Making Memories One Hunt at a Time

My daughter, Abigail, has turkey hunted with me since she was 10. Pennsylvania has a wonderful hunter mentor program and also a Saturday set aside for youth to hunt spring turkey. Abigail and I have not missed a single Youth Saturday hunt since she was 10 yet she still had not punched her turkey tag. We were both hoping that streak would end this year during the 2019 Youth Spring Turkey hunt.

Abby hunting in the spring of 2018.

Saturday, April 20th could not get here soon enough for Abigail. My good friend, Dan Kuzma, had been scouting a group of turkey for us and he would often send us pictures of the Toms. The week leading up to the Youth Saturday, Dan sent us pictures almost every day. The weather looked to be rainy so we had to make plans to get a groundblind set up. Dan mentioned that he had a blind and that he would be willing to set it up for us on Saturday morning. Everything would be ready for us when we arrived the next morning.

The evening before the Youth Hunt Abigail and I were making sure we had everything we needed for the next morning. Together we went over shot placement on turkeys and I had her practice maneuvering the 20 gauge Shotgun. I wanted her to feel comfortable with the shotgun in the Caldwell Deadshot Fieldpod. Abigail told me she felt confident with the 20 gauge in the Fieldpod. I added a few more things to out packs and then suggested she get some sleep.

That night I tucked Abigail into bed and we said her prayers. Kissing her forehead I wished her good luck and told her I would get her up at 4:45 am. She snuggled up in her covers and drifted off to sleep. I closed her door and went to the kitchen to get some breakfast snacks ready for the early morning. I went over in my mind all of the things we would need to have ready for the morning hunt and felt it was time for me to get some sleep.

The loud beep of my alarm clock woke me from my sleep. I quickly reached over and turned the alarm off. My dog Luna was excited to get out of her kennel. I didn’t have to worry about waking my wife as she had worked 3rd shift and was not due to be done until 7:30 am. Looking at my clock I noticed it said 5:15 am and not 4:45 am. Had I made a mistake? Sure enough, I had set the alarm at the wrong time. I quickly went to Abigail’s room and woke her up.

As Abigail quickly dressed, I texted Dan to let him we were running late. He assured me that we had plenty of time and that he had put the turkeys to bed last night. Abigail and I grabbed all out gear and headed out the door. We had a 35 - minute drive to get to our spot and that was going to cut things very close.

Traffic was light on the roads and we were making good time. Abigail ate some breakfast as I drove. She had many questions for me. I answered each one to the best of my ability. She felt confident that this was going to be her year for a nice Gobbler! I was hoping she was right.

Slowly pulling into Dan’s house we saw him waiting for us. Dan came to the truck and helped us with the gear. He graciously walked us to the blind and helped us get set up. There was a light rain falling and the sky was a light grey. The sun was still coming up and the songbirds were busy singing their sweet music. Dan zipped us in the blind, wished us good luck, and headed back to his house. Abigail and I got her gun set up in the Caldwell Deadshot Fieldpod and relaxed a bit.

A loud, close gobble grabbed our attention! Abigail peered through the opening in the blind. I was still setting up Tactacam cameras for the hunt. The bird gobbled again and then another. Abigail said she could see two birds on the hillside and they were strutting around each other. She adjusted her position so she could swing the gun towards two of the three open windows. Another gobble followed by another triple gobble. These two Toms were fired up this morning.

Abigail wanted me to call to the birds to see if they would gobble back. Using my Mountain Hollow Prima Donna call, I made a few soft yelps. The two energetic birds gobbled immediately! Abigail giggled and said that the two birds were still in the same spot. Not being able to see much, I opened the window nearest to me and saw 6 hens coming our way. Watching the hens pick at bugs in the grass they passed behind the blind. Grabbing my gobbler tube I let out two powerful gobbles. The two love drunk Casanovas started heading our way.

Looking out the window I told Abigail to get ready because the birds were closing the distance fast. I turned on the 3 Tactacam cameras and let them run. The two gobblers had made it to the bottom of the hill and were looking to cross the small creek. Abigail had to adjust her position so I paused the Tactacams to help her. She was finally ready for the birds to close the distance.

The first Tom came up over the hill and stopped 20 yards from the blind. Abigail said she didn’t have a shot. The turkey began to walk towards the blind and Abigail was stuck. I helped her adjust again and get ready for the shot. The lovesick Tom never saw her moving around in the blind. The gobbler passed the first window and was now in the second window. Abigail was struggling to get behind the gun. The Tom was now in the third window and walking quickly to meet up with the hens. Abigail stood up from her seat, got the 20 gauge in place and touched off her shot.

Down went the gobbler and Abigail let out a shout for joy! We hugged and celebrated her first turkey. I went to stop the Tactacam cameras and realized I had never restarted them. A sick feeling settled in my stomach! I remember pausing the cameras to help Abigail get set for the shot and I never hit the button to record the hunt. I told Abby I was sorry for not getting the shot on film. She could have cared less. She was on cloud nine and there was nothing that could bring her down.

Abby is all smiles with her gobbler.

Down went the gobbler and Abigail let out a shout for joy! We hugged and celebrated her first turkey. I went to stop the Tactacam cameras and realized I had never restarted them. A sick feeling settled in my stomach! I remember pausing the cameras to help Abigail get set for the shot and I never hit the button to record the hunt. I told Abby I was sorry for not getting the shot on film. She could have cared less. She was on cloud nine and there was nothing that could bring her down.

Abigail couldn’t unzip the blind quick enough. She ran out of the blind to her downed gobbler. She was so excited and her face was beaming! Dan came and met us and offered to take pictures. Dan had Abigail do all kinds of poses with her Tom.

As we were finishing up the pictures a light rain began to fall. Abigail carried her prize back to the truck as Dan and I packed up the gear. Once back at the truck Abigail asked if she could get a fan mount. I told her to talk to Dan if he had time to do a fan mount. Dan is a licensed taxidermist and of course, he said yes. Abigail gave Dan a big hug and we both thanked him for helping us on this hunt.

Abby listening for more gobblers in the distance.

As the rain began to pick up we pulled out of Dan’s driveway and headed towards home. Abigail wanted to call her mom and tell her the great news. Abigail retold the story perfectly to her mom who congratulated her on the successful hunt. Abigail next called both of her grandparents and retold the story yet again. I am thinking she would have told the story to anyone who wanted to listen.

At home, I measured the beard and spurs for Abigail. The turkey had matching ⅞ inch spurs and an 8 6/8 inch beard. Together, Abigail and I dressed the bird and cleaned it up. It was an amazing time to share with her. I love making hunting memories with my children. Each and every hunt is a special time that gives me memories that nothing can take away!

Abby heading to the truck with her first gobbler!

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Brian R. Kightlinger Productions 2018

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