Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

First turkey. Lasting Memory – First Place, Senior Prose

The alarm rang and I jumped out of bed. I kept telling myself
that this was going to be the year. This was going to be the season
that I would get a turkey. I had trouble sleeping that night but I
was not at all tired by the 4:30 a.m. wake up. I walked over to my
neighbor’s house with my gear. Each call was inspected, my gun
cleaned, and everything was ready the night before. I had been
preparing for the morning of May 1 for a long time.

My neighbor, a veteran turkey hunter, seemed almost more excited
than me as we set out for the long drive to my dad’s vineyards. He
had many beards to his name and is also an excellent deer hunter as
well as fly-fisherman.

As we drove, my neighbor said “We should see some nice birds
today. Last year it seemed they were all over around the
bottom.”

Every word got me more excited for the morning ahead until we
had finally arrived. My neighbor parked by the tractors near the
old barn and we began to prepare. I took my Ithaca 37 pump out of
its case and looked at it for a while. My dad had given it to me
the year before. He had also received it from my grandfather when
he was about my age. The gun shined against the car lights. I was
very eager and pulled all my camo on in a flash, put the shells in
my pocket, and made sure I didn’t forget anything.

We began to walk down the vineyard rows in the dark. A loud
snort sounded and three deer ran passed us, tails up, and bounding
toward the car above. The decent down toward the woods was
invigorating. We made it toward the woods below the vineyards and
discussed the game plan.

My neighbor whispered “Kyle, you go down and sit by the clearing
and set up the decoys a ways in front of you. I’ll sit a little
behind you and call.” I nodded and we walked town toward the
woodline. Each step resounded through the tranquil and pitch black
forest as my feet crunched against all the leaves and twigs. I
slowed down and tried to be a little quieter. Noises echoed from
far off in all directions. It was an eerie feeling but we pressed
on. I made out the clearing and prepared for the morning. It was a
small clearing surrounded by hardwoods consisting of some large oak
and walnut trees. I crept forward and planted the jake and hen
decoy below where I would sit. I found my tree, as well. It was a
large majestic oak that I could barely make out in the dark. I
quietly cleared away the sticks and rocks near the base and began
to sit. All was quiet as I sat down. The leaves rustled in the
slight breeze. I could even make out my breath in the air on the
crisp morning. All was calm and yet I had a feeling that would soon
change.

The sky began to brighten and the stars began to slowly
disappear from the night sky. Keuka Lake was slightly visible down
through the trees. The light shimmered off the water and I began to
almost become entranced staring at the distant lake. Suddenly
something happened. A deep, throaty gobble resounded through the
forest, quickly followed by two other gobbles all of which seemed
to be from below me. My neighbor responded with a soothing hen
yelp. The gobbler responded and I knew that he must have been
pleased with what he heard. The gobbles continued as the sky grew
brighter. I couldn’t help myself from shaking as the gobbles
continued. The excitement was indescribable. This calm morning had
been transformed into a loud chorus of gobbles. I gripped my gun
tighter and prepared for what was to happen. As the sun dipped over
the hill across from the lake, the gobbling ceased. The tension
grew. Minutes began to feel like hours until I saw him. He walked
over the crest below me. It was the most majestic yet prehistoric
sight I had ever seen. The sun was shone against the iridescent
feathers of the wild turkey below me. I could see at that moment
why Benjamin Franklin thought so highly of the wild turkey. The tom
stepped purposefully toward the decoys below me. I raised my gun
slowly. I aligned the double beads right on his head and switched
the safety off. He came into range. This was it, the moment I had
waited for. I squeezed the trigger and a large explosion followed.
The bird lay still against the dead leaves. My neighbor ran down to
congratulate me.

“You did it Kyle!” he yelled as we walked down to inspect the
tom that lay before us. I filled out the tag and attached it to the
leg above the spur with string. My neighbor showed me how to carry
it against my shoulder and we made a proud walk up to the car.

Many turkeys later and I still remember the day I harvested my
first turkey like it was yesterday. I hung the fan and beard above
my bed and the display is still there now. Every time I go out in
the woods I am reminded of that day. Ever since, I have been hooked
on turkey hunting as well as fly-fishing and deer hunting. I would
encourage everyone to take a young person or anyone new to the
sport out for turkeys some time. It may not be for everyone, but I
am very grateful I that I got the opportunity. Who knows? You might
just make a new hunting buddy.

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