Like Buck Fever, Turkey Fever is Real — and Devastating
Russ Chastain 05.04.17
Turkey fever. It’s real.
No, I’m not talking about the illness that causes you to lose sleep and miss work so you can abuse yourself by pursuing a bird that’s not even much fun to eat. That malady, my friends, is turkey *hunting* fever.
And yeah, I have it bad.
I have also been known to have turkey fever–and it really ain’t good.
Call it what you will: turkey fever, the gobbler goofs, the longbeard blues, or whatever. The bottom line is the same.
It’s like buck fever, which causes supposedly sane individuals to transform into non-functioning creatures at a time when proper functioning is vitally important for a successful hunt.
These fevers play out in many ways and they can really mess you up. The one thing they all have in common is that they affect your shooting.
The fevered hunter may freeze up and fail to fire at all. (Been there.) He may fire without properly aiming and miss an easy shot. (Been there more than once.)
Until this morning, though, my feverish failures all had one thing in common: whitetail deer.
As the young day emerged, gobbling began to sound. It was coming from a location that’s become notorious for luring us hunters in and crushing our hopes and dreams.
I resisted. I went several hundred yards the other way. I listened for any other gobblers. I used my locator calls and gave them plenty of chances to gobble.
And then I succumbed to the siren’s song and slipped into the woods above the creek bottom where so much gobbling takes place.
I had decided not to be aggressive, and I was fully expecting to be disappointed and ignored by the birds. I settled down next to a small food plot. Below, gobbles and raspy yelps were clearly heard.
I got their attention with a few loud calls, and shut up. I got my shotgun shouldered, and I waited.
Every now and then a small sound would seem to indicate they were coming. And then I spotted a turkey head bob. It disappeared.
I REALLY wanted to call, in case the bird was hung up. But I had learned better, and stayed still.
Soon, a hen materialized in the small food plot. She talked a bit and began to feed. Beyond her, raspy yelps and low gobbles emanated from the woods.
And then they arrived: a pair of longbeard gobblers. Coming in just as they were supposed to do!
This doesn’t often happen for me. Naturally, I was pumped full of adrenaline and trembling.
I waited for a good chance; one of the toms faced me at 35 yards and stretched his neck straight up, offering a perfect target.
I put the shotgun bead where I thought it belonged, and fired.
No bird went down.
I rose for a better view. One gobbler was in sight. Could it be wounded? It appeared healthy. I fired at its head.
Gun empty. I scrambled to reload.
That bird flew up to a low tree, paused, then flew on. The other one had disappeared, apparently having fled by foot.
What the hell?
An exhaustive search turned up no birds, no blood, not even a stray feather.
I had missed cleanly. Twice.
I still don’t understand how I managed to do it. But because I have had near-identical experiences when deer hunting, I guess I have to blame it on complete and utter brain dysfunction.
A.K.A. Turkey fever.