Caution: turkey hunting can be highly addictive

Turkey Hunting

Turkey Hunting

By Dennis Chastain

For The Courier


They ought to put warning labels on turkey calls, three-inch magnum shotgun shells and spring-pattern camouflage. Turkey hunting can be highly addictive — even more addictive than chocolate kisses, boiled peanuts or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As few as one trip into the spring woods in pursuit of the Eastern Wild Turkey can lead to a lifelong addiction.

I used to tell people who were thinking about taking up turkey hunting, “Well, I’m pretty sure you will like it, just be sure you don’t have anything else to do during the month of April — for the rest of your life.”

Non-hunting spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, and co-workers of turkey hunters just roll their eyes and shake their heads in bewilderment as the month of April approaches. They must surely wonder — “What’s the big deal? What is it that would make somebody get so excited about getting up at four o’clock in the morning, skip breakfast, and go rushing out of the house to stand on some lonesome knoll in the dark woods, just to hear some stupid tom turkey gobble from a tree?”

What they don’t know is that turkey hunters are adrenaline junkies, hopelessly hooked on the rush that comes from hearing that first gobble of the morning booming out of the hollow down below.

Heart doctors could never understand that at the break of dawn on a warm spring morning, a rapid heartbeat can be a good thing. Nutritionists would be aghast at the idea that you could skip breakfast or wolf down a honey bun and a strong cup of coffee at the convenience store, and still maintain vim and vigor throughout the day. Sleep specialists would not believe that it is possible to go with less than seven hours of sleep each night for a month and still be happy, healthy and wise.

What no one but a turkey hunter understands is the feeling that comes from standing on that remote knoll, issuing a few soft yelps and clucks, and having that gobbler rattle back one heart-thumping gobble after another.

What they will never know without experiencing it for themselves is the sheer joy of knowing that if things go well, in a few minutes, that old lusty gobbler will be standing in front of you in all his glory, in full strut. The sight of a gobbler in full strut standing out in a pasture or in somebody’s chicken lot, is one thing. It is another thing altogether when it happens right out in front of you, 30 yards away in the spring woods, as you look down the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun. There is nothing else to compare it to. There is nothing else like it in this world.

Hunters are notoriously inept at explaining to others what it is that is so appealing about hunting in general, but it is the allure of turkey hunting in particular that will probably always remain a mystery to those who have never experienced it.

If you want to figure it out, if you want to solve the mystery and mystique that surrounds turkey hunting and the obsession that has so completely taken over your turkey hunting relative or friend — do this.

Ask a turkey hunter that you know pretty well if they would mind if you tag along on some spring morning just to see what it’s all about. Give them a week or two after April 1 before you ask. Turkey hunting is a solitary experience for the most part. Give your favorite turkey hunter a chance to get that opening day rush out of his or her system before imposing, and assure them that you sincerely just want to be out there in the woods with them and see what they are seeing, feel what they are feeling.

Just remember what I said — if you end up convinced that you want to take up turkey hunting, make sure that you have nothing else to do during the month of April for the rest of your life.