Case: Turkey hunting is still stupid, but I can't stop now

AP file photo by Robert F. Bukaty / A wild turkey walks through tall grass in Freeport, Maine.
AP file photo by Robert F. Bukaty / A wild turkey walks through tall grass in Freeport, Maine.

I got up at 3:30 am the other day. In case you don't know, this is a dismal, evil hour of the night. It is very quiet, to the point of being ominous, with wraiths and werewolves skulking about.

Why would I get up at this murky hour if I didn't have to? I was training for rising at this time for, you guessed it, going turkey hunting. One of the premises of spring turkey hunting is you must be in the woods, at your listening post where you hope to hear a turkey gobble, before daylight. This is my first complaint about the time-honored spring hunt and why I am going to tell you this.

Turkey hunting is stupid.

I am not really sure how many times I have written about this, and to be clear I did not come up with this idea as a series of articles on my own. Gun writer friend and fellow West Virginian Richard Mann made this observation some years ago, and I have been talking about it ever since. I don't think Richard thinks of himself as a rabid turkey hunter; he was just stating what he thought was obvious: Turkey hunting is stupid.

To continue my point about the getting up early and lack of sleep, this may be the biggest downside of chasing gobblers in the spring. If you are a member of the legions of hunters who do this, you know what I mean. Turkey hunting most every day of a monthlong season with the accompanying lack of sleep leads to all sorts of problems. About a week after this ritual starts, hunters will become aware of several abnormalities creeping in. Irritable, grouchy behavior begins and is soon noticed by coworkers, wives and significant others.

This condition is compounded as the days go by if the turkeys themselves are acting stupid, refusing to cooperate, (which they usually do), the weather turns bad or any number of things that can happen in the spring woods. We humans require sleep, and when we are deprived of it, bad things start to happen. Turkey hunters like me try to offset this by living on copious amounts of coffee and Little Debbie cakes for the duration of the season. This works for a while, but eventually results in nodding off at inconvenient times, such as during meetings at work and while driving in heavy traffic.

Turkey hunting is stupid.

In the past several years, dyed in the wool turkey hunters have become highly specialized in what they see as their needs for guns and gear. Once we used the same shotgun for rabbits, ducks, pheasants and even the odd deer. Now any true turkey hunter will not be caught scrambling into the predawn darkness without a special shotgun made for turkey hunting. These shotguns must be fully camouflaged, and they often come with a specialized optic of some sort so we can see better to get a bead on a big gobbler (on the off chance that one wanders into range). This special shotgun is not absolutely necessary to bag a turkey, but most turkey hunters must have them. I know because I have several.

Turkey hunting is what, class? Stupid!

(I am in no way, shape or form telling you not to buy a shotgun. Most of you will remember Case's Theorem No. 7: "You can never have too many shotguns.")

Now we must explore the nature of the bird itself as to the ridiculous makeup of turkey hunting.

I have never been able to figure out if the good Lord was having an off day or a good day when he made the wild turkey. No other creature on earth can be as confounding, irritating and downright exasperating as an old gobbler. One day they'll go about their daily routine as if they read the book on what a turkey is supposed to do. The next day the same turkey may go totally wacko, buy a train ticket for the West Coast and never be heard from again. Turkey hunters will drive themselves crazy trying to figure out how a certain section of woods will ring with the riotous gobbling of several turkeys one morning, but the very next day the same woods are so quiet you could hear a mouse pee on a cotton ball.

Gobblers are crazy and should not be trusted. Turkey hunting is stupid.

If you are a turkey hunter and don't know who Tom Kelly is, shame on you. You can make this right by looking him up and buying some of his books. Kelly is the undisputed poet laureate and dean of turkey hunting writers. Start with his first book, titled "Tenth Legion," and go from there. You will be a better person, and a better turkey hunter for it.

Kelly is quoted as saying "I don't hunt turkeys cause I want to; I hunt turkeys cause I have to." Now in truth, I don't really have to hunt turkeys, but I want to and I am going to hunt them every day I possibly can.

Even though turkey hunting is stupid.

photo Contributed photo / Larry Case

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at

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