The season looked as if it had ended before it started.
I'm a member of the Quaker Boy pro staff, and I also guide throughout the spring turkey season. Although she was in the midst of her recovery, Jannette encouraged me to carry on with all of the hunts I had lined up. Stories of birds that were taken and birds that had outsmarted me kept building over the first five weeks, and she started to miss the sport she had grown to love more and more.
As Jannette recovered from surgery, she suffered from a couple of lingering side effects. Her eyesight was only half of what it once was, and she was prone to involuntary shaking. Sleeping took over most of her daily routine, as well.
Two days before the end of the season, however, Jannette asked if she could go on an outing just to hear the turkeys talk. I decided to take her to the range and let her try shooting at a turkey target with a gun topped by a scope. As she looked down the barrel, she noticed the scope helped her see more clearly, allowing her to make a shot, and a shooting stick helped her keep the cross-hairs steadily on target. After a short time on the range, she was ready to get back in the woods!
Because Jannette could only stay awake for a couple of hours before tiring, nailing the precise time to hunt was paramount. I knew of a field where turkeys had been feeding on a regular basis, so that afternoon we set up along the field's fencerow. But just as prime time arrived, another hunter decided to drive across the field we were hunting to get to another field. That afternoon turned out to be a bust, and all of Jannette's energy was wasted by a disrespectful hunter.
The next morning, Jannette was too worn out from the previous day to go hunting in the morning. However, at 3:30 p.m. she said that she'd like to go out and at least hear a bird gobble.
We decided to try a field edge where I had shot a gobbler few days beforehand. We set up next to a basswood tree that was set back 10 feet from the field edge. There was enough grass between the tree and the field to cover most of Jannette's movement and allow her to move the gun with ease. I staked a decoy in the field and patted down the grass in a number of different spots to create shooting lanes for her. I then cut a nearby sapling until it was about 18 inches high, split it open down the center and placed a wedge in it -- presto, Jannette had her shooting stick!
About an hour later, we heard a gobble come from the canyon below the field's edge, so I pulled out my trusty Mini Boat Paddle and gave a few clucks and a couple of soft yelps. In a few minutes, we heard three different birds gobbling back at us. Jannette's voice was filled with excitement when she whispered to me that she heard the gobbling.
Then, another bird gobbled from below a ridge at the opposite end of the field. I called lightly back to the tom, but received no response. When I checked my watch, I saw that it was already 6:30 p.m. I whispered to Jannette that we had to leave by 6:45. Thinking our time was running out, I tried some last-minute calling.
But the time, of course, moved quickly as 6:45 arrived too early. I motioned to Jannette that we had to go, and she said she'd enjoyed the gobbling and had a good end to the season. I leaned over and popped up on my knees -- only to see a tom walking right at us about 40 yards away.
"There's a gobbler behind the grass to your left!" I whispered to Jannette with excitement. There was no need to call; he was going to walk right in. "Get your gun on the shooting stick. He's almost on top of us! Get ready. He's coming into view."
As the gobbler moved past the 20-yard mark, Jannette had a difficult time finding the bird in the scope. I urged her to move to her left so she could see a little better, which would help her aim. She adjusted just in time as the gobbler strolled into the shooting lane only 17 yards away. When she finally placed the cross hairs on the bird's neck, the gun roared the gobbler went down.
Jannette walked out from our setup with her million-dollar smile. She had given her very best, and it had paid off. I looked at my watch: 6:50 on the nose. I gave her a hug and said there was no way brain-tumor surgery had slowed her down.
After what Jannette had been through, it was like someone dropped that gobbler right in front of her before we decided to leave. She had brain-tumor surgery on the opening day of the turkey season and had not only survived, but thrived to hunt these incredible birds. Her story is one of incredible determination and perseverance; I could not be more proud.
This was the hunt of my life, and that evening we celebrated over a fresh turkey dinner. What an incredible and fitting end to the 2005 season!