June 28, 2021
This column was featured in the May edition on Game & Fish Magazine. Subscribe Now
Autumn was pretty, had long strawberry hair, and Shane couldn't believe she'd even talk to him. He was over the moon when she asked if he would take her hunting.
Shane figured a turkey hunt would be perfect, what with the lovely spring weather, chirping birds, buzzing bees, blooming flowers … and with luck, a gobbler in the bag and then a girl to call his. At least that was his plan.
A few weeks before turkey season, Shane took Autumn to practice shooting a shotgun. Her first and second shots sent a Coke can end-over-end. Turned out Autumn was a natural shot who was eager to learn about guns, the outdoors and turkey hunting.
During the days that followed, Shane went to great lengths to prepare Autumn for the hunt. He warned her of a turkey's keen vision. He schooled her about turkey calls and turkey habits, and told her just how hard it could be to trick a gobbler into range. He explained the game laws and pointed out that only gobblers—the ones with beards—were legal.
The morning finally came when the two hunters were sitting side-by-side with their backs against a giant oak tree. The sounds and sights and smells of the springtime woods waking up amazed Autumn, but Shane could barely focus on anything except her. Just then a raspy gobble shattered the air. And another!
Shane yelped excitedly on his slate call, and the gobbler answered him. "Get ready," he whispered into Autumn's ear.
But after a few more moments of tense anticipation, the gobbles ceased. Shane called, but nothing answered. The bird was gone.
The same story played out over the next few hunts. It seemed the harder Shane tried to call the bird in, the faster it would go away. Shane feared his plan was crumbling.
On the last day of the season, the couple ventured back into the woods, but from the opposite side. With a mere glance at a tree 20 yards ahead, Shane instructed Autumn to set up there while he remained behind to call. If the bird hung up again, maybe she’d still get a shot.
A distant gobble greeted them at daybreak, and Shane responded with one simple cluck. The gobbler soon sounded off again, and he was closer. Then closer. Shane resisted the urge to yelp and was soon rewarded when a raspy, thunderous gobble nearly lifted his hat. The bird had to be in range!
Although he couldn’t see the turkey, he saw Autumn ease the 20 gauge to her shoulder. Shane's heart pounded as he mentally pleaded. Shoooooot! Shoooooot! But rather than a blast from the shotgun, he heard two loud putts. Then all was silent.
Ten minutes later Autumn walked back to Shane and knelt by him. She was smiling, her eyes as big and pretty as a hoot owl's, her voice vivid with color and excitement.
"Oh Shane!" she said. "I finally saw one! It was so ugly … and so beautiful!"
"Well," said Shane, exasperated, "why didn't you shoot?"
"Because I remembered everything you had taught me about identifying my target and—"
"And?" asked Shane.
"Because all I could see was its head!" she said, laughing. "I never saw a beard. It could've been a hen, right?"
Shane shook his head in disbelief.
"Shane," she said, grabbing his arm and turning him toward her. "Are you disappointed in me?"
"No," he said with a sigh. "I could never be disappointed in you. I just wanted you to get a turkey so badly. Why did it have to be the wariest gobbler in the whole darn county?"
"Well," said Autumn, now holding his hands in hers, "I think it's the most perfect gobbler in all the world."
"Why would you think that?" asked Shane, bewildered.
"Because I'm not really here to kill a stupid turkey."