One type of turkey
There are two types of outdoor writers: those who categorize outdoors enthusiasts into different types and those who don’t. By contrast, when it comes to actually doing some specific outdoor sport, there are four types of persons. I have observed these four categories in every outdoor sport I’ve paid any attention to: backpacking, biking, kayaking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, cross-country skiing, etc.
The first category, and usually the largest, is those who don’t participate in the sport at all. There are plenty of people — kind, thoughtful, intelligent people who make good friends and neighbors and hold down respectable jobs — who have not the slightest interest in sleeping in a tent. Likewise, there is a large group of people who don’t fish, won’t fish, and maybe have never fished, though it’s not exactly the same group as those who won’t sleep in a tent.
And so on.
The second group of people with respect to a particular sport is the casual participant group. These folks may enjoy the activity when all the conditions are just right. But there are lots of other activities they enjoy also. Lots of people own canoes, and use them from time to time, but don’t go to bed at night thinking about when they can next go paddling. There are many casual bikers also. They probably wear biking helmets. They almost certainly do not wear biking shorts.
However some sports require either so much equipment, or such big or expensive equipment, that it’s hard to be in the second category. Kayaking and fly-fishing are in this list. With respect to these sports, people either fall in the first category or jump to the third.
The third category contains the more passionate and committed practitioners of the sport. They’re the ones who want to do the sport as often as possible, the ones who never tire of it, and who feel deprived when they can’t hunt, fish, kayak, bike or whatever it is. They are the ones who put that sport above other activities — or at least above competing activities in the same season. Most (though not all) members of the third category possess pretty good skills at their sport. This is in part a simple result of the amount of time spent at it, but it also comes from a conscious desire to get better. Third-category persons also have a good sense for the quality of the equipment used in their sport (even if they can’t actually afford to buy the top-of-the-line gear).
The fourth category is a little bit like the third in one way. It contains people who are passionate about their sport, and are generally good at it. What separates the fourth category from the third is not necessarily any additional skill. (Though some folks in the fourth category are more skilled than their third-category counterparts, many are not.) The distinguishing feature is a sort of snobbery about their sport. While a third-category participant is generally happy to bring a second-category friend along with them, to share the sport they love, the fourth-category person disdains anybody who is not also in the fourth category. The fourth-category person has all of the elite gear, and displays it proudly, not only because it is sometimes better, but because it separates them from second- and third-category people, and thus enables them to feel more exclusive.
I’m in the first category when it comes to kayaks. I’m only in the second category as a canoeist or backpacker. As a cross-country skier, I’m up in the third category.
And I’m definitely a third-category angler, though I admit that on certain bad days I have to resist fourth-category temptations.
I’d like to think I’m in the third category as a hunter, though hunting is so broad it needs qualification. I am in the first category with respect to waterfowl, and the second with upland birds. I certainly spend enough hours in the woods deer hunting to qualify for the third category, and I’ve had some success in practical terms as well. As a turkey hunter, I’m probably only second-category. The four birds I’ve bagged over the past six years are less than a typical third-category hunter will get in a year and a half. I’ve never gotten a turkey with a bow.
So, as a second-category turkey hunter, but one who would still like to get a fall bird, I was actually quite happy to learn that Vermont has extended its fall archery season for turkeys this year by one week. The new extended season is statewide, in response to various factors including the current health of the flock — and probably also the large number of people who are in the first category and the small numbers in the third and fourth.
The turkey bow-and-arrow-only season now runs for three weeks, coinciding with the first 21 days of the archery season for deer. (In 2010, the dates are Oct. 2-22). This is followed, as in the past, by nine- or 16-day shotgun seasons depending on the wildlife management unit. Third-and fourth-category hunters probably don’t need that extra week to get their birds. I, however, am glad to have it.