Shawn T. from North Carolina sent in this story about his son's first bird. Congratulations, Justin!
Good morning I am writing this to you to tell a story of friendship, love, and lessons learned outdoors.
I have hunted since I was 12 years old and truly love to outdoors and have tried to share this love with both my children. My daughter who is now 16 and my son who is 9 have both been deer and squirrel hunting with me. My son has enjoyed it and up until last Thanksgiving had never expressed a desire to hunt anything other than deer.
That all changed when we were going out for an afternoon hunt for deer and watched 27 turkeys walking around our stand. Justin said "Dad can we hunt turkeys?" I answered during the season but they weren't in season then. I am a middle school teacher and my Justin rides the bus to my school everyday and gets off there after.
One of my colleagues at my school is an avid deer and turkey hunter. Randy and I often discuss our successes and failures in the woods usually laughing at one another's escapades. When Randy heard of Justin's desire to hunt turkey he was more than happy to offer a helping hand.
So though out the remainder of winter on into March, Randy would tell Justin to get ready for "his turkey". Well, during the winter my wife who has been battling cancer for the last 7 years received word that she would be going in for a bone marrow transplant in the spring.
Needless to say hunting became the last priority for me as I knew that I was fixing to take on a lot as a father and husband. Still Randy trudged on helping Justin and I prepare best he could, knowing that my thoughts were on things to come with my wife.
A funny thing happened though along the way. The closer we got to the transplant day, the more we worked to get ready for it, but Justin and I also spent more time together watching shows of turkey hunts and him shooting his shotgun at turkey targets. We talked about a lot of things including things "beyond the woods". My talks with Randy developed to more than hunting and regular conversation as we discussed how my wife's illness had changed my family's lives. A friendship that had started as two guys talking about hunting had developed into a friendship that was helping one deal with a very difficult time in his life. Believe me it was and is appreciated.
As the day of the annual youth turkey hunt day approached Justin was bouncing through the door every afternoon when he arrived at my school looking for Randy to talk about the hunt. With the upcoming procedure my wife was preparing for, his excitement was a needed joy. On the Friday before the next day's hunt Randy and I went scouting the land again for one final time.
Looking out across one of the fields we saw 2 gobblers and soon 7 jakes followed. We were very excited as we watched them. Being as they were on another side of the farm we would be hunting we felt we needed to relocate closer to them, so we got in my pickup and headed around the creek and across the bridge. We parked and started out down a farm road toward the field we had seen the turkeys.
As we were almost to where we would need to get into the woods to avoid being seen a farmer drove up and asked "Are you guys snipers or what?' I had to chuckle at that one as a sniper is probably the last thing I could be mistaken for by looking at me. We told him what we were doing and who had given us permission to hunt the farm which he was ok with and then decided to drive right on out to the field where the turkeys had been.
The gobblers disappeared but the jakes hung around in a separate field for awhile until they went to roost. We watched and found their roost, but we still wanted to know where those two gobblers had gone. That night Randy and I laid out our plan to set up in a field near where the jakes had roosted and then Randy would try to call them in while Justin would be sitting on a seat with his back up to me in my seat as a support.
We had it all planned out and were prepared for Justin to get one of the jakes and if we were lucky maybe one of the gobblers may be there also. Well as luck would have it when we walked out in the morning and I hit my owl call to locate some birds the gobblers answered from the other side of the creek.
There we went moving at a pace which was fine for Justin and Randy as they are not vertically challenged and horizontally gifted like me, I however was huffing and puffing. We got to the other side and quickly set up in a small finger of woods between two fields. Randy had the decoys set out and the blind up while I got myself and Justin situated in our seats.
As Randy started calling a hen did a fly down cackle and flew right by us. Justin looked and grinned at me. I knew this was going to be fun as he was very excited. Randy worked the calls and had the hen in fuss as she was away from us a distance but close enough she could see the decoys and hear Randy. After about an hour with no success from the gobblers we thought we might relocate. Then it happened, Randy said "There they come!". Seven birds about 1.5 to years old came running in.
Justin set in on one and shot his first turkey. Randy and I were yelling and cheering and I looked at my son sitting in front of me not moving with his shotgun sitting on his lap on safety.
I asked if he was okay and he calmly looked at me and said "Yes...Can I go see my turkey now?" I don't know who was happier that day me, Randy, or Justin.
I can say this though the memory of this day will stay with me forever, and during the tough times that my family is starting to go through this will be a memory that will give me comfort. I really am thankful for my friendship with Randy and appreciate him sharing his wisdom of the woods and lending an ear to me during these times.