Hitting the road for spring gobblers

We did things a little differently this year, driving to Nashville for the National Wild Turkey Federation’s annual convention and sport show instead of hopping on a plane for a quicker but more expensive jaunt to Music City.

It was a product of last year’s convention visit, when our flights home were canceled and, with an ice storm approaching Nashville, we made the decision to rent an SUV and drive home to avoid being stranded an extra couple days. It worked out well, and the drive wasn’t too painful.

This year, however, Mother Nature stepped in big time. Some serious snow squalls left us stalled for about 90 minutes behind a 10-vehicle – six tractor-trailers and four cars – pileup on Interstate 80 near the Pennsylvania-Ohio line, and we narrowly avoided another accident in Kentucky on our way home. The returned trip included 11 hours of white-knuckle driving in a snowstorm before surrendering in Flatwoods, W.Va., and stopping for the night.

These things can happen when you’re on the road in mid-February, but after talking it over with Paula, a turkey-hunting buddy and his boy who traveled with us, we’d hit the road again next year for Nashville instead of opting to take a flight.

And Paula and I have also decided to drive to Kansas this year for a Rio Grande gobbler hunt, instead of our customary Elmira-to-Denver flight and then SUV rental for the five-hour drive to our hunting spot.
Certainly, there are advantages and disadvantages to both modes of travel. Flying gets you there quicker, but the costs pile up in terms of air fares and vehicle rental. And when you’re hunting in rural Kansas, an SUV is a necessity, especially when the roads turn to grease after any significant rain.

Packing for the trip, too, becomes a challenge. Gear alone can consume more than one piece of luggage, and in the past we’ve actually purchased a ground blind out there and left it behind as a concession to available luggage space. Add two shotguns into the mix – as well as the headaches associated with checking a firearm – and baggage fees can pile up as an added expense that is sometimes overlooked.

So this year Paula and I have decided to hit the road for spring gobblers. Yes, it will tack on more than a full day at each end of our trip. But in our have laptop, will travel world that’s not a huge factor.

And there are several factors that weigh heavily in our decision to take to the highway.

Perhaps the biggest is driving to your hunting destination allows you to bring as much “stuff” as you’d like. Decoys? Take several. A blind? No problem. Extra clothing, boots, rain gear, and an arsenal of calls? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Shoot, Paula and I are even planning on taking a Coleman stove for, ideally, a celebratory breakfast after a successful morning hunt.

Too, gas prices these days can’t be dismissed. We saw them below $1.50 a gallon on our Nashville trip and, while it will vary from state to state, it’s a great time to drive to any destination. Air fares, for some reason, haven’t seemingly taken a corresponding dip.

Having your own vehicle also gives you all sorts of flexibility to extend or shorten your trip, instead of being locked into a return flight home.

So we’re hitting the road this spring, and in mid-April we’re much less likely to encounter the kind of wild weather that created some headaches to and from Nashville.

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