By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Turkey hunts start early and nights in camp finish late, and the pairing of the two for the weeks that comprise the spring season foist a cult of zombies upon an unsuspecting public each spring.
A day that begins on a listening ridge deep in the woods well before daylight is different, but after a while they add up as well.
When you combine a few of those with nights around the campfire at the end of the day, the urge to sleep in takes a toll. In some ways it’s even tougher than getting up to deal with a newborn baby, because every morning you hit the alarm clock and roll out to go hunting, there’s a loud voice in your head reminding you that you don’t have to do it.
One of my favorite stories of turkey-induced sleep deprivation comes from Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland of Mossy Oak, who writes about his earliest days capturing hunts on video with Will Primos in his book: “The Truth About Spring Turkey Hunting According to Cuz.” After nearly a month of early mornings in the woods and late nights entertaining outdoor writers with scores of miles carrying camera gear in between, Cuz and Will had just finished a particular morning’s hunt and returned to the cabin that was serving as home base when fate intervened.
“Will was inside the camp cleaning up and I was on the front porch preparing a turkey breast for grilling,” Cuz writes. “I built a fire in the grill and sat down in the porch swing to let the flames die down. Will had managed to make it as far as his bed and was asleep in seconds. I got comfortable in the swing and dozed off. Sometime between REM sleep and all-out snoring, I dreamed there was a fire in the house. I jumped from the swing and, through the window, I was relieved to see Will sleeping like a baby.
“Just about that time I smelled smoke. I turned to the charcoal grill and saw flames shooting 30 feet into the air. My grill had started a small grass fire that made its way to a large pile of pine kindling that was next to an even larger stack of firewood. The firewood was blazing and flames were heading up a telephone pole and over to a pecan tree.
“I screamed for Will to bring water as I ran off the porch. I used my camo shirt to beat the flames, which only grew bigger. I turned to see Will headed in my direction with one small glass of water in his hand. When he saw the size of the fire, he looked at the glass and ran back into the house. I figured he was going after a pitcher this time.”
They found a hose and put out the fire – but, if nothing else, sleep deprivation makes for great stories.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.