I couldn't believe my eyes as I peered out my bedroom window at 4:30 AM on April 13th in Southeastern Wisconsin. Snow. This fluffy white stuff that had dominated our landscape for the past six months was going to wreak havoc on our chances at a spring gobbler. We had hunted similar conditions the week before during the youth hunt which forced the birds to lock up and remain safe in their fortress constructed of dogwood, buckthorn, elm and ash trees. With a disgruntled groan, I heaved myself out of bed, threw on my camo and grabbed a cup of coffee before stepping out onto the back porch. Crisp morning air hit my lungs and I felt as though I should be gearing up to chase mallards instead of spring gobblers. Despite the unfavorable conditions, I made the trip to my parents place a few miles outside of town.
When I arrived I found my father already up and ready to go – we charged out into the cold darkness, not sure what the morning would bring. Both of us knew the approximate location of the roosting birds, so I set the old man up in a fallen boxelder tree right on the edge of the field the toms had been strutting in. I took my place at his 4 o'clock and got the camera setup just before the Kings of Spring started to sing their praises.
Sitting there, listening to the distant gobbles of thunder chickens struck a chord with my soul. I looked over to my father sitting a mere 10 yards away and began to reflect on why during moments such as these, when neither of us talk, did I feel the closest to him. My father was always a busy guy while I was growing up, but he never failed to make time to take me "turtle fishing", go for walks in the local streams or cast for bullheads near the dam downtown. He instilled a curiosity and appreciation for the outdoors in me which affects every facet of my life these days. I could never thank him enough for all the sacrifices that he has made over the years to provide for our family yet still dedicate what little free time he had to create memories such as these with me. Here, in the middle of a small 20 acre woodlot, I had no distractions such as cell phones, accomplishing the next item on a to-do list or work related worries. I could simply sit and enjoy all of creations goodness in the company of my father. Spending time together outdoors was the link that bound us together.
All of a sudden, my concentration was broken by the loud cry of a Tom that had just spotted our decoys. The bird had slowly been working his way up the treeline from 100 plus yards north of us. While I had the camera rolling, I only caught the last 15 seconds of the bird running in due to a brush pile that had obstructed my view. His few last steps before pouncing on our Tom decoy were cut short by a 3 inch magnum turkey load screaming out of the barrel of my dad's Benelli. There before us lay the largest bird ever taken on the property - a nice Tom donning 1 1/4 inch spurs and an 11 inch beard. My heart flooded with pride for dad.
Though my parents will always think of me as a kid, I like to think that I'm ahead of the curve when it comes to philosophizing about life and understanding the importance of strong family ties. Over the past few years, I have done less shooting and focused more on letting my father and sister pull the trigger. I get just as much satisfaction by being able to share in the memory and take a few pictures along the way.
Thanks for everything dad - I had a great time hunting with you and hope that we can continue to share moments together in the outdoors.