By Josh Boyd
Any hunter who has spent much time in the spring turkey woods has likely amassed a treasure trove of memorable hunts. These turkey hunts can be special for many reasons, including the success which they have yielded, particularly memorable locations where they have taken place, or unusual circumstances that have been encountered. However, few hunts are as memorable as those that take place in the accompaniment of a family member.
It was for this reason that this year’s Kentucky spring turkey season opener on April 18th was among the most memorable hunts that I have had the fortune of being a part of. While it is true that this hunt did indeed end with a filled tag, the magnificence of this hunt lay more in its context, than the kill.
“Are You Going to Take Me to Kill a Turkey?”
While my wife, Michelle, has always been supportive of my drive to spend every available second in the woods, she has never really been one to partake in hunting herself. In fact, in ten years of marriage, she had only accompanied me on two hunts.
One of which took place last spring when she was present in the blind as our son took his first turkey. The other occasion was approximately ten years ago when I “attempted” to take her deer hunting. After spending the better part of twenty minutes in the predawn darkness, explaining to her that it was perfectly safe to climb the ladder of the two-man stand that we were to hunt, she decided that deer hunting was not for her, and we returned home.
So you can see why I was quite shocked when Michelle asked, “Are you going to take me to kill a turkey,” on the evening before opening morning. I am quite sure that it took a moment for me to recover my composure after the shock to which I had just been exposed.
If my memory serves me well, I explained to her that I would take her the following morning, but could not guarantee success. With a mind full of skepticism as to whether or not she would actually rise the next morning at the alarm clock’s 4 A.M. beckoning, we proceeded to purchase her hunting license and turkey permit.
Rise and Shine
With the alarm clock’s report, I rose from bed the next morning like a child on Christmas morning. I began getting dressed and making coffee, all the while fully anticipating to hunt by myself that morning, as I expected to encounter a refusal on my wife’s behalf to rise at that hour.
However, much to my surprise, Michelle was awake, dressed for the hunt, and asking what was taking me so long, upon my return to the bedroom. She had proven me wrong, in what was the first time in ten years that she had done so, although she would tend to disagree.
After gathering the last of our gear, we loaded into my truck and began our five-minute drive to the farm on which we would be hunting. After I spent the first three minutes of our drive discussing strategy, Michelle looked at me quite confused, and said simply, “Take me to where all the turkeys are.” I just smiled, nodded, and kept driving.
A Hunt Like None Other
Upon arriving at the farm and parking the truck, we grabbed our gear and headed off into the river bottom before us. The sun had just begun to rise over the horizon, and the sky was filled with beautiful shades of pale blue, pink, and orange, as we approached our blind.
Once there, I ensured that she was situated comfortably within, and staked a lone hen decoy 15 yards in front of us. After 20 minutes of marveling in the sunrise’s beauty, the first gobble of the morning rang out a mere 200 yards away. The tom was roosted along the banks of the river as I had hoped, and a soft series of tree yelps from a slate call reassured him that a hen awaited.
However, what began as one gobble, quickly grew to no less than three, coming from the same tree. A myriad of intense gobbles continued to ring out across the bottom for the next 15 minutes, with seldom more than 30 seconds of silence.
Then, as quickly as it had begun, all gobbling ceased, and the thunderous sound of wing beats could be heard as one tom after another departed from the roost. After a few moments, a faint gobble could be heard over the crest of the rise to our left, but we were given little indication as to which way the toms were headed.
I let out a series of yelps on a mouth call, which were answered quite enthusiastically. The gobbling had again started, but no audible change in location could be detected. Then with a second series of yelps, and some exciting cutting thrown in for good measure, one last volley of gobbles were heard, and all fell silent.
I told Michelle to get her gun into position, as I had a feeling that the sudden onset of silence meant that the group of toms was headed in our direction. Within moments, one gobbler crested the hill, directly followed by his three partners in crime. As soon as these birds eyed the decoy, it was full steam ahead, and within seconds, all four were standing in range.
I quickly explained to Michelle that I would call to bring the toms out of strut and that the closest turkey on our left was her target, while I would shoot for the bird on the far right. A three-count would serve as our signal.
I stared down my barrel, completely fixated on the tom which I was to shoot, and slowly began the three-count. I made it as far as the number-two, then the blast of a shotgun could be heard, and the tom I was aiming at hit the dirt. Utterly confused, I turned to Michelle in time to hear her say, “I got him!”
Still somewhat perplexed, I swung to the next tom, who was quickly leaving the country and pulled the trigger. He rolled to a stop at approximately 40 yards, signaling the conclusion of our hunt. It was at this point that I looked at my wife, who is grinning ear to ear and shaking like a willow in the wind.
Within seconds, we were high-fiving like a couple of high school football players who had just won the state championship. With a grin so large that nothing could wipe it from her face, Michelle looked at me and said, “We did it! We did it! This is so fun!” As a hunter who is passionate about all of his endeavors afield, these are words I won’t soon forget.
Family Brings Hunting Full-Circle
In the past two years, my wife and my son have both joined the ranks of successful turkey hunters. The memory of those hunts resonates far deeper with me than any hunt where I, solely, have been the one to pull the trigger. At the end of the day, beards and spurs are materialistic in nature, and meat is quickly consumed. However, memories made with your family in the vast beauty of our nation’s wildlands are forever.