The Perfect Season
hand, mimicking the sound of a turkey flying down from roost. He then scratched up the leaves with one hand, making the sounds of a turkey foraging on the forest floor.
I felt relaxed until Wayne whispered to me. He thought the bird was going to come from the left side of the lane, and he asked if I could swing around so I could shoot in that direction. My turkey hunting life flashed before my eyes, and the thought of possibly spooking this bird by moving was more than I could bear. Instead, I simply shifted my gun to my right hand. I'd shoot him right handed. I lifted the gun to my right shoulder and held it there.
A moment later I saw something black ahead of us. The black forms came into focus, materializing into the forms of two turkeys walking straight toward us. Wayne told me later that he could hear me breathing. I think my entire system was going about a thousand miles an hour. I couldn't see beards on the birds, and I quickly scanned their heads for the color red but didn't see that either.
"Are they both gobblers?" I asked in a whisper.
"Yes," Wayne whispered back.
I sighted down the rib on my gun, but my left eye was fighting my right eye for dominance, making the bird on the right seem to hover above the gun. The birds were still coming toward us as I forced my right eye into the sight picture I wanted, then squeezed the trigger.
At the sound of my 12-gauge, my turkey collapsed, quivered once or twice and then died. My jinx was over, and suddenly I heard songbirds in the trees, felt the twigs I had been sitting on and smelled smokeless powder mingled with scent of oak trees and damp soil. My breathing returned to normal.
A shot from Wayne's gun quickly followed mine, but his bird was already moving, and he missed it. My hands trembled as I took my tag out of my wallet and wrapped it around the bird's leg. He was a jake with a short beard, no old patriarch of the woods, but he looked great to me. More importantly, I had learned an awful lot about turkey hunting from someone who is a master at the sport.
A week later Wayne sat in the woods next to his 12-year old son, Cody. Three birds came in to an opening unannounced. Cody shot his first turkey then quickly handed the gun to his dad, and he shot a bird, too. It was a perfect end to a perfect season, made possible for Cody and me by a generous person with an unbounded love of the outdoors and with skills I am unable to fathom.
April, and turkey hunting season, can't come soon enough.