Our experience. Our Hunt.
Saturday, May 20, 2017 This Was Our Experience. This Was Our Hunt. According to my Facebook "on-this-day" memory, five years ago, to the day, my friend, Oren Jensen, took me on my first hunting experience. He is a very skilled outdoorsman and a talented hunting guide. On this hunt Oren introduced me to turkey hunting and planted in me the thrill of the hunt, the joy of journey among casual conversation, and appreciation for creation. I remember hiking among the dry, north central Washington forests as the wildflowers were blooming. We talked as we walked, reminiscing on memories of old times and good friends. He shared stories, hunting tips, and explained to me about ethical hunting. Fast forward five years to today. Ironically, about a week ago I made arrangements with a colleague, Jim Goodin, to hunt turkey on his property. Jim's property sits just above a valley my family refers to as turkey valley, on account of all the gobblers who frequent the farm fields both to the north and to the south of the main road, Sagle road. I took my son, Breckham, over to meet Jim's family and to view his property. I wanted to see, ahead of time, where would be the best spot to hunt from, with maximum viewing angles and open shots. Let's call it scouting. I also wanted to practice hunting safety and know where property lines were, whether they could be crossed, and where neighboring structures were. We went. We saw. And we planned. We made arrangements to return for the hunt! The day, and arranged time, finally arrived. My oldest son, who recently celebrated his 6th birthday, and I pulled into Jim's driveway. We noticed, right away, two toms strolling through the backyard. With great excitement, Breckham asks, "Can we shoot one?!" "Not yet, buddy," I answered. "Why not?" Knowing we should hurry to get into position, and knowing I still needed to get my equipment ready (put on my camo over-shirt, get out my shotgun, which needed to have the turkey choke installed to tighten the spread of the shot, put on my binoculars, and so on), I quickly responded with an I'll-tell-you-later response. Thankfully, and slightly out of the norm for a recently-turned six-year-old boy, he accepted my answer to his question without any further discussion. We quickly suited up and grabbed our equipment and set off into the gobbler ghetto, the turkey woods. In our previous visit to Jim's place, he indicated the direction of a couple of roosting locations. I figured we'd set up to hunt somewhere in the turkey's path to their bed. As we came around a pile of split firewood, I could see in the not-too-far-off distance a clearing in the trees. I thought we could sit down somewhere at the edge of the clearing, resting with our backs to a tree. This would be our spot! As we proceeded to our picked-out hunting location, some movement caught my eye. A turkey came out of a thicket of trees about 30 yards in front of us, right in our path. It was a tom! We froze in our tracks, and I shouldered my shotgun. Then, another tom exited the trees. I whispered, ever so calmly, "Should I shoot him?" Breckham's response was an expected, "Yeah!" But I had only seen a glimpse of the second tom before he went behind a tree. "Which one should I take?" "The one on the left," referring to the first bird. I hesitated, waiting for the second tom to show himself again. When he decided to come out from behind his cover, the tree, I could easily tell he was a larger bird. I shifted to my new target, adjusted my aim, and prepared my son for the loud shot. "Plug your ears, son!" I saw his little hands raise to protect his sensitive ears. With my breath held, I squeezed the trigger. BANG! And the gobbler fell to the ground. "You got him, Daddy!" We went over and inspected the scene. The shot was successful, with the majority of the pellets hitting in the neck area. My first successful turkey hunt! And it was an experience I got to share with my son. Of course we took a moment to appreciate the experience, to be grateful, and to appreciate creation. And, then there were some photos taken, of course. As I carried the turkey back toward the truck I took a moment to explain to my son what hunting is - what it's about. Hunting is not about the kill. It's much more than that. This caused me to reflect on the conversation I had five years ago with Oren, in the hills above Pine Creek. Hunting should be an experience. One that makes a memory. I explained, then, to my son why we didn't just shoot the turkey in the back yard. It wasn't fair to the bird. It wasn't ethical. We needed to get to a spot and get him to come to us. This, having the turkey come to us, outsmarting the bird, is the experience that will be burned into our memories. This was our experience. This was our hunt.