I’ve always found that the most treasured feelings in life are rooted from passing on education. Whether it’s a father admiring his lessons as his son attempts riding a bike without training-wheels or a mother and her daughter preparing homemade cookies, moments like that are never forgotten. As outdoors people, we have the blessed opportunity to pass on a legacy we hold dear to our heart and soul. We’re able to enlighten new people, teens, or beginners into the sport of hunting.
A week before season, my friend Karlee and I scaled the central Wisconsin hills in search for turkey sign. Scouting is by far the most critical phase in preparation for the hunt. It’s essential to understand the land layout, food sources, and roosting areas during a turkey hunt as well as any hunt at that.
We moved along the alfalfa field, until she spotted a handful of fluffy feathers buried beneath the grass. I explained that this was a roosting area, by the looks of all the white pine trees along the field. I explained to her that the branches of white pines are like beds to turkey. They spend half of their life sinking their claws into the bark and sleeping throughout the night. We continued on our mini-journey through the woods in pursuit of hardcore evidence of my favorite feathered-critters.
A week had passed and the hunt was coming faster than we both realized. We found ourselves driving to the morning setup. I had to give some credit to Karlee. She was really a trooper. She woke at 3:30am, a time that she’d probably never seen before.
Karlee and I slowly crept into the forest’s darkness. We tiptoed through the woods, over a small stream, and under an old barbed-wire fence. She told me it felt like we were on a mission. I told her she couldn’t be any more right!
The morning setup was only a hundred yards from where Karlee found the turkey feathers. A jumble of white pines and a small patch of cedars is the only thing that held back Karlee’s first turkey. As morning light danced upon the horizon, the woods came alive. Morning songbirds sung a sweet melody as the geese chimed in every now and then. The squirrels began rummaging through the forest floor and deer sluggishly walking back to their beds after a long night of gorging. I knew it would only be minutes until I’d watch Karlee’s eyes pop from the shriek of a gobble.
The turkey began claiming dominance with thunderous gobbles soon after the crack of dawn. I nudged Karlee to pick up a call and softly begin chiming love toward their direction. She was able to ignite a few gobbles from her box call. We waited motionless for another five minutes until I spotted a gobbler fluttering through the air en route to Karlee’s yelp. The gobbler pompously walked into range while strutting the entire time. This scenario was absolutely perfect, one that doesn’t come too often when hunting these random critters.
Karlee steadied her shotgun as the bird high-stepped his way in looking for the imaginary lovesick hen. When the tom crossed the 20-yard mark I told Karlee to fill his face with bb’s. She did just that! An eruption of bb’s burnt through the air splattering into the gobbler’s face. We both couldn’t help laughing. She looked completely speechless. She was glowing with pride and shaking with turkey-fever. I soaked every moment of it up. All the while I thanked God because I knew in my heart that this was an experience that she’d never forget for the rest of her life.
We gathered the big gobbler. It weighed nearly 24 pounds and sported a 10-inch beard. I took at least a hundred photos of the bird and Karlee in different settings and situations. She couldn’t quite figure out why I was so camera-happy. Little did she know, I was documenting a historic moment in both of our lives. I can promise you that Karlee’s first hunt will be a conversation piece with her friends and family for years to come. I was just pleased to have everything turn out perfect. Hunting to me is simple, it’s about making lasting memories with people you enjoy spending time with. So go spend some time with someone that makes you happy in the woods or on the water. It will surely be an experience you won’t forget.
by Brandon Wikman