Larry Case: The turkey hunter is smart enough to know better, too dumb to care

Turkey hunting in the spring means being up and in the woods when most folks are still comfortable in a warm bed, writes outdoors columnist Larry Case, who still isn't ready to give up his hobby or his shotgun.

Do you have a problem admitting when you're wrong about something? No? I didn't think so.

There may be an issue you feel strongly about and know your friend is dead wrong. You'll bring this up to your amigo as often as possible - after all, you are right and he is wrong.

When the camo boot is on the other foot, however, things are not so easy. It may dawn on you one fine day that your chum is right about something and you, my friend, are absolutely incorrect, erroneous and dare I say wide of the mark.

Admitting this to yourself is hard enough. Admitting to your buddy that you are wrong can be painful.

Here's an example. I have written of my friend and noted gun writer Richard Mann before. He appears in many gun-related periodicals, has written several books on firearms and is considered an authority on rifles, bullets, ballistics and things that go bang. I gladly defer to his wisdom on such matters - with two exceptions.

One is the topic of shotguns, and for some reason I cannot fathom, Richard will adamantly tell you he hates them. Has no use for them. I know, it's crazy. I think he may have been scared by a Model 12 as a child.

The other exception is turkey hunting. Richard says it's stupid. He has a whole dialogue on this, and you can read it on his blog at

As most of you know, I consider myself a rather rabid turkey hunter, and I have always taken exception to his view on this. It's turkey hunting, for heaven's sake. To say you don't like it is almost un-American.

But lately - and this is hard for me to say - I have been having second thoughts. Maybe I'm older. Maybe I'm wiser. Maybe not. I'm thinking maybe you do have to be a little wacko to chase that big bird with the funny-looking head. Maybe turkey hunting is stupid.

I know. I never thought you would read those words from me, either, but let's try to look at it realistically and see why my shotgun-hating buddy may be right. (Man, that was hard to say!)

- You have to get up too dang early. Even the most ardent, dyed-in-the-wool, turkey-hunting nutcase will often tell you this.

Spring turkey hunters (fall turkey hunting is a little more civilized) feel they have to be in the woods well before daylight - before the first crack of dawn, before the first little songbird goes "Tweet tweet."

This entails allowing time for the walk through the awful darkness, the drive to the hunting spot, plus the getting up and ready at home or at camp. Most of us have to allow for the downing of several cups of coffee just to be awake enough to start down the road. All of this means one must rise in the evil, dark, misty hours of the night when you feel like your head is either full of cobwebs or you have taken way too much cold medicine.

I hate this part. It's stupid.

- Sometimes the turkeys act like they owe you money. You go through a lot of time, expense and preparation for this game. You go out there in good faith, and when you call a turkey, you expect an answer, right?

In case you didn't know, and I hope it isn't too early in the morning to bring this up while you are having your Cheerios, but spring turkey hunting is about sex. Yeah, I know, shocking - but the gobbler (male turkey) makes a racket to attract girls. Not unlike when you had that band that played in the garage back in the ninth grade.

The idea is to imitate the call of the girl turkey to lure the boy turkey in to be decently shot. Often the gobbler does not follow the script and leaves you sitting there on the cold ground with no turkey and a damp hind end, wondering how many ticks you've collected.


- It can be embarrassing. Why do we put ourselves through this? The American Wild Turkey is a large bird that probably has a brain about the size of a medium peanut. Why do we continually go out of our way to be humiliated by a big, goofy-looking bird that was probably not valedictorian in his class?

We turkey hunters like to tell anyone who will listen how smart, wary, psychic, and downright brilliant some old gobblers are. While we are hunting them, that is. Then one day you're driving down a country lane and a whole flock is standing by the road. They don't even move when you pull up and stop. You have the distinct feeling you could casually exit the family van and take the whole bunch out with a 9-iron, no shotgun required.

The next day, in the woods, hunting the same bunch of turkeys, you couldn't get within 500 yards of them if you were Davy Crockett, Natty Bumppo and Daniel Boone all rolled into one.

Are the turkeys stupid, or is it us?

- It's not worth the domestic strife. Passionate turkey hunters know this. I maintain that no other form of hunting is responsible for as many stormy voyages on the holy sea of matrimony as the pursuit of turkeys.

I think it has something to do with all that getting up in the middle of the night and banging around the house before you leave. Paired with a month of constant practice of turkey calls in the house, it's enough to send anyone running to find a cheap lawyer.

Plain stupid.

Dedicated turkey hunters will tell you I haven't even started to list all the reasons turkey hunting is stupid.

Sad to say, but you know what? We are going to be right out there doing it anyway! We love it too much to stop, and if you think that it is stupid, that's OK. I won't say anything about you chasing that little white ball around the cow pasture.

Sorry, Richard. I tried to agree with you. We'll talk about that shotgun thing some other time.

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va., has been a devoted outdoorsman all of his life and is a contributing columnist for The Times Free Press. You can write to him at