Going on your first hunt is something you will never forget. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a deer, turkey, duck or pheasant hunt. So, what do you have when you have a guide, turkey decoys, a crisp April morning and a twelve-year-old boy? You have one excited young man with a turkey license in hand, going on his very first hunt. My cousin Troy doesn’t hunt a lot, but enough that it has sparked an interest in his 12-year-old boy Ben. He has also seen all of the animals that Jim & I bring home from year after year. Ben has been waiting & planning on going on this hunt for two years now. So to say he was excited and ready was an understatement.
My husband Jim and I told Ben he could put in to be drawn in the area where our land was, but we knew that he wouldn’t get drawn the first year. So when his dad Troy heard about the yearly youth turkey hunt that takes place at a local park, they signed Ben up. Ben couldn’t wait to go on his first hunt, it’s all he could talk about and think of for several months before.
Unfortunately, on April 11, just ten days before Ben’s hunt there was a very tragic accident in our family. Troy’s sister and Ben’s Aunt Tracy and two of her children, (Matthew and Lucas) were tragically killed in an automobile accident down in Des Moines, Iowa. It was so unexpected, and very shocking that our whole family was in denial. None of us could believe or understand it, and everyone was left with their heart aching not only for the loss we felt, but for the loss that Troy‘s whole family was forced to deal with. It was such an unthinkable event that Turkey hunting was now the last thing on any of our minds, well except for Ben that is.
Losing a loved one is always such a sad, confusing, and complicated event for any family to deal with, let alone a 12-year-old boy. In watching Ben, I was sure he was feeling just that. I kept an eye on him throughout the funeral, and just knew that he was sad, confused and quite upset about that weeks events. Seeing his parents, grandparents, uncle, and cousin’s all upset crying and mourning the loss of such special, and beautiful people. He had lost his Aunt and two cousins and all of it was so frightening. And it wasn’t familiar, he comes from a happy, upbeat, family where his everyday world doesn’t involve such trauma. He’s a young man full of adventure and the happy-go-lucky boy who was now forced into this scary sense of sadness.
After the funeral Ben was concerned about when they would be going home from Iowa. He was thinking that maybe they would miss his turkey hunt and wondered if they would have to stay longer in Iowa. After all, before all the sadness he was waiting to go on his hunt with his Dad. Troy reassured him that they would be home before Saturday morning for his hunt. It was just the medicine they needed, to take their minds off of everything else.
On Friday we got a call from Troy, they were indeed home and he wanted to know if Jim and I were still going to go along and video tape Ben’s first turkey hunt! I said, “you bet we are, what time should we be there?” So bright and early the next day we met Troy and Ben at the Chester Woods Park where the hunt would take place. All the boys and one girl listened to Mitch the DNR officer who was heading up the orientation, telling them what to expect, and to be safe and telling them that they would draw numbers to see who their guide was, and to see which location they would be hunting. Ben drew lucky number one and his guide was non other than Mitch, our local DNR officer. Not only would Ben learn the correct way to tag a bird if he succeeded, but Mitch was an excellent turkey caller. Mitch showed us our location on a topo map and we were off to get the two blinds set up. One for Jim and I to video from, and one for Ben, Mitch and Troy.
We didn’t have to wait long, the Tom turkeys started gobbling and making a big ruckus in the tree tops to the right, and behind us. They were roosted not far away and we hoped that when they flew down they would head in our direction where the live looking decoys stood. They were talking and gobbling and carrying on and it made us all smile with anticipation and wondering how the early morning hunt would play out.
As it was getting lighter we looked out of the blind to see a lone hen going across the long, wind flowing, grassy, meadow in front of us. The wind was starting to pick up and we saw a couple does cross and dart into the timber. Just when it was legal light we seen a gobbler that had spotted our decoys and was making a B-line over in full strut. Mitch, was coaching Ben and telling him to get ready and take him when you have him in your sites. The big Tom tried to mount the hen decoy and paraded around it to the left and then back to the right. Ka-Boom! Ben’s turkey was down! Only five minutes into the hunt and Ben’s shot was the first one to ring across the valley and meadows on that beautiful spring morning. One big turkey Gobbler down, and one very excited young man! He was Ben’s first bird, and first kill. We were all so proud of Ben, for taking such a great bird and for staying calm and focused while making the perfect shot.
I couldn’t help but think of Tracy and the boys. She and the boys would have been so proud of Ben and his first Turkey. She was a very nurturing and non-selfish person. At that time I just knew that Ben had some help from some very special Angels who were watching over him that morning. I then looked at Ben and told him, “Hey bud, do you know what just happened? Your Aunt Tracy and cousins Lucas and Matthew were here and they helped you get your first bird this morning.” I wanted him to understand that although they were no longer here on earth with us, that they would still be with us in spirit now and always. Ben shook his head in a yes motion, and looked down at his bird, he knelt by him, petted him and commented on how pretty he was. He was as happy as can be with his 25-pound turkey with 1 ½ inch spurs, it was great seeing him admire his very first trophy.
Heading back to the main park I thought about what a great experience this was for Ben and about how much he had learned that day. Everyone including Ben’s Grandparents were so proud of him. It was a small spirit lifter after all their family had been through, but non-the-less it was a great day for Ben and his family, a day he will never forget!
© January 2008