shotgun open with no shell in the chamber, I want to make sure she practices what she's been taught, keeping the muzzle in a safe direction.
At the top of the hill it's time for a rest. I compliment Jennifer on her gun handling.
She smiles, then something catches her attention. "Hey, Dad!" she exclaims, pointing to a patch of asters, "There's a monarch butterfly!"
Sure enough. We walk over for a closer look. Though it's mid-October, a few monarchs are still migrating through Missouri, adding their color to the rich reds and golds of fall. With quiet interest we watch one as it probes for nectar. Since my childhood I've been fascinated by butterflies.
Having thoroughly explored several flower heads, the monarch moves on. And so do we.
Hunting strategy for the day is to try to locate birds visually, using binoculars to search fields, and by sound, through setting up in the timber and calling to turkeys that may be out of sight. As we enter the first wooded ridge where we'll set up, I motion Jennifer to be quiet. We both move cautiously, taking care not to snap sticks.
At the base of a large post oak I kneel and scrape away leaves, making a space large enough for both Jennifer and me. We sit, shoulder-to-shoulder, and from our day bags pull camouflaged gloves and headnets. Jennifer pulls hers on, strikes a silly pose and whispers jokingly, "How do I look?"
"Beautiful!" I retort.
With calls arranged at my side we settle in and get serious. I instruct Jennifer to carefully place a shell in her shotgun and close the action. She does so but has trouble snapping the action shut. It's stiff and requires several tries.
With safety checked, we're ready.
I tell Jennifer that after I call, a bird might answer or might not, and that sometimes turkeys come to a call without answering, so we need to listen carefully for crunching leaves that might betray an approaching bird.
I call. Nothing answers. We wait quietly for a few minutes. Still nothing.
Jennifer leans my way and whispers, "Are you sure there are turkeys here?"
Her question reminds me that most young hunters want fast action.
I tell Jennifer that I'm not sure if any turkeys are close enough to respond to my calls, but that I have killed several turkeys over the years right from this spot. What we need to do is sit quietly for 15 minutes