Turkey hunting’s long-lasting allure

I don’t quite know why it took me better than 30 years to discover turkey hunting. The place I hunted in my teens in the Virginia mountains had plenty of birds, but for some incalculable reason, I never paid attention to them. Back then, there was baseball to be played in the springtime, and everything else took second place to second base.

Carl Tacy, the longtime basketball coach at Wake Forest, invited me to hunt with him a couple of times during the 1980s when I was working for a newspaper covering the Deacons — once in the spring and once in the fall, as I remember — but I still wasn’t hooked.

I can trace the disease that has taken hold of me to an April morning in 1980. A hunting buddy took me to his turkey territory. He’d already filled his tags and wanted to call for me. I think I was infected right about the time this turkey triple-gobbled at us off the roost. We didn’t kill him — heck, we never even saw him; he must have flown down in the opposite direction. That didn’t seem to matter. I was ready to go again and again and again. Within a month of the end of that season, I was in a county courthouse, looking at maps and getting telephone numbers for landowners, trying to get permission to hunt their turkey-filled acreage the next season.

I called a bird in and missed him that next spring. The scars on the trunk of the beech tree where my 3-inch load of copper-coated No. 4 shot wound up were still visible the last time I worked down that ridge. I called several more birds in that first spring, maybe not into shotgun range, but close enough for me to do something wrong and send them high-tailing it off in the other direction.

From that point on, it would take an act of Congress to get me in a fishing boat in April. It was about a decade before I caught another bass on a spinnerbait — and the only reason I traded the woods for the lake that day was because I’d already filled one of my turkey tags and figured the pressure was off.

I can’t say I know exactly why turkey hunting can grab hold of people the way it does, but I know for a fact that there are thousands of people similarly affected the way I am. Tom Kelly, the Alabama gentleman who is turkey-hunting’s best-read author, once wrote that he doesn’t turkey hunt because he wants to; he turkey hunts because he has to. It’s a compulsion.

I understand perfectly. When I hear a wild turkey gobble, something comes over me. I forget about anything else. If I’m driving out in the country and see turkeys in a field or along the road, I’ll slow down, pull over and watch for a while. Sooner or later, traffic will force me to leave my spot on the shoulder, but I’d stay all day if I could.

So if you need to get hold of me anytime in the next month, don’t even think about calling before noon. Your emails might get answered, but not until I’ve taken my hour-long siesta. Getting up at 4 a.m. over a period of several weeks will drive even an insomniac into an afternoon nap.

Of course, if you’ve got some land and you’re worried about the turkeys eating up your garden and need somebody to thin them out, I might get back to you a lot more quickly.

About Dan Kibler 887 Articles
Dan Kibler is the former managing editor of Carolina Sportsman Magazine. If every fish were a redfish and every big-game animal a wild turkey, he wouldn’t ever complain. His writing and photography skills have earned him numerous awards throughout his career.

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