THE SEASON by Tom Kelly


Email this review


 An Alabama woodsman looks back at a lifetime of turkey hunting, refracted through the lens of his most recent season, and he likes what he sees. Kelly, who wrote Better on a Rising Tide (not reviewed), widely regarded as a sporting classic, has hunted the elusive wild turkey for more than 50 years--every one ``more thorn than rose.'' The titular season framing these freewheeling reflections is no exception. From the anticipation that builds toward the mid-March opener to the ``after-season personal-critique stage,'' which lasts months past the late April closing, Kelly's flatwoods encounters with the adaptive birds constantly remind him how cagey they are. Humble about his own woods-savvy, he sardonically devalues his observations: ``I am, at best, teetering along the ragged edge of senility, and the only drink I ever turned down in my life was because I misunderstood the question.'' Don't buy it. Kelly's trained eye (he grades timber for a living) and hunting know-how yield plenty of revelations, although he denounces the fashionable Grand Slam (bagging turkeys of all four subspecies in a single season) as a vain manifestation of a record-keeping, goal-oriented society he plainly feels has no place in the woods. Kelly's greatest pleasure comes not from the kill but from ``Indian guiding'': showing a novice the ropes. His conversational, digressive writing (a lively mixture of tall-tale grandiloquence, profanity, and true insight) accomplishes that instruction admirably, spinning entertaining riffs on Celtic mysticism, taxonomy, forestry, and wildlife management and communicating his love for the land, the bird, and the sport. While he's certainly capable of the lyricism that's common in nature writing these days, Kelly's gruff, self-deprecating humor is a welcome departure from the sentimentality that mars far too much of the sporting genre. A genuine love song to outdoorsmanship as sharp-eyed, bawdy, and unbridled as a gobbler in full strut.

Pub Date: Dec. 16th, 1996
ISBN: 1-55821-489-5
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Lyons Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1996