Monday, April 21, 2014

The Story of my First Turkey, in Honor of Turkey Season

Lots of people think that turkeys are stupid, and they may be right. They say that turkeys sometimes just stare at the sky for no reason. They even do this when it is raining and then drown from it. That’s not what I would consider a particularly brilliant animal.

But that doesn’t mean they are always easy to hunt. Turkeys are twitchy, unpredictable, and spook easily. You might get lucky and walk right into one, or you might spend hours tracking and calling only to have the gobbler scamper off at the last second. Turkeys can be frustrating — but that is also what makes bagging one so addictive and thrilling.

It took me quite a while to experience that thrill personally. My first turkey season as a teenager, I didn’t bag a single bird. I spent the winter reading up, asking older hunters for tips, practicing with the box calls. When the next season finally rolled around, I thought I was ready.

My buddy Mark agreed to call for me, and we set up at the base of a huge pine tree. We couldn’t have been sitting there for more than fifteen minutes when we heard a gobble not too far off. Mark made a call; it called back. A shiver went down my spine and my palms started sweating. This was it!

Except it wasn’t. You are supposed to wait for at least fifteen minutes between turkey calls. That day, those fifteen minutes felt like three hours. I sure am glad Mark was holding the call — I would have blown it about every thirty seconds!

After what felt like forever, Mark looked at me and pointed to a clump of bushes about ten yards away. The bushes started rustling and a juvenile male poked his head around.

I looked down at my shotgun and my hands were shaking. Steadying myself as much as possible, I raised the gun took aim. The seconds felt like minutes.

Maybe I was too nervous, because I shot low — too low. The bird was hurt, but not killed, and it ran right out of the bushes at me. And, I kid you not, I found myself in a wrestling match! Luckily I was able to wring its neck pretty quick, without getting spurred. But I still felt mighty bad about putting the bird through a painful death like that.

Suffice to say, bare hands are not the best way to take out my first gobbler. Ever since then, I’ve made sure to shoot straight the first time!