By Anthony Wescoat
-- I think that the greatest hunting stories in the world are the stories of firsts. First deer, turkey, duck, it doesn't matter. These are the stories that bring out the biggest smiles, the deepest memories and the most pride. For me, this story is even better because it wasn't about me.
This story is about two of the most caring and down to earth young ladies you could ever meet. Jessica and Heather are both incredibly close friends of mine, and in past year they have both shown interest in the shooting sports and outdoor lifestyle. I got them into hunting with a few easy going duck hunts where it really didn't matter what happened. As long as they were having fun, enjoying the scenery and enjoying themselves, I was content.
Spring rolled around, and they started asking me about turkey season. I would never turn down an opportunity to get two beautiful young ladies more involved with hunting, so I promised I would get them both birds that season. I almost immediately regretted that promise as I began to think about how difficult it can be to call a mature bird into shotgun range. I had put the pressure on myself by making a promise, but I decided to give it my best shot.
As the season approached, another complication arose. I had tests for college through much of the hunting season, so I really only had one weekend to get the job done. A few days before the season, I took the girls to the back of the farm to pattern the guns, and to introduce them to the kick. After this, they would know why their shoulders were going to hurt a few days after they shot their turkeys. I also wanted them to practice what to do if a pair of birds came in so they had the greatest chance of bagging a bird.
I did have one concern -- they both only weigh about 100 pounds, so I was a little worried about them shooting 12-gauge shotguns with 3 1/2-inch shells. They said they would try it, and by the end of the day we had some great laughs. The girls were even more pumped up and ready to go.
Opening day rolled around, and I have never seen these two wake up so fast, and in such a good mood; especially at 4:30 in the morning. We headed to the property that is properly named "Turkey Ridge."
We hiked to the top of the hill and waited for the birds to start gobbling. As we sat waiting, Heather told me that she had a funny feeling in her stomach. Every hunter knows what feeling she was talking about. Almost immediately after she said that, a pair of gobbles blasted out of a tree that was only 200 yards away. The girls' eyes lit up and their jaws dropped.
We quietly walked toward the birds and cut the distance in half. To add one more level of difficulty to my morning, I had decided to try to capture this hunt on film. We found one large oak tree to set up on. I was worried about putting three people on one tree, but we did have some brush in front of us. I settled in and let the girls calm down for a few moments. I gave a few wake-up yelps to let the birds know where we were. Before I could even get the third note off of my mouth call, both birds hammered twice! I leaned in and whispered to the girls, "They know where we are, so now we sit and wait for them to fly down."
I signaled to the girls to get their guns ready. There was gobbling coming from all directions, and these two were the most aggressive and the loudest.
They came out of the tree line about 75 yards away. I peeked over and could see the girls breathing as if they had just finished running a marathon. I, of course, had not even raised my pulse. Actually, I was probably breathing harder than them. I don't know if they understood what was about to happen. Their first time out ever; a pair of mature toms at 50 yards; and all caught on video. Could this really be happening?
The birds walked to the left about 15 yards from the decoys. I was waiting to hear the blast from both barrels ... waiting ... still waiting ... the birds began to move away.
I began to whisper loudly, "SHOOT! SHOOT!" I heard Jessica whisper something to Heather ... 1 ...2 ...3 ...BOOM!!! Both birds hit the ground and started flopping. The girls sat there, not comprehending what had just happened.
"What do we do?" one of them asked. I'm not sure who said it because everything was such a blur at that point.
I replied, "Go get them!"
Jessica and Heather jumped up, but instead of picking up the birds, they began jumping up and down and screaming and hugging each other. I'm pretty sure that every other hunter for a square mile heard the commotion that these girls were making.
When we got home we shared the story and the video, which was awesome.
If you noticed in the preceding sentence I said the video WAS awesome.
The day had been all too perfect. Somewhere in the 15 minutes after we watched the video I managed to record over the hunt. I was absolutely sick to my stomach from what I had done. I think Heather found the only thing that could make me more at ease ... "That just means we have to do it again next year."
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