Deer in field

Don’t Let Facts Get in the Way of Your Argument
By Bob Humphrey

I realize it’s deer season, not turkey season, but we just enjoyed Thanksgiving and, I recently happened upon some comments in an online deer hunting forum regarding turkeys that tripped my trigger; so I thought I might vent a little.

For years – , well over a decade – I have been trying to use facts to convince people that turkeys are not detrimental to deer. On occasion I have even dropped some slightly facetious Rasputin references regarding the perpetuity of this rural myth. But the sad and somewhat scary truth it, this one seems even harder to kill than the Russian mystic. Before I go any further let me state the following FACT: Turkeys are not detrimental to deer.

Next I will provide some evidence, but not before, if you’ll allow, offering a few credentials to add credibility to my statements. I have worked on turkey management programs in two New England states. I have assisted in trap and transfer programs in Maine and was asked to serve on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Wild Turkey Working Group, where we developed a 15-year management plan for turkeys in the Pine Tree State. I have also had occasion to work and converse with several regional biologists and MDIFW’s Bird Group Leader, as well as biologists from the National Wild Turkey Federation regarding wild turkeys. I’m not just a fella who saw some turkeys in a field, and there were no deer in the field.

But don’t just take my word for it.

It has long stuck in my craw (If you’ll pardon the pun) that despite overwhelming scientific evidence and the testimony of people who are far more knowledgeable on the subject that your average deer hunter, some people still refuse to acknowledge the facts and the truth. “Turkeys eat up all the deer food,” they ignorantly say. Or, “Turkeys have driven the deer out of my area.” Before I go any further let me re-state the following FACT: Turkeys are not detrimental to deer.

But I now have some insight as to why people might be inclined to ignore something that, like gravity, evolution and the daily rising and setting of the sun, is irrefutable. (If you don’t believe in evolution, Google the word “virus.”) I found it in a Scientific American article, which discussed research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (That’s a peer-reviewed scientific journal so nothing gets printed in it until it has been proven beyond any refutable limit. Just saying).

The researchers examined the “slippery way by which people get away from facts that contradict their beliefs.” There are several. One is to dispute the validity of specific facts. We’ve all seen two kindergarten-age children engaged in a battle if “Are too,” and “Am not.” But there’s been enough research done and published specifically on the interactions of deer and turkeys that the facts are irrefutable. So, before I go any further let me re-state the following FACT: Turkeys are not detrimental to deer.

The study also found people sometimes go one step further and reframe an issue in untestable ways so as to make important facts and science ultimately irrelevant to the issue. “Doesn’t matter what them scientist fellers say. I seen it with ma own eyes.” You may have seen what you thought was turkeys displacing or out-competing deer. You didn’t. You witnessed circumstantial evidence.

One morning I was sitting in my treestand. Just as a plane flew over a nice buck suddenly appeared in my shooting lane. Were I to apply the same logic as those who think turkeys compete with deer for food, I could conclude that deer are attracted to the sound of airplanes. Last week I woke up with a headache. An hour later it started raining. Were I to apply the same logic as those who think turkeys drive deer off, I could conclude that my headaches cause rain.

I guess part of it is human nature. We seek simple answers to our dilemmas. Maine’s deer herd has dwindled while our turkey population thrives. There is no cause-effect relationship. If you want answers to why deer numbers may be down in some areas you might need to look a little farther than outside your own back window. Study the facts, and learn the truth.


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