Turkey Hunting has become a family past time. Some our families fondest memories are now when we were hunting somewhere. Below is the story of my daughter's first turkey.
Randee Anne had been tagging along with me on several hunts the previous years. It was always fun to have her with me, even if it meant going a little slower and hunting a little easier. She now was 9 years old and wanted to try it on her own. As luck would have it, a hunters safety course was not planned until mid-way through the hunting season.
I was able to sneak out and get a little hunting in while the kids were in school and found the time to kill two for myself. In the evenings, I would escort her to the classes and help her study. Finally the final exam came and she passed with flying colors! After school was out on the following day we left for turkey camp. She had received a little cheap dome tent for Christmas and wanted to use it (instead of my luxury model canvas tent). We set up camp on the edge of a meadow in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. As soon as camp was set up, I suprised her with a new multi-tool knife. She was thrilled and then went about finding things to cut with the knife and scissors.
I have always been a minimalist. I dont pack much nor do I carry much. I soon found out I packed a little too light for a nine year old girl. When it came to dinner time, she didnt like the cold and greasy store bought deli chicken. I searched around and found some Top Ramen and she jumped on that. The down side was that I did not pack regular water. The best we could find was a carbonated flavored water. I boiled the water theorizing the carbonation and flavor would be gone. However once completed, the look on her face told me otherwise. She had a few bites and tossed the rest. I can no longer remember what she ate to get herself through the trip.
The next morning we were off. The turkeys, now pressured by every wanna be turkey hunter were now silent. This was not a good start for a kid. However I actually had planned it this way. It took me three years to finally kill my first turkey and did not want her thinking it was easy. Only recently I had secured hunting rights to two nice ranches. These places were not hunted by anyone else and had lots of birds. We hunted the public property through the weekend, hearing a bird or two but never closing the deal. Our trip was done.
Later in the week I pulled Randee from school and we made a trip to the newly secured ranches. We were a little late and the birds were already on the ground. There were a dozen or so turkeys in a field with at least two strutters. We were able to slip into a position above them. Our position left a lot to be desired but it would have to do. Randee sat between my legs so that I could help support her and so that I could whisper when to shoot and what to shoot at. I began some calling. The main group of birds stayed low but a jake came up to find the source of the hen noise. Soon I was telling Randee to take him. The barrel of her twenty gauge was now pointed at the bird. I watched intently and waited. After what seemed like an eternity I repeated to shoot. I continued to watch as the end of the barrel weaved around and around. Finally Randee told me that she was afraid. She had shot the gun numerous times and I could not imagine what she was afraid of. I told her if she did not want to shoot, that she could put the gun down. This little girl is incredibly competitive and I could not imagine her putting the gun down. I was shocked when she did. We sat and watched and had small talk while watching the birds. Soon they faded away.
Later that day I managed to kill a very nice tom. Randee wasnt bothered at all. Though I was disappointed, I did my best not to show it. On our way home, we stopped by her grandparents to show off the bird. Everyone initially assumed it was hers and they made a show of it all. They found out it was mine and offered their support to her. Next time, they would say.
Two days later Randee told me that she wanted to go again. Apparently her competitive edge had shown up and she did not want to be left out. I wanted to take her and normally would not care at all if she killed a bird or not. Just spending the time together was enough. However my work schedule had me working weekends and I could not justify taking her out of school. I hated to do it, but I told her that I would take the day off from work but needed a larger commitment from her.
The following Sunday we left the house very early and made the 1 1/2 hour trip to the turkey ranch. Randee was not feeling well and was dragging. I recognized this and asked her to stay put while I looked down into the field. Unfortunately while looking, I spooked a huge tom. Now I felt like garbage. I did not tell her about the bird and we decided to try the other side of the ranch. To get there, we had to walk past our parked pick up. Randee was telling me that she did not feel well. I knew it was true and I felt bad. I asked if she wanted to go home and she told me "no." She also told me that she did not want to walk anymore. Finally we agreed that she would sleep in the truck and I would try to locate some turkeys. We were behind a locked gate and I felt secure in leaving her.
I said good-bye and shut the door quietly. I walked only ten yards when yelping caught my attention. I looked up and saw a bird dart across an opening in the hillside. I then heard gobbling. Quickly I was opening the truck door and telling Randee to get her stuff, that there were turkeys right here!
Randee sprang to life and we started climbing the hill to get into a strategic location. I would call from time to time to get a bearing on where the birds were at. Finally we were on an knoll overlooking a small draw. Hoping to get a better position, we tried to get another tree closer and got busted. In the draw below was over twenty turkeys. A flock this size was unusual for this time of year. The main flock started moving away from us. I yelped and yelped. I knew we were busted but my true intent was to keep the birds gobbling and to give Randee a show. Unknown to us, two jakes had separated from the flock and were working their way towards us. Moments later the heads of the two jakes were appearing over the rise in knoll just ahead of us. In my head I was calculating distance and had decided that two little scub oaks were the point of no return. In moments the jakes were through the point and still coming. They now were at about 15 yards. I whispered to shoot the one on the right. I saw the barrel pointed at the right bird and waited... and waited. The barrel was weaving and I again whispered to shoot. Oh no, here we go again. I felt my body relax as I realized that she was not going to shoot. I no more than fully relaxex when the gun unexpectedly (to me) went off and a the jake was rolled violently backwards. My kid just killed a turkey. I think I was more thrilled than she was, and she was thrilled! She laid the gun down and raced after the rolling turkey. Soon she had it in her hands... and a hunter was born.
Later while cleaning the bird I found one pellet in the head. Thank goodness for a regular full choke.