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Turkey hunters: Craziest folks in Mississippi

  • Outdoor columnist Ben Smith says turkey hunters are sneaky, but they sure have fun.

I like turkeys. They are cool to look at. They are fun to listen to. They taste delicious. The way they make the woods come to life in the Spring blows me away. If that that thunderous gobble from atop an old pine tree doesn’t get your blood pumping are you even alive? Or, how about that drumming and spitting thing they do? What a unique bird! I only wish turkey hunters were half as cool.

Being a hunter for the better part of my life, I’ve come to realize something: Turkey hunters are nowhere near the same as deer hunters. I guess I should preface that by saying that I don’t get to do a whole lot of turkey hunting. My springtime schedule is a little more demanding than my fall/winter schedule, but I notice a considerable amount of differences in deer hunters and turkey hunters. 

For starters, deer hunters are usually more inclined to talk about the goings on of the season than turkey hunters. They’ll share information about the rut. They’ll talk about what times of the day during varying cycles of the season that they are seeing deer. They’ll sometimes share trail camera pictures. I don’t mean they won’t get tight lipped if they know about a good buck in the area, but they are usually more willing to yap about things. Boy, not turkey hunters! You’d have better success finding out who really killed Kennedy than getting a shred of information involving a turkey. I’m assuming one of the reasons for the radio silence from turkey hunters is due to the population in Mississippi landing somewhere between 225,000-275,000 birds. Compared to the fact that there’s around 1.75 million deer in Mississippi, it’s no wonder turkey hunters won’t talk about anything with you. There just isn’t enough birds to tell folks like me where they are. 

Turkey hunters are also the sneakiest of all hunters. You don’t hear a lot of stories about deer hunters hopping fences and shooting bucks, but you dang sure do about turkey hunters. I’m sure most the stories are just jokes and meant for fun, but some of it is definitely real. I’ve got several friends that have made a name for themselves portraying turkey poachers (they really aren’t) on the internet through the years. Although it’s done in good fun, it gets a lot of folks riled up because they know there are plenty of turkey hunters out there that will hop your fence in a New York minute, kill your bird, and be home for lunch before you even knew it happened. 

Turkey hunters are also the most dangerous hunters in the entire hunting industry. For some reason, a bunch of these crazies cannot contain their excitement when they hear a gobbler and will proceed to shoot at every bush, shadow, and any living organism that moves. If you enjoy peaceful walks through the woods I’d wait until at least June before you go again. The season has been open less than a week and I’ve already seen multiple hunters shot by other hunters thinking they were a turkey. I don’t know a single person that has been shot by another hunter during deer season, but I need both hands to count how many people I know have been shot by other turkey hunters. One side of me is bothered that this keeps happening. On the other side, I keep moving up the intelligence scale in this state, which is scary. 

Since I’ve leaned so far on the negative aspects of turkey hunters versus deer hunters, let’s toss in some positives! Turkey hunters have more fun than deer hunters. That’s right. Have you ever heard someone tell you a story about killing a gobbler? There’s so much excitement in the story. It’s so animated! I could listen to guys talk about killing these majestic birds all day long. You never hear a turkey story that starts out, “Well, I’d been sitting in this box stand for seven hours…” There’s almost always some twist, or turn, to the story that makes you feel like you were there for it. 

Speaking of stories, there is one thing that seems to be missing from turkey season compared to deer season for me: camp life. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone make a reference to “turkey camp” and that’s something that I think I’d miss if I were able to turkey hunt more. I enjoy the time spent at the camp with friends and family. You get it with duck season and deer season, but not with turkey season. Turkey hunters are more loners than deer hunters and it makes sense. If six of us were staying at the camp during the spring and got up the next morning and heard one bird gobble we’d all be heading that direction, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone. I’m sure at some larger camps this isn’t an issue, but for the majority of Mississippi turkey hunters this just doesn’t work.

Before everyone resorts to hate mail and death threats, I love turkey hunters. I think most of you are crazy, but I like crazy people. I mean, it would be a lot better if the rest of us could hunt without fear of having a doctor dig TSS out of our backs that evening! For those of you wanting to be responsible turkey hunters, don’t forget to fill out your harvest report should you bag a bird. It’s not the government spying on you, but it would be nice to get a clear picture of how many turkeys are killed so we can better manage the population for future generations. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, “Where the birds at baw?”

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