Even a seasoned hunter can find a new tradition
I have my routines as a hunter. Each matching article of clothing is laid out before a hunt, my calls sorted through and selected, my wake up time meticulously calculated, and like a line straight out of Stevie Wonder’s hit song “Superstition,” you can bet many other turkey hunters across the country can be found, most mornings, completing their rituals and routines prior to hitting the woods.
One thing that has always struck me as odd is that I always keep the same traditions whether they lead to success or not. I’ve never rid myself of a tradition that I have, but I have undoubtedly added some new ones over the years. This story is of one new tradition I hope to carry on for many years to come.
It started just a few weeks ago. I hadn’t been able to hunt much of this year’s season at that point due to our pending relocation from Virginia to Pennsylvania; my wife, Amanda, preparing to have neck surgery; and poor weather. I had finally penciled in some time to hit the woods on an upcoming Saturday, and again the following Monday.
It was Friday evening about 6 p.m. when my daughter Ruth came downstairs and handed me a turkey call. This call was different than most because I had helped her build it about a year ago. She helped turn it on the lathe, drilled it herself, glued it together and, my personal favorite, added a “custom” pink and blue paint job.
“For good luck” she said.
So, on Saturday morning I hit the turkey woods. It was a really quiet morning and I didn’t hear a single turkey. I moved to another farm and was very surprised and excited when a gobbler anxiously responded to my new “lucky call.” After about an hour of back and forth, he finally showed himself and I’m not to prideful to admit that I missed a shot that would have been the equivalent of LeBron James missing an easy layup.
As that turkey flew away, I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’ve missed turkeys before over the years, but now I would have to explain to Ruth how her call worked but I didn’t seal my end of the deal.
Fast forward to Monday morning. As I made my way to the high point on the property I stopped and made an owl hoot. A gobbler answered, roosted right where I thought he would be. I quickly called that turkey off the roost and he stayed just out of range and moved away. I then shifted positions on the property and the exact same thing happened with yet another turkey. About 9:30 I decided to leave that farm and move to a different place.
As I walked to the car and drove 15 minutes to the place I was headed, I replayed over and over the image of that turkey I had called in that flew away after I shot just two days prior. I got to the new location and decided I was going to do a little run and gun style hunting instead of just sitting and waiting.
Just then, as I crested a hill I made a few short yelps on my call and a bird with a booming gobble sounded off only about 100 yards away. I called aging to try to pinpoint his location so I could make my next move. Once he gobbled, I knew it was safe to move and I slipped just a bit closer and got set up. With my decoys in the ground, I slid my face mask up and over my nose and raised my gun to my knee as my heart began to race.
Then, I caught a glimpse of a turkey. A jake had beaten the gobbler to my setup. Then came another, and another, as three jakes made their way just a few feet from me. When he gobbled again it was so close it startled me just a bit as it did the three immature birds and they took off running. They surely knew that the boss was coming.
Stopping to gobbled nearly every thirty seconds or so, it took nearly 20 minutes for him to get within sight distance. The turkey worked his way into range and this time, when I pulled the trigger, the bird didn’t fly away. I’d just sealed the deal on a nice tom, which is an exciting feeling any day of the week, but this one was with a pink and blue slate call made by my 6-year-old.
I may have quite a few turkey seasons under my belt and a lot of experience and even a few silly superstitions, but you can bet that for many years to come, I won’t be hitting the woods without my new “lucky call.”
Hunt hard, hunt safe and shoot straight, friends.
John Knouse writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.