked!
K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.
Featured image by K.J. Houtman