The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 29, 2012

Spring turkey hunt addiction

By Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald

BECKLEY — I have it bad this year. To be perfectly honest, I get it bad every year but I tend to forget how bad I had it until it rears its ugly head again.

For those of you who are not cursed — the lucky ones — you might not have known this past week was the first week of spring gobbler season. For the cursed — the walking-dead brethren — it was a week of getting up in the middle of the night to give chase at first light to a critter who enjoys humiliating humans to the point of breaking and returning them to the normal world in a sleep-deprived state. Some afflicted hunters try to go to work after hunting, while others simply stumble through the rest of the day until they fall asleep in their chairs at dinner.

The name of the critter is Tom turkey, and his contagious illness is becoming addicted to spring turkey hunting.

To add spice to the dish, the weather was on Tom’s side for most of the week, including a day of snow, two days of high winds and, of course, a washout day. You might ask a perfectly sane question like, “If it is rainy and cold, why didn’t you wait until a nicer day to go hunting?” The insane spring turkey hunter’s reply is generally some brilliant, crafty, well-educated response like, “Duh, it’s the first week of the season. You gotta go!”

Perhaps a personal example from yours truly will shed some light on the topic of spring turkey hunting insanity. This past Thursday, I made good on an invitation to hunt a small hillside farm that a friend said was full of turkeys. According to him, they wake his children up every morning with their nonstop gobbling and the mailman is afraid to get out of his vehicle in fear of a gobbler spurring him to death. He stated the woods were raked so clean by the turkey’s scratching, I should be able to slip up on them real quiet-like. And the real deal sealer, I was the only turkey hunter he gave permission to hunt the farm.

He was certain I would be taking a gobbler for a ride in the back of my truck shortly after daybreak.

The hunting day started with a radio alarm waking me from my nap. A thunderstorm that night had kept me from continuous sleep, and it was still raining. Since the farm was more than an hour-and-a-half from my house, and to ensure I had plenty of time to get high on the ridge at first light, I had to leave three hours before sunrise.

Nothing is more fun than walking straight uphill in a pitch-black rainstorm. With rain dripping from the bill of my hat, I walked miles around the farm calling into the deafening silence of the spring woods. There might have been turkeys there, but I never heard or saw one. I did, however, manage to get plenty of exercise and field test some of the latest-greatest raingear that was great at letting streams of ice cold water run down my back.

After several soggy hours of hiking around, I returned to my office for an afternoon of staring at my computer through bloodshot eyes, hoping no one would ask me to do something that required intelligence.

With week one of turkey season behind us — and, of course, a day of rest — the spring turkey hunting brethren will once again hit the woods this coming week with renewed vigor to match wits with the finest of game birds. We turkey hunters define it as the craziness of spring gobbler season.

Others just call it insanity.