For as long as I can remember I have went hunting on the weekend before Thanksgiving in an attempt to provide one, if not more, turkeys to prepare for our Thanksgiving feast. Even before I was hunting myself, I was tagging along, learning from my father, my grandfather, and my uncles. I was very excited when I turned 12 because it was finally my time to join in on the hunt with my family. As the years passed on the tradition was carried on with my own children, it started with my oldest daughter (23 y/o now), my middle daughter (17 y/o now), and most recently with my 12 y/o son. He has accompanied me for many years and after turning 12 this summer he knew it was going to be his turn to bring home a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. My family has a “secret” spot where we bow hunt for turkey. I was entrusted with the location years ago and 3 years ago the ownership of the land was transferred to me when my uncle passed away. This is one location friends never get to go, this is one place that is for family members only, and that tradition has been in place since the 30s and I don’t see it changing on my watch. For the last few years my son has been practicing his bow hunting skills and proved himself recently during bow hunting season when he had a very clean kill of a 10 point whitetail buck from 35 yards at ground level. A technically challenging shot for seasoned bow hunters. Lets just say he nailed it after a long road of education, patience, and dedication.
The first part of the hunt always starts a few weeks before the season actually opens up. We set up stalks to see where the turkey are running so we can calculate the best places for us to set up later. As I stated before, we have been bow hunting this land for many, many years, and for the most part the turkey pass through the same spots by the river year after year, so that is where we start, year after year. There is no need to bait or place decoys because they have a healthy population in this area and a relatively easy to find if you actually know where to look. Granted, there have been seasons so stricken with drought that there were no turkeys, but they always come back sooner or later. My son has mastered the art of the stalk, he has mastered the art of taking pictures in the wild, flagging trees, and mapping out locations with and without using a gps. He like to spend time in the woods without a weapon as well, he likes the connection, and he appreciates that mother nature is willing to provide a great bounty to see that our family eats all year long. He learned early on that in our family we do not buy meat from the store, we hunt, and we provide 95% of the meat that is eaten by our family.
This year, with my work schedule, the rest of my family went out opening weekend and have not returned because they hit their limits already. But, my son and my daughters have yet to go, until yesterday. The way it all ended up working out is my son and I drove out to our location late Saturday afternoon. With just enough daylight left we had time to set up our tent, get a campfire going, and get some food prepared. It was an anxious night for my son, I don’t think he slept at all because he was so excited, he has been waiting a very long time to be able to be the one who brings home the turkey we will eventually eat for Thanksgiving. With the exception that it was 40 degrees overnight, I slept just fine. At 4am I start feeling the jabs from my son, with a dad, dad, dad, dad. Is it time to get up? Is it time yet? Dad, dad, dad, dad. In the distance we could already hear the songs of the turkeys, it was time to get up, eat real quick, and disappear into the woods. At first light we were surprised to see many large turkeys feeding at the edge of the trees. It was very hard to move through the trees and brush because the leaf litter was very crunchy. As we came closer we started getting into the wet litter so we would arrive undetected. We were in place for about 30 minutes when my son was ready to take his first shot. Deep breath, release, breath again. He had made the perfect shot, the turkey dropped immediately. It was the perfect textbook shot from 30 yards. He quickly ran to his bird, assessed his breathing, there was none, so we knew he was dead. My son kneeled by the turkey, put his hand under his limp body, and offered a prayer. “Lord, thank you for this beautiful turkey as this turkey will feed my family and provide happiness for everyone. We thank you for providing this turkey, in your name we pray, amen”. It took me a moment, I was a bit choked up, as I wiped the tears from my eyes I realized my son understood his connection with the land, the animals, and mother nature. It was a beautiful moment to witness.
We packed up to head back to camp where we loaded the ATVs on the trailer, packed the tent, diluted the ashes of the fire, and put the turkey in the cooler in preparation for our travels home. Sunday night we dressed the 23lb turkey and set it to soak in a secret recipe of Wild Turkey, cranberry sauce, sliced oranges, a variety of mild peppers and seasoning, and just a pinch of my secret ingredient. This turkey will rest in this mixture in the refrigerator until late Wednesday night when he will be removed to join the others on my pit smoker for their 12 hour journey into smoked tenderness and bliss. Until then, this post will close.