A normal turkey week at the Smith house, with two high schoolers who love the sport but also prefer avoiding tardy-related punishments is, in a word, chaotic.
Repeatedly rising an hour before the already early school alarm takes its toll; frogging around until making the mad dash to school, changing from camo to school clothes in the parking lot, and plopping their butts down in class is downright exhausting. And we love it, having banked a bundle of memories from such adventures.
But this year was destined to be different given the new Saturday opener (instead of the traditional Monday), allowing average working folks a little more time in the woods, not to mention improved odds for finding unharassed gobblers. Add to that the closure of all things on the planet — including, sadly, school — and we were at least looking forward to a season full of stretching our legs while seeking out calm moments to take our birds, if blessed with the opportunities.
Murphy’s Law sometimes works in reverse, sort of like Murphy got it wrong. Despite having an entire week, my son toppled his bird at 7:25 a.m. that first morning, and my daughter and I rolled our birds less than 24 hours later. Two wonderful hunts I wouldn’t trade for anything, though the look in both their eyes Sunday evening amidst a feather-plucking fest echoed my thoughts perfectly: We were done hunting in a season when time finally wasn’t an issue, and more importantly, we needed to be outdoors.
Kids have a way of grasping more than we give them credit for; in fact, many an older hunter could take a few notes from the younger sporting generation. As we relived the past couple day’s exploits, my two young hunters articulated their adult perspectives so fluently that ‘ole dad’s pride swelled more than usual. Evidently, traipsing around the hills is a healing, cathartic activity that’s not age restricted.
Nate’s gobbler was 8 yards away — the closest we’ve ever had a bird — and provided as exciting a few minutes as you can have turkey hunting.
But afterward, he mentioned that had it walked in the open for his sister, he would have been just as happy — for her, and so he could keep hunting.
The look on Audrey’s face said the same thing, as she was both happy for him as well as herself, given that she could keep hunting, a sentiment confirmed the following morning when the daughter I normally have to pry out of bed with a spatula bounded from her room fully camouflaged and smiling. The fact that promised junk food awaited in the truck probably helped.
While I’ve taught them what I could and have taken them along whenever they asked (and occasionally when they didn’t), they have learned in their own way the important role the outdoors plays in their lives, especially this spring, when little is guaranteed and enjoyment has been scarce.
We are so blessed in this beautiful part of Michigan. Turkey season is a hoot, but this time of year holds other joys as well — morels and ramps sprouting up after an overnight rain; prized whitetail antlers poking barely visible points through brown leaves; steelhead finning over bright gravel; grouse thundering away from a drumming log as the day’s opening act while a woodcock’s evening aerial display takes the curtain call; waterfowl in their best nuptial colors; migrating warblers flitting through the forest canopy, and so much more.
These are precious, vital parts of what makes our area unique, and no virus, politician, or government can take that away.