My wife has always been one of those people who will pretty much speak her mind, at least in matters concerning me. Once after a tough turkey hunt that required lots of driving to, walking and calling and then more driving back, I came back home mid-day and fell asleep in the middle of the den floor. I awoke still in full camo, hat still on and boots laced. Pam was running the vacuum, probably to wake me up, which worked, and proceeded to tell me I needed some therapy. I’m pretty sure she was referring to my turkey hunting addiction and what it can do to a person. I’m sure that there are thousands of non turkey hunters in the country that have experienced similar encounters with loved ones and may or may not agree that turkey hunters need professional help in dealing with their addiction. It’s probably not just wives that have come to this conclusion but any outsider. Girlfriends, mothers, daughters, uncles, aunts, whoever doesn’t partake in the spring ritual most likely is puzzled and bewildered at some of the trials and tribulations a turkey hunter will go through from March until May.
As far as people who do not hunt at all, forget about it. It’s hard enough to explain your addiction to a fellow hunter who chases ducks or deer but not spring turkeys. Just the thought of explaining turkey hunting to a non-hunter is – well, ludicrous. As wonderful as this activity is and as great as the history of the restoration of the wild turkey is and as fascinating as the creature is, it’s impossible to explain it to a non-hunter without it sounding almost silly. I have long since given up trying to explain it to people who will not ever understand it. If I’m caught somewhere in my Mossy Oak, say at the grocery store or quick stop and am asked why I’m in camo I usually tell a lie. I’ll say I’m with the DEA and we’ve been out looking for isolated patches of marijuana. Or I’m with the local SWAT team and was doing some training exercises. I’ve had those conversations with people who have nothing better to do than stand there and ask dumb questions in the grocery store until your milk clabbers.
Fortunately today it’s more common to see camo clad folks at the quick stops and cafés. Years ago it was rare and would raise much more attention. I was almost arrested once for just such an incident. I was headed to the Sandy Creek wildlife refuge near my home in Natchez, Mississippi. This particular morning I could not find my head net. I pulled into the Billups service station to grab a honey bun. When I pulled under the lighted pavilion, I spied some camo face paint in the door pocket of my truck. I decided to make the most of the well-lit facility and proceeded to put on my face paint. With no head net in sight it was a pretty good option. I painted up and walked into the store not even thinking about how that might look to someone, much less a small little lady wearing a green apron and making some fresh coffee. One look at me and she let out a scream that was anything but small. It startled me and I turned to see what was behind me that was causing the fright. It took me a few seconds to realize that she was screaming because of me. I must have looked like a big, ugly robber coming to stick her up. She was only feet from the alarm button, which was on the floor behind the counter when I yelled I was just going turkey hunting. She grabbed her chest and proceeded to cuss me up and down for scaring her that bad. By then I was sweating so badly the camo crème was running down my face. She relaxed and eventually began laughing at the black and green paint that was by now running down my neck. If I remember the rest of that morning correctly, I did not kill a turkey, had a flat on the way home and was late for work. I’m pretty sure it was Friday, April 13th but that’s another story.