Today was probably one of the most fun and memorable times of my life. I’ve found the world can be like a chain, where good deeds are like links that keep making the chain grow longer and longer.
A few years back I was able to harvest my first Eastern Wild Turkey with a couple of good friends, Randy and Adam. I thought I was only tagging along hoping to get a good look at a big gobbler in the wild outdoors with some friends. Little did I know, that day that I would have filled my first big game tag and become hooked on the sport of hunting forever. Rather than being a third wheel, the boys helped me get into position and offered to let me shoot the turkey that they’d done all the work to bring in. At that moment, I knew that these two guys would be the best friends I could ever ask for. This unselfishness and passion for the outdoors was something I wanted to learn and share throughout the rest of my lifetime (by the way, that turkey didn’t make it out of the woods alive that day).
Today, I did just that. My cousin, Blake who I spent nearly my whole childhood with was able to join me on a hunt of a lifetime. A couple of weeks ago, he called me to tell me that he was moving north to take advantage of a job opportunity. I wished him the best and hoped that he would make time to visit as much as he could. He mentioned that he would try to get back in town in between his moving trips to visit and possibly get together on a turkey hunt, which he’d never done much of, and never harvested a wild turkey before.
We were able to catch up early this morning. I drove us to a place I’d been hearing a bird while hunting in the prior weeks of season. It seemed that every time I hunted that spot, the weather was bad or he had hens that turned his attention away from me. I was really hoping to kill this old gobbler on my own, but when Blake asked to join me, I immediately thought about my first turkey hunt.
We set up first where I’d seen the big bird crossing an old logging road. A tip from the property owner said that spot was a honey hole where the turkeys typically roosted. As the sun came up and the woods came alive, I didn’t hear any gobbles and was becoming less optimistic about our hopes for the morning. We waited still and quiet for a while to listen for any other birds that might be in the area.
At last, I heard him gobble, but he was a long way off and I didn’t know if we could get in range in time for him to hear us before he got on the ground and found another hen. Blake and I took off, almost running down the logging road and finally down the side of a ridge, still above where we could hear the turkey gobble from the roost. He continued to gobble as we got set up about 150 yards away. I began yelping with my mouthcall and the bird answered me. I knew we had a good chance at him as long as Blake could get an open shot.
While the action took place, I could remember all the tips that Adam always reminded me of when coaching me on a turkey hunt, which I then conveyed to Blake. “Get your gun ready”, “Point it where you hear him”, “Don’t move”, “Keep your eyes peeled”, “Don’t move”, “When you see his head, shoot him”, and of course “DON’T MOVE.”
Everything went just like it was supposed to…except for the camera shot. I was set up on my belly behind Blake so the bird wouldn’t see me and therefore I couldn’t get a good clear view of him with the video camera. Nevertheless, the bird showed up within range and Blake made an excellent shot on a whopper of a turkey.
He was so excited and very thankful for helping him harvest the bird. I was probably just as pumped as he was or more. This was the first time that I’d ever called for and coached anyone on a turkey hunt. I didn’t know that a day would ever come when I could actually be successful enough to feel worthy of passing on my knowledge as a hunter.
The payoff is as much as you put into it. If you pay attention to your teachers and keep putting in the time, even if many hunts end up unsuccessful, there will come a time when it will all come together as it did this morning.
I’ll close with this. My friends Adam, Randy and Daniel have taken me along on many hunts. They’ve spent countless hours helping me look for the best spots to deer hunt and hang stands. They’ve shown me how to field dress and skin game (that I’d killed). They’ve been extremely patient with me while I ask a multitude of questions or complain about how tough hunting is. They’ve stood behind me calling instead of having the gun in their hand. Today, I found a place in my heart that was as excited as it will ever be while completely being at peace. I don’t mean to sound too emotional here, and I’m not usually one to say that fate intervened or that God wanted us to kill that turkey. I believe that God is faithful, but I don’t think he cares if we killed a gobbler today or not. But somehow, the goodness and friendship that was all linked together in this chain made a big circle. I’m so happy for Blake and so glad to share this hunt with him. The two of us would’ve never been able to experience a moment like that or grow that bond, had it not been for my friends showing me what the sport of hunting is really all about.