The two most sought-after game species in North America square off for the right to claim hunting’s best chase.
November 30, 2009
--Tale of the Tape--
Meet the Champ: Whitetail Hunting
Through management and restocking efforts, the whitetail deer population is estimated to exceed 30 million today. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2006, there were roughly 12.5 million hunters in the U.S., and 78 percent (10.1 million) of those hunted deer. The report also showed that deer hunting was nearly four times more popular than the next most sought-after game species, the wild turkey. Whether you’re a diehard bowhunter or you make your chase with a rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader, there’s no doubt that hunting whitetails is more than an obsession—it’s a way of life.
The Challenger: Turkey Hunting
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, the wild turkey population stands at more than 7 million birds throughout North America, and hunting seasons have been established in 49 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico. With nearly 3 million sportsmen and women considering themselves turkey hunters, all paying taxes on their equipment and buying hunting licenses, the sport's continuing contribution to the outdoor industry cannot be overlooked. The passion and vigor of a diehard turkey hunter is not often matched. Thanks to organizations like the NWTF, this game bird will forever be at the top of the food chain for anyone who loves a fair chase.
--The Editors’ Take--
For the Challenger…
If you wish to share your passion of the chase with your 10-year-old nephew, don’t take him deer hunting. If you do, make sure he brings his Gameboy to the deerstand lest he gets so cold and bored that he vows off hunting for good. Instead, take him turkey hunting in the spring when the weather is glorious and the woods are alive with nature. Here, your student will learn the fundamentals of woodsmanship—still-hunting, ambush, using terrain and calling. If he messes up, no one will pout, simply go hunt up another bird with a smile because it’s fun.
--Jeff Johnston, Managing Editor, American Hunter
The first time I heard a wily old gobbler answer my less-than-stellar calling, I was hooked. While I still hunt whitetails for both food and fun, turkey hunting really gets my heart thumping. When everything goes right, America’s largest game bird comes straight at you screaming his dominance to the world. This characteristic leads to stories about legendary Toms with names such as ‘Ole Mossy Beard, Swamp Gobbler and my personal nemesis with a name that can’t be uttered in polite company. When I plan a turkey hunt, it’s like going to war, which in a way, I am. Now that’s hunting.
--Paul Rackley, Associate Online Shooting Editor
For the Champ…
Whitetail hunting is the ultimate chess game. All the pieces have to fall in place for a hunter to bag that buck, and it is definitely a right place, right time sport of skill. That challenge is exactly why I prefer deer hunting. I’ve seen many guided whitetail hunts come up empty, and I can’t recall a guided turkey hunt that didn’t bag a gobbler. Bowhunting big bucks has provided some of the biggest thrills of my lifetime, and some of the most handsome wall decor, as well.
Someone once told me that the feeling you get when you come face-to-face with a monster whitetail is akin to the thrill of the birth of your first child. While I’m not a parent just yet, I’ll take that diehard hunter (and father) at his word. The knee-knocking, check-your-pulse rush that surges through your body when that bruiser steps into your sights is the reason I spend the better part of my young life in a treestand. Boring to just sit in a tree all day, you say? Well, just try that life-altering feeling on for size and see if you aren’t strapped in a tree every Saturday from now until Christmas. And to expand on what Mr. Robb mentioned, I’d rather have a wall full of regal-horned whitetail giants than a few feathers and a beard.
--Ben O’Brien, Assistant Online Hunting Editor
Where do your loyalties lie? Are you a shotgun-toting turkey fanatic or are you an all-seasons whitetail freak? We know every hunter has a favorite, and we want to hear your side of this tussle. So, start the tug o’ war by voting for your favorite in the poll below, then head to our Facebook page and state your case. Post a picture, tell your favorite hunting story or let us know what we missed.