Veterinarian loves the art of turkey hunting

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 29, 2004

Veterinarian Dr. Lee Youngblood, owner of Northside Animal Hospital, is a turkey fanatic. Though he has been hunting them for 45 years, he still loves to hunt them, he loves to eat them, he loves the challenge of bagging the gobbler whom be believes to be one of the smartest, canniest wild game species on the face of the Earth.

“He is a very formidable opponent,” said Youngblood.

Turkey hunting is second, behind deer hunting, in popularity among Alabama hunters and those who come from out of state. It’s become big business for South Central Alabama.

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“It’s a huge industry,” he said, “when you think about all that’s involved in hunting turkey – a place to hunt, a hunting outfit, a shotgun and ammunition, food and supplies, turkey calls, vehicles suitable for the terrain, the hunting license itself.”

Deer hunting, which Youngblood also enjoys, requires a totally different approach, he said. Ordinarily the hunter sits in a blind, waits for a deer to come by.

On the other hand, the dance with the male turkey – the gobbler – is in his words “a battle,” from start to finish.

Youngblood said that the turkey season and bag limits in Alabama are among the most liberal in the nation – March 15 through April 30, with an annual limit of five.

Hunting the gobbler requires the use of calls to draw the wise and cautious turkey out of a safe place close enough to the hunter, who is well-camouflaged, to get a shot at him – about 30 yards, the effective range of the shotgun.

Youngblood said the gobbler has excellent eyesight and hearing and can easily be frightened away with the slightest disturbance.

The disguise of the hunter, who frequently leans against a tree, involves a camouflage cap, jacket, pants, gloves, a fabric facial screen and possibly some natural materials such as branches.

Youngblood describes the thrill of the hunt: “Your heart is pumping, your breath is short, you know he can see you, somehow you lure him close enough to get a good clean shot.”

Ordinarily the hunt begins very early in the morning, and can be finished in time for the hunter to change clothes and to go into work, according to Youngblood.

Youngblood says during a typical season he goes about 25 times, and considers himself fortunate to bag two of the wild gobblers a year. The hunt – with or without success – is usually over by 7:30 or 8 a.m., he said.

In addition to his veterinary profession, Youngblood has been very active in civic and hunting organizations, including former president of the Alabama Wildlife Federation in the year 2000-01.

Youngblood is the true outdoorsmen.

He hunts several kinds of wild game, and has a heart for all of God’s creatures, as he put it.

He firmly believes that God put certain animals – within the wild game category – to be hunted and harvested in numbers appropriate to the sustainability of a flock or herd.

Such animals, he said, are not given to developing bonds with humans. They are in the wild and of the wild.