5 Rules of Turkey Camp

I see it as a good thing that turkey hunting camps aren’t used like the popular deer camp, where attendees spend as much time playing cards and smoking cigars as they do hunting. Turkey camps are typically quieter places because more hunters prefer hair over feathers. But, still, for those few weekends each spring as a trickling of work-weary men and women join others in camp and in the woods, there are some rules to follow, maybe.

Mind the Alarm Clock

In our cellphone-heavy world, alarm clocks are now literally everywhere. Eight people in hunting camp means eight alarm clocks. Multiply that by three snoozes each and you’re talking about the alarm going off two dozen times. By George, either get up or turn it off the very second “Bell Tower” or “Radar” starts echoing through the house. Five days a week we’re required to wake by alarm, dress, dress the kids, make coffee and breakfast, go to work. At turkey camp, be different.

Give Kids the Best Spot

We all know this. While it’s tempting to say that Timmy will have his chance down the road, there may not be much of a road if young Timmy doesn’t get a little bit of action early on. This doesn’t mean giving up the honey hole every Saturday morning, just once a season. Youngsters are the future of the sport. That’s all we’ll say about that.

Exude Vagueness (Except Occasionally With Kids)

Hunters and fishermen around the world have been telling each other outright lies for centuries. For example, if you catch three fish you’ll claim 15 and if you catch 15, you’ll say you only caught three and in a spot where a trout hasn’t lived in a decade. Same goes for turkey hunters who vaguely suggest they’ll go try a particular spot for no apparent reason. “Just a hunch is all.”

But you’ve got to get good at being vague. Practice on coworkers and friends during the week, but not your spouse, which could result in serious implications that could result in fewer trips to hunting camp. When asked something trivial like, “What did you have for lunch?” don’t give a detailed answer. Try to brush your colleague off in no more than 30 seconds the first time and work your way down from there. By the time you reach camp on Friday afternoon you’ll be an expert in explaining nothing.

Sleep With One Ear Open

Naps are a beautiful part of the spring turkey season. With the rising temperatures, it’s easy to kick back among the green foliage of the woods for a snooze. Just remember to do so with one ear open. Hot gobblers will really start hammering at mid-morning if they haven’t found a few hens for the day. It’s a good feeling to realize upon waking that you don’t have to put your boots back on.

When You Miss…

Hold your head up high. Just not too high. Take ribbing with a good attitude. If you really want everyone to forget quickly, offer something up. Cook dinner and then clean up by yourself. If you’re a good caller or veteran turkey hunter, take someone else from camp who is still learning the business.

Earlier this season I witnessed what not to do in turkey camp after a miss. An experienced hunter had taken a newbie, who will call Bob, under his wing. The old pro, TK (his honest-to-God birth name), helped work a bird for four hours that Bob eventually missed.

That evening it was TK’s turn to shoot while Bob tagged along as a spectator. Watching is learning. At four sharp, the pair was walking back to the camp house, TK with a fine gobbler slung over his shoulder and Bob sending a barrage of non-stop questions like “why’d you barely call?” and “how’d you know went to get your gun up?”

At camp TK cut out the breast meat and sliced it into cubes, which he planned to fry later that night. Fried turkey fingers are a sportsman’s delicacy, scantly available throughout the year.

Two big slabs of breast meat from a heavy gobbler will easily feed six to eight people with ample side dishes. And it’s hard not to munch on a piece or two as they come out of the hot grease. TK, the cook, tried his requisite one to make sure the seasoning was balanced and the meat cooked through. TK pitched a few to the other hunters who stood around talking politics and sports, including Bob. Everyone nodded, tipped their glass and continued in conversation, except for Bob, who sidled up next to TK and reached for another piece. Then another. And another until he’d had around 10. TK didn’t say anything but noticed others staring confusedly at Bob. How could this lout miss a bird yet consume the most meat someone else had harvested?

Bob was obviously oblivious to his callous error but that didn’t stop the others from razing about him to TK, also despite everyone having plenty to eat. A camp elder even mentioned that Bob’s membership could be revoked. I’m sure these early feelings about Bob will dissipate with time because he’s really a good guy, having just made one pretty big mistake that could cost him a turkey hunting spot.

When you miss, don’t be Bob.

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