As turkey hunters, you know full well what I mean when I say “When it’s right it’s right.” The birds are responsive to the call, they come in just like the script called for and you are at the local diner sipping coffee and eating your celebratory breakfast before most hunters had a chance to get comfy in their blind. It’s a magical type of hunt that we have all experienced but if you read our last blog 'The Greatest Turkey Hunt of All Time (In which I did not get a turkey)' you already know this has been one of the most frustrating turkey seasons I have personally been through in several years. After I had time to reflect on it, I think I know why.
But first, let’s recap.
With few birds to keep my attention and a lot of time to think it through, I realized it had been 11 years since I failed to put a tag on a bird. This isn’t because I am a great hunter. I would say it is a healthy mix of knowing how the birds move on our properties and being stubborn; I just don’t quit. That being said, I haven’t hunted more than three days without a kill for 11 years.
This is also the first year we hunted our new Northern Missouri farm. A property billed as a turkey magnet. In fact, we saw turkeys in early February, heard gobbling in mid-March and had three or four birds within earshot during youth season. Come regular season, the birds all but vanished. In four hunts we heard a few far off gobbles, saw three hens and was finally rewarded by glassing two giant long beards but tortured at the fact they were 300 yards away. Despite next to no hunting pressure, the birds weren’t there.
On Tuesday of Week Two, I had a gobbler come to the call and as I was preparing to raise my gun he spooked and moved out of range. Moments later, a coyote came trotting through my decoy set.
Later that week Mother Nature had her turn with rains that caused flooding in much of Missouri taking away precious days in the field as a result.
I hosted a few friends over the first two weeks; Michael Wardlaw of UC Hunting Properties and Fit To Hunt personal trainer Nick Lape. Both hunts produced gobbles and one good chance but again, no tags were notched.
Work made it impossible to get back in the field mid-week the final week of season and I began to wonder if this year would be the first in a long time I would have tag soup?
I guess I need to mention as well that it has always been my dream to own a piece of dirt with him. I’ve worked many early mornings and late nights to get this accomplished before he gets to the point where hunting may not be an option. I don’t know if he really cared but to me, it would be a tragedy if we were unable to have a place of our own. In March, he and I made that dream reality.
After several poor outings on my part and no bird on the ground, he called and said he was driving north so we could hunt the new farm together the final weekend of Spring season. I would have two days to put a tag on a bird.
Funny how the sun rises a little bit earlier in that last week of the season. As we sped up the gravel road I could see the hint of pink on the horizon. Luckily, we were dressed and our gear was packed so we quickly parked and I told him to take his time as I moved on ahead to set up the decoys.
I don’t think we were in the blind five minutes when the first gobble rang out; A mere 70 yards to our right and more than one bird. We never saw the fly down but within moments there were birds in the field. I could see multiple hens and at least two strutters. We’d call, they would answer and a few birds broke off and headed our way while the strutters remained behind with a few hens who had chosen to feed on that end of the field.
A hen fed right through our decoy set and less than three minutes later, two jakes walked up to the hen decoys and presented perfect shots. We contemplated waiting out the long beards. With only one day to go in the season, we made the call to double. The hunt was over at 6:02am.
Now I am not a believer that God does things for personal gain.
For example, I do not believe God:
Helps you hit a fastball
Gets you a promotion at work
Cares enough about your sports team to help them win the championship
Provides you the numbers to the winning lottery ticket
Bends the will of a turkey to walk within range of a shotgun
I do however believe He really good at messaging.
There are moments in our lives that will define us. Moments that we will remember until the day we die; Moments that we will look back on and smile simply because it was shared with someone special.
As I sat there taking in the morning I heard the message loud and clear. It went something like this: “Son, I made this hard on you and not just the killing the turkey part. I made you work for this dirt you are standing on. You had to sacrifice. You had to give. You had to have faith. Therefore there was no better person to have a successful harvest with than the man who taught you how to hunt and for whom you worked so hard to get this farm. This moment you just experienced with your grandfather? I gave you this moment. It just seemed….fitting that you two should be the first to harvest together. I thought you would probably agree.”
It might not have gone exactly like this, but I am certain it was pretty close.
Do you ever listen to people talk about signs? They will often say if you look hard enough you will see the signs. In this case, I didn’t have to look very hard at all. The message came in loud and clear that I am not in control. Not at all but if you are willing to work hard, sacrifice and give more than you get, the results and life itself can be pretty darn spectacular.