8 Signs You’re a Diehard Turkey Hunter
Russ Chastain 05.08.18
Most hunters are passionate about their pursuits, but turkey hunters are often even more so. It just takes a little something ‘special’ (insanity? stupidity?) to go after these birds the way we do. For many, it begins slowly. They may hunt turkeys once or twice a year and can take it or leave it, but at some point it becomes something more. Here are some ways to tell whether or not you’ve become a fully-vested turkey hunter.
When You Hear a Crow, You Freeze
One way to know whether you’re addicted to turkey hunting is to pay attention to your reactions to certain bird calls. When a crow flies overhead cawing, do you freeze and listen for gobbles? When a barred owl hoots out its “who cooks for you?” cadence, are Tom turkeys on your mind? If so, you might be a dyed-in-the-wool turkey hunter.
You Wake up Early on Purpose
For those of us who are not morning people, it can be a struggle to rise before dawn for days on end… but true turkey hunters willingly submit to the alarm clock day after grueling day, just for the chance to maybe, possibly, get a shot at a gobbler. It’s not easy, but we do it because who wants to miss out on hearing those morning gobbles? Not this guy!
You Willingly Walk for Miles
Even folks who never exercise just for the sake of exercising will think nothing of hiking a mile or more on any given morning in the turkey woods. Heck, I’ve been known to hoof it that far before sunup just to get close to a gobbler hollering on its roost. And on more than one occasion, I’ve returned to my vehicle before noon with multiple miles under my belt. But walk just to walk? No, thanks.
You Will Crawl in the Dirt
I’ve done a lot of hunting, including stalking and sneaking around in pursuit of all kinds of different critters, but there’s only one species for which I’ve actually belly-crawled. You guessed it: Wild turkey. And no, I didn’t get that particular bird.
You Happily Tote Pounds of Gear
When I’m hunting deer, I generally take a pack to the woods with me. It usually has too much stuff in it, and at least once per season I will dump everything out of it and try to pare down the load. But during turkey season, my loaded turkey vest weighs ten pounds on its own, before adding a folding turkey seat, cushion, and shotgun to my load. And while all that stuff is hanging off of my shoulders, I don’t even think about it until it’s time to use the gear. Gobblers can do odd things to a man.
You Sit in Cramped Positions for Hours
Deer hunters often have fairly comfortable places from which to hunt their quarry; from climbing tree stands with soft seats to enclosed box blinds with padded swivel chairs. But turkey hunters must remain mobile and ready to move, and set up at a moment’s notice. “Setting up” generally means quickly unfolding a small seat that’s just a few inches tall and placing it next to a tree. Sitting down low isn’t comfortable; it cramps your legs, nags at your spine, and makes the tailbone sore. But we sure do a lot of it!
You Accept Defeat Because it Leads to Victory
Most turkey hunters have more failures than successes under their belts. It’s just the nature of the hunt; gobblers are fickle and flaky, and the majority of them will not react to your calls in the way you’d like. On top of that, turkey fever is real and powerful, so that even when the turkeys cooperate, your brain may not. I’ve certainly missed more than a few easy shots at longbeard gobblers, for no logical reason. And I’ve slow-stalked for more than an hour to get close to a roosted gobbler, only to have him fly down and walk the other way when I finally got set up and called.
At times like those, any hunter will be frustrated, upset, and downright disgusted. But if you’re a true turkey hunter, you just keep coming back for more, knowing that when things do go according to plan, the victory will be that much sweeter.
You Always Come Back for More
I don’t know any true turkey hunter who doesn’t feel a need to lick his wounds at the end of the season. The memories of each failure are still strong, and that can weigh on a hunter’s heart. But come next season, you can bet he will be itching to get up way too early, don too much gear, and stand shivering in the pre-dawn woods — all for the opportunity to be thrilled and humiliated by a bird.
I’ll be there. Will you?