Case: Prize turkey was a dream, but new year isn’t

Staff file photo / Winter may mean harsher conditions when venturing into the outdoors, but the start of a new year gives deer hunters and others plenty to talk about, writes "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case.
Staff file photo / Winter may mean harsher conditions when venturing into the outdoors, but the start of a new year gives deer hunters and others plenty to talk about, writes "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case.

The loud banging on the door woke me from a wonderful dream: I was spring gobbler hunting and had called in a Boone-and-Crockett-sized turkey of the male persuasion.

The gobbler was just out of sight behind some brush, and he was drumming (a weird, faint sound turkeys make while in strut) so loud that even I could hear him. Sadly, admittedly, I cannot hear a turkey drumming as well as I used to.

Just as the turkey was stepping into my view, the banging on the door erupted, the turkey putted one time and disappeared in a puff of smoke. (Well, it was a dream.)

Cedric, the overworked and underpaid editor's assistant, was pounding on the door and demanding my attention.

"Mr. Case?" he sniveled. "The editors are after me again to get an article out of you, will you have one ready this afternoon?"

This was a little unusual. Cedric always did the dirty work for the editors (dealing with me), but he was usually nicer about it.

Hmmm ... they must be desperate this time.

I yelled through the door that I was just finishing up an article, which both Cedric and I knew was an outright lie, but I heard him leave and tramp down the hallway.

Now what? I glanced over at the calendar and it dawned on me, this was a new year! A new year with endless possibilities for the shooter, hunter and sportsman! Think, Larry, think! What does 2023 have in store for those of us who tramp the trackless wastes?

Here are some possibilities.

Talking turkey (again)

In the past few years, the decline of wild turkey populations has been a hot topic for discussion. Why there are fewer turkeys, especially in the Southeast, has led to a long list of possibilities.

Predators are always a big concern, and we have discussed this more than once in these pages. Coyotes get blamed for anything and everything, and there is no doubt they will dine on turkey if the opportunity arises. I don't think however, and I am not alone in this opinion, that Wile E. Coyote is at the top of the turkey's enemy list. Nest-raiding varmints -- namely the raccoon, the skunk and the opossum -- account for far more turkeys being lost than the coyote. When they find a nest, they wipe it out, so the whole clutch is gone. Crows and other birds of prey also get a lot of young turkeys.

In the end we just plain have a lot of predators these days, there's not much trapping anymore, raccoon hunter numbers are way down, etc.

Most turkey experts will point to habitat loss as a major factor, and if they say so, I believe them. I may be missing something, but I don't think I see that in my immediate area. Turkeys are highly vulnerable to cold, wet springs when they are nesting, and turkey hunters know this. You could also say that we have always had bad weather when turkeys are nesting.

The concern of diseases such as West Nile virus is way beyond my expertise to talk about, but I do know several turkey biologists and researchers are looking into this area.

Deer rifle selection

Maybe magazines and gun writers just need something to talk about, but I have never seen so many articles about the "best" caliber for whitetail deer. I mean, this was always a standard for crabby ol' gun writers, but in the past few years we seem to have gone overboard.

How many times can we talk about which is best, the .30/06, the .270, or the .300 Win Mag? (The old .30-30 rarely gets a mention.)

Along with this discussion has come a whole tirade on the bashing of certain calibers, mainly the relatively new 6.5 Creedmor. This cartridge been around a while, has killed untold big game (including elk), but somehow has become the butt of jokes from those who don't think this is enough gun for deer and that those who use it are not much of a "man."

Really? I have used the 6.5 Creedmor some and have killed a few deer with it, never had any problems, and as usual I will state that bullet selection and bullet placement have more to do with putting animals down than the caliber.

Why can't we all get along?

I will end this little sermon with one of my usual rants about hunter unity.

When are you going to get the idea, folks? What are we gaining from the bowhunter railing against the crossbow guys, the bear and deer hound guys fighting with those who don't want to see hunting dogs in the woods, and some hunters who just can't seem to get along with anybody?

This has got to stop, folks, and I don't mean maybe.

Who wins for all this? I'll tell you: the antihunting crowd, that's who. All they have to do is stand by and wait, wait for us to tear each other apart. Do you want to do that?

OK, that should give you enough to think about till we have the next meeting. Next time I would like to hear about that big buck you got and if you are seeing many squirrels in your area.

Happy New Year to all my brothers and sisters in camo. Keep those guns clean, your knife sharp and take a kid (or two) hunting.

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

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