The Apprentice

I had been glassing the fields around me for three hours when I saw a turkey fan 200 yards in the distance.   It turned sideways and then back around so the fan was displayed again. My shivering was replaced with a shot of adrenalin.    “Finally, some action” I said to myself.    Raising my binoculars to look, the turkey fan became a stump on the hillside.  A stump?  I was seeing things.  Lowering the optics, I looked along the hillside in the distance, scanning to where apple saplings with white bark protector sleeves were lined up like soldiers in rows.   Then they all began to move and strobe.  Whoa.   Now, curling up in a ball for a nap seemed like a great idea.  It was 9am and 35 degrees with winds gusting 20-30mph.  Chilled, I had two hours before been flexing muscle groups till they ached, then gotten the shivers till they went away.   I could not hold my gun or even work my slate call anymore.  I was in second stage hypothermia and I knew it.
View of my decoys from my hunting spot
Struggling to my feet, I crawled from my spot under some evergreen boughs and half staggered through the winter wheat field for 50 yards.   I gave my bird call signal, and my husband Don popped out of his hunting spot to walk toward me.

“I have hypothermia,” I lisped.  “Sorry I have to wreck our hunt.”    He held me there for a moment and the warmth felt surreal after being cold for so long.   We agreed it was time to hang it up.  No turkey in its right mind would be out in weather like this.
Don and Linda with turkey kill Don ready for a shot
The previous weekend I had bagged a turkey under ideal conditions and in the classic style.   Don had never hunted before and was turkey hunting for the first time so it was exciting to have him experience a successful hunt.    I had gotten him some camo for Christmas and he had purchased more himself.  He had also just invested in a Benelli M2 - 12 gauge shotgun in camo, so he was serious about this sport.   At 7:30am that first day, I had shot and missed one gobbler after calling it in after misjudging the distance to be 50 yards instead of the actual 82 yards it turned out to be.  The winter wheat field appeared very flat to the naked eye with things looking closer than they actually were.    Don was set up 75 yards from me in another evergreen cluster.   He had not completed a firearm safety course yet, so Ohio required he buy an “apprentice” hunting license and be within shouting distance  of a licensed hunter while afield… namely, me.   Half hour later, another gobble had come from my left and I began to do quiet yelps with my mouth call.   Then I got a visual on the bird that was 100 yards away tending three hens, one of whom was obviously vamping for him.  She paced 15 yards back and forth, yelping off and on, and several times she hunkered down in anticipation.
view from my hunting blind in the everygreens two Bucks ten feet away... notice the antler buds and they are losing their winter hair
Each time the gobbler went to her, I mimicked her yelping, and the Tom would turn and come toward my decoys instead.  The hen was getting perturbed at this competition.  It was back and forth between the hen and I for about an hour, until the gobbler committed to my decoys, making a B-line in my direction.   My hunting blind was a nest of evergreen boughs set up in barricade fashion.  I positioned my shotgun toward the decoys and through the evergreen boughs as the gobbler arrived at 30 yards and went into a fan again getting ready to confront my jake decoy.  My gun muzzle bumped one of the evergreen bows as I readied to shoot, and the gobbler un-fanned and popped his head up.  The bumped muzzle sent my shot low.   The gobbler turned tail and ran directly away from me and in a split second I jumped to my feet for an off-hand shot and boofed him.   The bird was flapping its last, so I set my gun down and bolted for it to step on its neck and pin its legs so the spurs would not gore me.   Don had emerged from his spot, and I waved for him to come.  He ran over and I borrowed his foot for the turkey neck duty as my lighter weight was not doing the trick.  The bird had flailed with its legs and had already bruised my right hand.
turkey eggs and nest my first antler sheds found when we were scouting for turkeys mid day
Later that day, we hunted from another spot and saw turkeys for an hour or so, but Don didn’t get a shot.   We had a gobbler approaching our decoys at one point and the moment of truth was minutes away, but a truck drove close by and scared the bird away.  I had set up without a gun that afternoon since Ohio law does not allow taking a second bird in the same day even if you have two tags.  I was doing the calling for Don, something I had never done for anyone before.    We learned that we needed to have signals set up in advance in the event I saw something from my perspective that he did not see.  So I was an apprentice as well.

Every hunt has a focal point.  Interestingly, the most memorable part of my Ohio turkey season wasn’t taking another gobbler or demonstrating how to dress and cut it up later or even finding my first antler sheds.  The best memory was sharing a sport I love with someone who was eager to learn, a good sport, easy to be with and a fast learner.   Best of all, I am married to him.   It was both having and being an apprentice.

Gear Used For This Hunt:
  • ASAT Camo leafy wear & full head cover
  • Gander Mountain Tech2O Camo rain wear
  • Benelli shotguns:  M2 and M1-super 90
  • Mountain Screamer Game Calls
  • SmartWool sox and base layers
  • Featherflex decoys
  • 10X Brand turkey vest
  • Nikon Monarch Binoculars
  • Bushnell Yardage Pro Rangefinder