Where Turkey Fanatics Go Wild

I'm at the National Wild Turkey Federation's convention in Nashville, where the smallest cup of coffee costs $3.50, and it takes about 3.5 seconds to get lost. Just now, returning to my room, I passed an older woman, barefoot, who looked disoriented. I asked if I could be of assistance. "I don't know," she said, in what sounded like a German accent. "I forget the number." She held up her card-style room key, which, for security reasons, doesn't have a room number on it. I understood immediately that she had just ventured out for ice or something, forgotten her room number, and was now helpless. Mine is C5150, which I've written down on various pieces of paper in my pockets.

Anyway, here's what I've learned at the convention so far. Turkey hunters are the most fanatical of all hunters. I've suspected this for a long time, but here you see it in ways you can't ignore. The exhibit hall is a permanent cacophony of calls from boxes, pots, diaphragms, and tubes. It's like all these guys are suddenly all alone at home, with nobody nagging them to keep it down.

There are calls that are only meant to be kept in glass presentation cases and calls made of indestructible plastic. There are strikers made of tropical woods I've never heard of: Paduk, Diamondwood, Yellowheart, and Ipe, which maybe Brazilian for "walnut." One guy grabbed my arm and talked to me for 10 minutes about a company that raises 300-year-old sunken logs from rivers in Belize. "There's no oxygen down there and, over time, it sucks out all the sap and resin so that all you got left is this pure wood." He was so sincere I had no choice but to believe him, and now I'm no longer sure which one of us is crazy.

There are turkey-themed pickup trucks here that are 9 feet tall and cost more than I make in three years. There's a $3,999.00 blind in the shape of a tree trunk that's meticulously painted to look better than the real thing, has a locking door, carpeting, insulation, six windows, and 84 inches of head room on the inside. There are mechanical broadheads that open to about 9 inches wide that could be used to harvest turkeys, corn, or alfalfa. There are choke tubes that confine your pattern to 10 inches in diameter at 75 yards.

It's kind of overwhelming. I'm headed out to dinner with some people I met. But first I'm writing my room number on my arm. I don't want to end up like that German lady.