Alabama huntress gains perspective from friends
By Rozanne Patten
I've always been a little selfish with turkeys. I don't allow just anyone to take one of these amazing creatures off my property. But when my little brother, Austin, called and asked to hunt, I couldn't say no, but I had stipulations.
I let him know I'd only heard two gobblers all season. Those birds stayed together, and I didn't want more than one of them shot.
I was hesitant to give permission, but I wanted Austin to enjoy the experience, especially since he'd never shot a turkey.
Still, I made it clear I didn't want his hunting buddy, whom I didn't know, to shoot one. These were MY turkeys!
At that point of the season, I'd only hunted my property three times, and I had to leave turkeys still gobbling on each occasion. I knew I could likely call one in during an upcoming weekend, but I was going to be leaving to hunt at a different camp with my friend Brad.
It was after an unsuccessful Saturday morning hunt on Brad's place that I learned my brother and his buddy had BOTH taken gobblers on my property - a double - and in the same area where I'd left my pair of gobbling Toms.
I was happy for Austin, but I was furious that someone I didn't know who'd been told not to shoot had shot one of my turkeys!
Now I felt like my best chance for shooting a gobbler on my own property was gone. I'd had a lack of success bowhunting turkeys the previous season. It felt like the bad luck streak was continuing.
Back at Brad's camp, a man named Daniel saw how upset I was and offered to call in a gobbler for me. He was well known for his calling skills, so I decided to give it a shot.
That afternoon, as we sat unenthusiastically in the miserable Alabama sun, suddenly an old tom started gobbling!
The earth-shattering call made me forget heat. My heart pounded faster and faster as the gobbles became louder and closer.
The adrenaline rush made me want to jump up and down, but I sat so still I could've competed with a street performer statue!
When the tom gobbled at the edge of a field, my optimism peaked. My heart was beating out of my chest, and my finger was on the trigger, but the tom never appeared. It finally headed back into the woods to roost.
"It's okay," Daniel said. "We'll get him in the morning."
The next morning when the alarm sounded, I hit the snooze button. I was exhausted from several mornings of chasing finicky Alabama birds. I might have slept in but Daniel knocked on the door and said, "Roz, if you don't get up, I'm gonna shoot that turkey myself."
I immediately threw the covers off and got ready to go!
I still remember that day's hunt as if it was yesterday. A light breeze carried the scent of wisteria and dawn was breaking as Daniel, Brad and I quietly walked to a place Daniel called his Honey Hole.
I realized we should have been there earlier, and could have kicked myself for hitting the snooze button.
The birds were already beginning to chirp as we made our way toward an opening in the woods. I stopped in my tracks when a gobble roared through the trees like thunder. We knew we had to set up in a hurry!
Daniel and I sat against a small tree while Brad set up a gobbler decoy to our right and readied a video camera to film the action.
We'd learned from a previous hunt not to call to this bird too much, so we were very careful not to go overboard.
Daniel let out a soft tree yelp and the bird answered with a loud, heart-stopping gobble.
Each time we yelped, it gobbled, but seemed to be getting farther away. Obviously, the old tom wanted us to follow him. Instead, we became silent.
After about 10 minutes of anxiously waiting for the mystery hen to appear, the girlfriendless tom couldn't stand it any longer, and gobbled.
Daniel made one soft yelp and cluck, then shut up.
The gobbler became more vocal, demanding an answer, and we remained quiet and didn't give in.
Two hens appeared and began to cross the field. They were almost to the other side when the gobbler stepped out into an old dirt road that entered the field.
It paid no attention to the hens when it spotted our gobbler decoy all blown up, shining in the sunlight and turning ever so slightly with the breeze.
That tom took off like a rocket, running all the way to the decoy!
I followed its bright blue head with my gun barrel, which spooked both hens, but that old tom was only concerned with the other gobbler. Its fan unfolded beautifully as it reached its artificial nemesis, strutting and drumming to declare dominance.
It wasn't until it heard Daniel's soft purr that it poked its head up.
I held my breath and pulled the trigger on my 12-gauge and watched as the No. 5 shot rock its head backward.
I leapt to my feet and ran to collect my prize!
Daniel immediately took a picture with his cell phone to send to all his buddies.
As I carried the 20-pound bird back to the truck, I realized how selfish I'd been earlier. Daniel didn't even know me, but he was thrilled just to see the smile on my face and the excitement in my eyes from harvesting that bird.
He and Brad could have shot it for themselves, but neither did. Instead, they shared their time, effort and turkeys with me and showed me what hunting is all about. I immediately called my brother.
That entire experience taught me hunting should be about sharing the adventure and helping others feel the excitement of pulling a trigger.
Now, as president of the Alexander City, Ala., chapter of the NWTF, I'm doing just that.
I'm thrilled my brother collected his first turkey last season, and it's only fair that his friend, who got up early to call for my brother, was able to harvest one as well.
This story should be a lesson that no matter who harvests the turkey, it's all about sharing the enjoyment. As long as we manage our properties well, there will always be more turkeys.
As it turns out, I shot a double-bearded gobbler later in the season and in the same field where my brother and his friend shot their double. Lesson Learned!