Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Listening to new hunters tell their stories is always an uplifting experience; especially when the teller happens to be your seven-year-old granddaughter. Here is how Natalie Washburn recalled her Great Big Outdoor Turkey Hunting Adventure:
When Natalie and her dad, Matt arrived at their favorite hunting spot a loud-mouthed gobbler was already sounding off from the opposite side of a nearby hilltop. The pressure was on. Trying their best to stay calm, the hunters quickly popped up their canvas ground blind and hastily placed a pair of decoys — a hen and life-sized jake — out front. Once inside the blind, Matt announced their presence by scratching out a yelp on the box call. As soon as the sound reached the gobbler’s ear, it ignited an instantaneous chain of events that neither hunter will soon forget.
“When my dad called, that turkey went nuts,” says Natalie. “He gobbled and gobbled and gobbled. That really made me excited.”
The excitement, and the gobbling, continued with each new sound becoming louder than the one before. Expectations soared as the turkey continued its approach. But the prospect of a turkey dinner was short lived as the sounds suddenly began to grow fainter. The gobbler had turned and was now moving away. In the span of two minutes, the hunters had gone from highest the peak to the lowest valley. It now appeared as if the wheels were coming off the cart; the turkey was walking out of their lives.
But as we all know; turkey hunting can turn on a dime. As Matt continued to call, the gobbles suddenly became louder again – the bird was returning. Before long, the duo could see the top of the gobbler’s fan as he began to crest the hill. But just as the turkey came over the top, the view was obscured by a large brush pile. Matt kept calling and the frustrated gobbler really began to get its blood up. At a distance of 35 yards, the sounds were incredible. But as exciting as the hunt had been so far, things were about to become even better.
Rounding the brush, the magnificent tom finally came into full view. With tail fanned, wings dragging, and iridescent plumage gleaming in the morning sun; the huge gobbler was a sight to behold. It quickly became apparent, however, that the regal bird was not in the best of moods. Spotting the decoys, the gobbler became instantly enraged at the sight of the counterfeit jake. In less time than it takes to tell, the bird launched a full-scale assault. Instead of walking, trotting, or even jogging to the decoys, the agitated turkey came at a full out run – charging head on as fast as its legs could bring it. The sight of that sprinting gobbler did little to calm the nerves of the waiting hunters.
“When I saw him running, I had to put my head down – I was so excited that I couldn’t even look at him,” said Natalie. “When I got it all together, I looked back up. When I did, I just freaked out again.”
Arriving at the decoys, the angry gobbler lost no time in delivering severe punishment to the plastic jake. The one-sided battle continued until the decoy was on its side. Although the spectacle was certainly providing a dramatic show, it was also nerve shattering — especially for a seven-year-old hunter hoping to fill their youth turkey tag.
The drama continued; the seconds ticked by. By the time the turkey finally halted the assault and presented a clear shot, Natalie had calmed down to a point that she remembered where to aim. The 20-gauge barked; sending its charge of #7 ½ shot in the bird’s direction. The gobbler never heard the shot that brought it to bag. There would be a turkey dinner for Natalie’s family after all. The tom weighed in at an even 24 pounds, sported a ten-inch beard, and was armed with a needle tipped set of 1 3/8-inch spurs. It was Natalie’s second, and biggest, turkey.
“When I shot, Dad was so excited that he just tipped the blind over and I ran out to my turkey. That was pretty much our hunt,” reports Natalie. “Everything was so exciting that I didn’t even get to eat any of my food before I already shot a turkey.”