After being introduced to turkey hunting by a friend a decade ago, I've been hooked on the sport. Each spring I'm out in the woods doing my best to lure in a gobbler, but for one reason or another, I've gone home empty-handed each year. My lack of excitement hasn't dampened my spirits however, and in 2003 I was especially excited because my oldest son, Jacob, would be at my side trying to bag a turkey of his own. Although it was no surprise to me considering my history, that spring turned out to be a bust for both of us as far as turkeys went.
The spring 2004 season began with not only Jacob by my side, but also my 10-year-old son Joshua, who wanted to try and tag a bird. Ohio has a special youth turkey season a week before the statewide season opens, and we headed to the woods on the first day of the hunt wondering what this season would bring. Despite all my efforts, the first day ended with the same result as every other turkey hunt I've been a part of, with birds all around us but none willing to cooperate with our game plan.
Day No. 2 started cold and rainy, dashing any hope of bagging a bird at first light. After nearly 3 hours of hiking through the woods, the boys were cold and tired and ready to head home. On the way to the truck, however, Jacob suggested we try one more location where we had heard some birds last season. I agreed, but Josh didn't want any part of our plan, insisting we go home. As we got closer to the location, I did my best to convince Josh to give the spot a try, and he reluctantly agreed.
As we got into position, I thought I heard a gobble but didn't think much of it as there were some geese chattering on a pond nearby. While setting up our decoys, however, I heard it again, and quickly responded with a few yelps. By the time we'd set up our decoy spread the bird was within 100 yards and closing fast, and within minutes we spotted a jake. At the sight of the decoys, he went into strut and walked right past us, ending up behind us. Suddenly, I heard a hen yelp directly behind us and my heart sank. "So close and we're going to lose him!" I thought. I wasn't going to give up that easy, however, and responded with my best yelps. To my amazement, the jake made a 180-degree turn and headed back toward us. Jacob then whispered, "Dad I see him, can I shoot?" I then spotted the bird and told Jacob to sit tight, as I thought Josh would have a better shot angle. As all this was happening, I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye, and my jaw dropped-another jake was running directly toward our setup! I whispered to Josh to shoot the first bird as soon as he had a shot. The words were barely out of my mouth when his gun roared and our family's first turkey was on the ground. To my amazement, the other jake continued toward the decoy setup, and Jacob asked if he could shoot. Without hesitation I replied, "You bet," and seconds later the second bird was down.
As the three of us approached the birds, the feeling at that moment for me is unexplainable. In those frantic few moments, 10 years of turkey hunting frustration and failure were instantly erased. I was there to see my boys tag their first birds, and to share that experience with them is a memory I'll cherish forever.