We were not set up very well. In fact I knew full well I was doing what Tom Stuckey and Ray Eye said specifically not to do. We were exposed. The downed tree behind us only gave us a little cover to blend in with. We just just plain stood out. There was nothing in front of us.
But there was a turkey gobbling. Probably more than one.
“I think we should be okay.” I lied to my daughter. This wasn’t going to work. But it was her first turkey hunt and so far I had been a poor guide. We’d heard lots of gobbling but so far seen nothing. Now we were close, but my daughter was freezing, so this was our last shot.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Cold!” She said trying to sound like it didn’t bother her. But I could tell it did.
She was being a trooper. She’s not a Tom Boy by any means. So this whole hunting thing was a bit out of her comfort zone. She’s growing up so fast. Fourteen going on 24, and not a lot of time left for dad. Dads can really drag a girl’s Social Life down, can’t they? So when she didn’t completely dismiss going turkey hunting, how could I not jump at the chance to get her outdoors?
So here we were. Freezing on the first day of Iowa’s youth turkey season. I’d already messed us up on one set-up. (We should have sat there for 5 more minutes) and this was out last chance. We’d heard these gobblers and slid in as close as we dared, to a little opening in the woods I was certain they had been previously.
But when you’re running and gunning you don’t always get your best choice of where to set-up. You have to take what you can get, and this was…about all we could get. Which wasn’t much.
Our decoys were centered in the clearing, the birds now 60-70 yards away could only be heard and not seen. They were looking for us. We were so poorly exposed. And she was shivering.
“Just a couple more minutes, I’m sure they’re coming, just hang on a couple more minutes,” I tried to sound positive.
“Dad, I’m okay. Really.” She didn’t sound convincing. “Hey, I hear them. Like on your videos…when they do that thing…?”
She could hear the spit. Followed by the drumming. She watched my videos? And paid attention??
“Don’t move. They’re probably close enough to see us even though we can’t see them.”
The drumming moved to our right.
“It stopped. Are they gone?”
“I think he’s on the trail, if he sees our decoys, we got him.”
“Dad…I see him. No. three of them!” For some reason we both stopped shivering as three long beards came marching down the trail anxious to teach our young Jake Snood decoy a lesson.
“Don’t move…but get ready,” I instructed.
We had rehearsed this a hundred times: The moment of truth. Safety off, barrel up, bead on his head and when you’re ready squeeze the trigger . I had whispered it to her several times as the gobbles got closer and closer. The same procedure, over and over again.
One gobbler had separated himself from the other two. Fifteen yards from the end of her gun barrel, and nothing between them and us. The time was now.
“Okay….safety off….bring the barrel up…put the bead on his head….now slowly squee…”
The lead gobbler went down as if hit by a truck. Just like that we were done. We both tugged our facemasks out of the way and after securing her 20 gauge, we walked up to the bird she had just shot. We laughed. We hugged. We high-fived. We hugged some more. We had an amazing story to tell, and a father-daughter experience she will tell her grandchildren about some day.
Fourteen going on 24 and not a lot of time for dad. But it’s a pretty safe bet that next year, when the turkeys start gobbling, some more of that time will just open up.