It’s January 24, 2013 and the year is still young. For some there is much ahead of them, for others there is more behind. I awoke today to something in the air that only comes for a few weeks for us here in the south, it was the feel of Spring. If you read this from above the Mason Dixon line you don’t catch what that means. For us in the south Spring is much like Winter, a vapor. Our summer lasts pretty well 10 moths out of the year, the rest are spent in the rainy days that bring the brief cold fronts that are soon gone and replaced with our usual warmer winter days. Spring is that pleasant in between for us, it lasts a few weeks and is gone again to the winds of our hotter weather. I walked out and instantly assessed the situation, the cool air, a clear cloudless blue sky and it brought to mind something I must await eagerly for over the next month and half…spring turkey season.
It has been said more than once about turkey hunting that you either love it or hate it, I am of the sort that loves it. Love may be a strong word, or maybe it is the only word we can affix to what those of us who spend our springs in the woods yelping like hens, and being tempted to curse like sailors an hour later. It is indeed a strange thing that compels us to the woods every March, and send us home with tail tucked at the end of every season. You will see us around town, decked in camo of every kind, with calls in each available pocket, decoys and vests and boots shoved in the back of a truck. And if you ever see a brood of such people hovering around the bed of a truck you know that either a skilled veteran has taken another, or some lucky joker found one love sick tom that let his nature to breed out weigh his better senses. You can observe this group of individuals and over time distinguish which is which; the veterans to this yearly quest have the best knowledge one could ever get, experience. The rest are either green horns, or that tweener that has had his tail whipped enough to have learned some tricks, but not enough to know what the veterans all seem to know.
I myself would put myself in the tweener category. I do feel though I have latched on to a very important lesson that the veterans all know, that 9 out of 10 times that bird is gonna whip you. Maybe I’m still so green as to think that, but from all I’ve seen and heard from other who suffer from this spring fever they would agree. Why subject one self to such a thing every year? It is simple… it is answered only in that sense I felt this morning. I was taken in that moment this morning to a hill side in Caseyville, Mississippi with the sun just beginning to give its first lights when the birds begin their nervous chirps of the morning. The air is cool and refreshing, and a heavy dew blankets the grass. There is a bit of fog in the air, which makes every turkey hunter a tad nervous. Beside me is one of my turkey hunting buddies, Jeremy. He already has two birds under his belt and the season has only been open a week. We converse anxiously anticipating what is about to unfold. We decide it’s time to locate a competitor for the morning and he lets ring the barred owl hoot. In my mind it seems like an eternity, from what I have learned gobblers love certain conditions and will gobble their brains off in them, fog is not one of them. Then the mix of thrill and shock shoot through me as I hear a series of thunderous answers that we both know is more than one bird. The events of that day are forever impressed in my mind. The birds overwhelmingly won that day, but I walked away with a better knowledge of them, and having bettered a friendship.
For everything there is a season, there is a time to laugh and a time to cry, and for turkey hunters that season is spring. Just like in everything in life, if we don’t have someone to walk with us during the season it gets tough and harder than necessary. Jeremy is only one of my turkey hunting buddies. The big three I take with me every season at least once are my brother, my dad, and now Jeremy. Turkeys have this way of whipping you up and down in front of your best friends, and at the same time grow that bond. How someone can go an entire spring without a running buddy at some point is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong desire to hunt alone and go one-on-one with that red, white, and blue headed baron of the woods. I remember more the times I’ve enjoyed with my “Big 3” more than I do my loan hunts.
So… for the next month and a half, I will spend my days reading through my hunting journal from last year, trying to learn from things done right and wrong. I will scower through all of the new products and laugh at all of the new scam products that are more for emptying pockets than putting birds on the ground. I will mostly spend time thinking about bellying crawling across fields, “Forrest Gump-John Wayne” running to catch a bird, and long walks cold calling to locate a lonely love sick Tom-Gobbler. I’ll call my “Big 3”, and wait impatiently for that first light of a March morning and the thunderous sound of a new season.