the way out here

Flamethrowers and thunder chickens

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 4/27/22

While spring is most certainly sprung and the most recent snowstorm officially melted away into the land of blissful ignorance, I can’t help but feel like I’m still playing a lot of …

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the way out here

Flamethrowers and thunder chickens

Posted

While spring is most certainly sprung and the most recent snowstorm officially melted away into the land of blissful ignorance, I can’t help but feel like I’m still playing a lot of hurry-up-and-wait.

Taunting me, like a kid looking through a glass wall and watching a monkey eating ice cream,  are every hunter’s main focus right now.

Turkeys.

Or, as many refer to them, thunder chickens.

Why thunder chickens, you ask? Well, mainly because when they puff themselves up for a big ol’ gobble, you can not only hear but feel a low-decibel vibration rumble from out from them.

Tom birds will also shake their tailfans as they gobble, or while strutting as they drag their wingtips on the ground.

Personally, I don’t know if this contributes to the vibrating sound you hear or if it’s just a coincidence, but either way, they are big, cool birds that make for great sport hunting as well as fantastic eating. Perhaps next month’s food column will feature my wife’s famous white turkey chili. To be honest, I may be more excited about the chili than the hunting, but it’s a close competition in which there are no real losers.

Turkey season in PA opens Saturday, April 30 this year, and runs through the month of May.

I mentioned being taunted though, and that is because although it isn’t yet time to start hunting, the turkeys have been out in force all along my morning commute. Just this morning, I captured an impressive team of gobblers on camera as four of them simultaneously fanned out in the morning sun, strutting and just putting on a show as though they knew exactly how good they looked.

With the grass beginning to grow, and no snow to keep them from foraging wherever they want, they’ve been adorning the fields like big, fat, gobbling bowls of chili just waiting to be eaten. Trust me, that chili is no joke.

But as I wait, there are always things to do. After all, hunting is for thrills, but farming pays the bills.

Ironically, that’s the opposite of my father, a professional hunting guide, but I digress.

Yes, the chore of the week, as it turns out, has been burning off dead grass from the greenhouse my wife and I are still fighting to get put up. Over winter, we covered much of the ground area with a mulch tarp that killed the grass; now as things have begun to dry out, it was my job to burn off the dead grass around the perimeter.

Enter the new toy: a flamethrower.

To be perfectly honest, it’s just a weed burner and doesn’t actually throw flames like its militarized cousin, but hey, you hold a tank of flammable gas in one hand and an open rushing blaze in the other and tell me it doesn’t make you feel just as alive.

Now before I go full pyromaniac and scare you off, I had supervision in the form of my father-in-law, and aside from blowing myself up, there was nothing else around to hurt besides the dead grass.

Still, it was one of those experiences, much like the first time you use a chainsaw. You know it can be dangerous and it makes you pay attention just a little bit more than usual.

After a minute or two of trying to get comfortable holding it, though, I must say it’s a pretty tame tool and not too difficult to manage. I had initially considered just using a weed-whacker for the chore but realized it would be good to burn up any additional grass seed that was lingering in the greenhouse.

As the sun set on a productive half hour or so of brush-burning, I could faintly hear the echoes of some turkeys down in the valley below. With my chores all done, my mind turned once more to the tantalizing thoughts of turkey chili. The way out here, we work so we can play, and if you’re like my family, both revolve around a good home-cooked meal.

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