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Opening Day Action With Papa
It’s kind of an unwritten rule in waterfowling, or any type of hunting that, you choose a time that you are going to pick up and head home and you never deviate from it. I have in the past said that we will leave the duck blind at 10:30 or 11:00 and after a really slow morning the urge to leave comes into your logic. So you bend the rules and go ahead and pick up and get the boat. If you want to see ducks, then go and put the boat in front of the blind and start loading your gear up. There will be ducks circling your decoys to which some wise fellow hunter will utter those immortal words, “It never fails!” Due to being burnt too many times, I now pick a time and stick with it. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. The first time I heard the saying “Stick and stay and make ‘em pay,” was from Barnie Calef – an expert waterfowl hunter and call maker. Some days when things work out we repeat Barnie’s saying. When it doesn’t work out we revise it to “stick and stay and waste a day!’
My grandson McCabe had hunted the opening day of the youth season and all we really got was wet. The highlight of the morning was when we went home and had biscuits and gravy at about 11:30. We didn’t hear a bird gobble and about the time the turkeys might have been doing something the wind joined up with the rain to make it a perfectly miserable morning. I promised McCabe we would go out again during the regular season. As things turned out he had the opening day of the season off as it was an in-service day for his mom. So he spent Sunday night with Papa and we got up the next morning at 3:45. I don’t know how many of you have taken a 9 year old hunting before, but you owe it to yourself to do it. I have been on a weeklong bear hunt before and not have as much, well, we’ll just call it stuff. We had two root beers, a bag of jerky, a box of Twinkies, and two bags of peanuts and that’s just the food. We also had two magazines, a notebook for drawing pictures and playing hangman, and an IPod, so he could listen to the radio show “Gunsmoke,” and the ear buds to go with it. He also had a slate call and striker and those were just his things. To save space and weight for the pack in, which was perhaps two hundred yards we decided to take just one shotgun, Papa’s Browning A5.
So the deal was that we were going to stay until noon and then pick up the gear and head home. If we killed a bird we would stay in the blind until noon in hopes that the hunter who didn’t get a bird could still hunt. If a jake came in it would automatically be McCabe’s or if a tom came in close then McCabe could have him as well, since in theory I have plenty of time to hunt during the season. The morning started out a little slow for us. We had two birds gobbling, but they may have been in Lee County, Iowa as they seemed a long way away from our calling location. Later in the morning we had some excitement as a hen fed her way towards us before disappearing up into the timber to our right. We did however see quite a few deer, which filled the time pretty well. To keep McCabe interested and having fun he used my calls and even his own, but there were no takers and the two toms we heard in the distance stayed in the distance.
Later in the morning we saw two hens come out into the far end of the narrow pasture we had our blind set up in. The two hens chased each other around and then they too disappeared back in the brush.
As the morning went on we played games and ate just about everything I had packed. The two toms were still talking, but hadn’t moved any closer. McCabe had been a real trooper as 6 hours on a small folding chair was even beginning to take a toll on my backside. Finally, it was about 11:45 and I suggested that we begin to clean up inside the blind as it looked like the floor of a movie theater after the third show of the evening. So we picked up wrappers and put away binoculars and calls and begin thinking fairly seriously about how soon we would be packing up the blind. I remember that it was 11:55 and I looked to the east where the two hens had been earlier on the morning and there stood a turkey, a very black turkey. I told McCabe to grab my box call, which was the closest call we could get to and I gave a few loud yelps. The tom’s head turned white so I knew we had a male turkey, and when it turned sideways I saw the short stubble of a beard, so I knew that if it came in it was McCabe’s. The young beard would stop each time I called and he would stare at us, but unlike some dominant tom this jake was approaching like he was trespassing and took his time about coming in. He even disappeared in a brush row that followed a ditch to the north of us, but when he came out he was perhaps 60 to 70 yards out.
I whispered to McCabe for him to come over and sit in my lap. He seemed hesitant to do so as this was Papa’s shotgun he was perhaps going to be shooting. The young tom continued down a patch in the pasture that would lead him past our blind. I laid the shotguns barrel on the bottom of the shooting window of the blind and had McCabe get in behind the gun to prepare for the shot. Someone in McCabe’s short life has scared him about talk of a gun “kicking” so he was real hesitant. But there wasn’t time to be hesitant or even time for debate as the young tom was not in front of our blind. McCabe had the butt pad against his shoulder and I had the bottom of the butt pad against my open palm to hopefully take some of the recoil. I hoped that he had the bead on the tom, but I didn’t know. Somewhere about the third “Shoot” from me, the gun exploded and the jake was leveled. The next thing I heard was a 9 year old boy yell, “I got him! I got him Papa!” I got him out of the blind and he ran to the bird yelling all the way about getting his bird.
Before we could tear down our set up, we had to call grandma and mom and they had to hear the story. We then walked out of the timber with him wearing his backpack, a small folding chair and a young tom in a hunter orange tote bag. I offered to help, but he told me that it was his tom to carry. He still doesn’t know if the gun kicked him or not!