No Turkey? No Problem.

It’s been a while since I have had time to sit down and really write something from the heart, especially as it pertains to hunting and fishing. Last weekend I was sitting by a fire on Lake Bomoseen in Castleton Vermont and I got to reflecting on my turkey season. Funny, if someone asked me to pick one animal to hunt for the rest of my life it would be turkeys and it would be during the spring season. This reflection reminded me why I absolutely love hunting: it fuels my fire and it feeds my soul. 

My season got off to a rocky start, when I found myself out of state the first 3 days for a work conference. When I finally came home and got out in the woods, the turkeys were not really all that vocal which was a pattern that seemed to continue throughout the season. The wind seemed constant and it was cold. There were so many mornings I didn’t want to get up, where I laid in bed and asked myself what the hell I was doing. Getting up at 3:30 to hunt and then going to work to spend the day over caffeinated and twitchy; struggling to keep my eyes open.

Every morning when I stepped out of my car and made my way into the woods I remembered exactly what I was doing. I was recharging. Trust me, I know that it sounds so contradictory. I was quite literally draining all of my energy, but everything I was getting out of it was more than all that I was exerting. 

I spent quality time with some of my favorite people. As I was trying to get my hands on a turkey, I hunted with my dad, my mom, and my stepdad. It was wonderful to share this with the people I love so much. Thank you all for taking the time out of your schedule to hunt with me, and to share this with me. 

I watched the sunrise every morning that I sat in the woods, admiring the colors in the sky as they reflected off the clouds. I thought of my Poppy often, who we lost in the fall of 2020. I prayed for guidance on personal turmoil. I meditated, sometimes counting my breaths. 

I listened to the sounds of the woods, many times closing my eyes. Running water, chirping birds, small creatures rustling in the leaves, and insects buzzing through the field. A few times they were interrupted by the immaculate sound of a turkey gobbling from the roost and when this happened, without fail, a smile came across my face.  

I also encountered lots of other animals this season. Countless deer. Two close-ups with coyotes, one of which came so close before the sun peaked out of the sky that I felt the need to stand up and whistle to spook him off. There was an owl on a low hanging tree branch that allowed me a quick photo before taking off so beautifully. A partridge that absolutely scared me to death by exploding off the ground out of the treeline as I passed by. Finally, there was a porcupine that I walked upon in the darkness, and I am not sure who was more surprised by the other’s presence; the porcupine or myself!

Last and most memorable, was the last Friday of the season. Now, I didn’t bag my turkey but I did have an experience that I wasn’t expecting which built my confidence, in both my skills and in trusting my gut. It was my last day of the season to hunt and I was out with my step dad, Jim. We had already set up earlier in the week in the same place but the stars had not aligned. This time, we set up based on where the turkeys had come off the roose the last time, trying to get me a shot. Of course, fate would have it that the turkeys decided to put themselves in the perfect position if I had been sitting in my previous spot. So there was a hen and 2 toms that were just hanging out on the other side of the field eating. They were uninterested in any calls and refused to answer. I was sitting behind a stone wall, on a milk crate peering over, unable to put eyes on them but had been texting with Jim who was sitting across the field getting the full show. 

In a split second my gut told me to take my gun, get down, and crawl; something I had never done. I don’t know where the burst of confidence came from, but I grabbed my gun, put my call in my pocket, got on my stomach, and started to crawl. 

I crawled for what seemed like an eternity, although it couldn’t have been more than 15 or 20 minutes. It was at least 50 yards, if not more, and I was well hidden by the stonewall. I was hyper-focused on not rustling the leaves or cracking brush under the weight of my knees. Finally about halfway to where I felt like I needed to be I realized I could see the hen in the field. Knowing where the turkeys were now, I felt much more certain that I could get in range of a shot. I finally closed in on the birds and decided I wasn’t sure how to make my next move. I found a big pine tree and was able to stand up, pick up my gun, and put the call back in my mouth. If I had had a few more minutes there is a good chance that I would have gotten a shot, but it was at that moment the big ol’ tom popped over the stone wall about 35 yards away and spotted me. I clucked twice, he stopped, and I took what I would call a “hail mary” shot with my Mossberg 20 gauge. It was a miss, which I had expected, but my veins were coursing with adrenaline and I laughed amidst the excitement. 

It’s as if I had an out of body experience. Who was this person that I had watched just make an instinctual decision and make a move on the stagnant turkeys? A year prior, heck even a week prior, I am certain I would have never had the confidence to do that. I left that hunt with more confidence in myself than I had had in a long time. 

Now, don’t be fooled. Every morning I spent in the woods was not simply perfect, but the good certainly outweighed the bad and I loved every second of the season. I suppose my point is among all of the disappointment of unsuccessful hunts I was able to still find the joy and the fuel to my fire. We are so quick to always focus on the negative, a trait that I am well versed in. Trust me, if you were to ask the people in my life they’d probably tell you I am a pessimistic person. I prefer to call myself a realist.  

Find the joy in the small, precious moments that you have to spend in the woods, whether they are shared with others or spent in solitude. Continue to try to do what you love even when all you want to do is quit. Even if you are not successful in harvesting whatever animal you are after, you will more than likely still find some joy out of the time you spend doing what you love. Afterall, that’s why we are so passionate about what we do, isn’t it? 

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