Let’s start with the bottom line: No turkey is worth falling asleep at the wheel. Still, hunters sometimes push the limit.
Turkey hunting wears you out. Typically during spring, the sun rises at about 6 a.m., so you’ll need to be up by 4 a.m. to be in position soon after 5 a.m. for that first gobble at about 5:15 a.m. Whether you hunt that afternoon, you should be in the woods that evening to roost for the next morning. That gets you to bed at about 11 p.m. for about five hours of sleep. If you have a long drive home or hunt into May in the northern states, you can subtract one or two hours from that total.
Getting just a few hours of sleep is only part of the equation, especially while traveling. When you factor in the anticipation of the hunt, an unfamiliar bed, snoring buddies, camp and gas station foods, and more exercise than you’re accustomed to, you can become very fatigued. And you still need to drive hours to get home. That can be dangerous.
When I drive, I make as many phone calls as possible while my friends and family are awake. Later at night, I have a regimen that has gotten me through more than 30 years of traveling. I start with a book on tape or podcast to keep my mind alert, then I go to one energy drink, sunflower seeds, chocolate and gum. I use seeds the most — only a few at a time — just to keep my mind alert. When the first energy drink wears off and I start to fade, it’s time to find a rest stop. Even dozing a few hours in your car will help recharge your batteries a bit. I’ll also have a V8, some pretzels and a soda at hand to tame my tummy after the energy-drink funk. I know I push the limits and love to do so, but again, no turkey is worth falling asleep at the wheel. — Jeff Budz
Pro tip: Don’t wait until the night before the opener to go through your gear. Inventory your gear ahead of time so you aren’t left shorthanded in the field.