It is here, or very nearly so. A time of warbling songbirds, buzzing bees, and the seductively sweet pollen of reborn vegetation. That time of the season when no hour is too early and no setup too far-fetched in its possibility of success. A season housing a tradition embodied by two of the most melodious words in the hunting vernacular, two words that set my heart thumping and my eyes gleaming.
Esteemed writer Tom Kelly said in his seminal tome Tenth Legion that “A man really ought to start to learn turkey hunting in the fall” and who am I to argue with a turkey hunter and writer of such a pedigree? However, and to my detriment, since the earliest seeds of my turkey hunting affliction began with no legal options to chase wild turkeys in the autumn months, I am forever and indelibly tainted by the compulsion to chase longbeards in April and May.
What this means is that once I wrap my deer hunting exploits in mid-November, there really is not too much for me to do but sit and stew on the fact that I have to endure five long months before I can feel a warm spring breeze on my cheek and feel warm sun on my legs and all that while I pine for the chance to feel the heft of a tom turkey over my right shoulder. That those five months are the most barren, dank, gloomy, and miserable months of the year (both psychologically and climatologically) is just a cruel twist of fate that I must learn to endure.
Christmas festivities do little to rouse me from the funk, and the teasing January thaws we regularly experience remind me that while the sun may shine, true spring is still months away. There are many hard days in that cold winter of discontent and on those darker days I try to make spring turkey hunting seem less attractive than it is. I remember the unpredictable downpours that early May can bring. I think of the thin, maddening hum of countless mosquitoes in my ears. I think of the emotional knots that a hard-headed gobbler can twist me into just by doing what he is naturally inclined to do. And overall I tell myself that the deed is never going to be as ecstatic as my rosy, optimistic anticipation wishes it to be.
But even I’m not so delusional as to fall for myself being so goddamned delusional. Rain and bugs are just as frequent in my early season waterfowl hunts, and truth be told, the masochistic urges run strong in me when it comes to chasing longbeards a deep recess in me secretly likes being whipped by the birds.
There is probably a German word for that feeling of proud humiliation, but I don’t have a clue what it is.
So here I sit, less than a week away from lounging under a tree in the pre-dawn hours, cradling a shotgun and making plaintive hen turkey sounds. When that time comes, if I’ve properly done my homework, I’ll be in the vicinity of a slumbering longbeard. If I say the right things, perhaps he will wake up and answer my call. If I’m fortunate and play my cards right there is a chance that he will head my way, and while I sit there doing my best impression of a stump and bundle of roots, with my heart pounding in my ears and my breathing toned down to a tremulous whisper, that bird might inadvertently blunder into my little trap. Perhaps I’ll have wild turkey for dinner that night or perhaps he will outfox me once again and I’ll shake my head in frustration and respect. No matter what happens I will fell rejuvenated.
Right now the off-season tarnish and grime that has accumulated on my cynical soul is in need of some spring cleaning. In five days I just know that I’m going to get right again.