With just two days left during Wisconsin's Spring 2011 turkey season, I took my 10-year-old nephew, Riley, to a place I hadn't yet hunted. He'd watch and help call; I'd shoot.
We got on two gobbling birds right away. Both were off the property, and of course, the most vocal turkey was way off the property. Still, we worked as close as possible and set up.
After my second series of yelps, a gobbler answered from the wooded flat above us. His next gobble was 50 yards closer. He was coming. I told Riley we were about to have some action and then readied my gun.
The longbeard approached slowly but steadily, remaining unseen the entire time. I finally heard him drumming just below a small rise 15 steps ahead of us. Then, he poked his head into an opening and instantly putted and turned to leave. I fired immediately, but the bird flew off to our left. What?
Sure, it had been a snap shot, but I'd done that dozens of times. Had I failed to aim or messed up otherwise? An inspection revealed the truth: My golf-ball-sized pattern had centered a small unseen deadfall, sending wood chips across the woods floor and chasing the gobbler into the next county.
I told Riley that failure — including missing birds — was a big part of turkey hunting, and that it was more important we'd enjoyed a great hunt. He nodded and seemed to agree.
Now, if I could just convince myself of that.