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Tripp’s First Turkey Hunt: Empty Hands But Full Heart

Spencer Halford

Spencer Halford and Tripp
Photo by Dylan Farrell

I've often thought about what it would be like to take my son turkey hunting. To be honest, I've worried about it a lot. I’ve worried about whether or not I had the patience to make it fun for him and to help him enjoy it. I've wondered if he would grow up to like it, and I've worried about what our friendship would be like if he didn't. I sure do want him to like it the way that I like it.

I want him to know that feeling you get when one gobbles so strong and so loud, you secretly wonder if you've got what it takes to kill him. He’s so close that it takes your breath away and makes your heart pound so hard it hurts. I want him to know the anxiety of working one in from long distance, listening for that next gobble, wishing and hoping he's getting closer and closing the distance, straining to see that red head coming through the trees. I want him to know the thrill of blindly yelping down a hardwood ridge on a quiet morning and having one hammer back at 150 yards. I want him to know the rush from hitting the deck and scrambling for cover, numb, cramping legs from an awkward hide, and how horrible leaning against those crummy knots on a hackberry tree can be. I want him to know the adrenaline rush of being paralyzed by an unexpected gobble and having a bird so close he can hear you breathe.

I want to watch as the deep satisfaction settles in that comes from conquering the king of spring. I hope the glory of spring reaches deep down into his soul and captivates him. I want to be there when those things come together and he stands on one’s head. Man, there is nothing in the world like it!

The last few weeks we've practiced shooting his .410. We've watched lots of turkey hunting on TV and discussed all the possible details and scenarios, where to aim and how important it is to hold still. Naturally, I had hoped that we would kill one. The 2018 Tennessee youth hunt was one I've had circled on my calendar for some time.

Yesterday morning we got so close. Ten minutes after flydown we had our bird gobbling at 75 yards in a beautiful green wheat field. I'd bet every dollar I have that if you give me a hot gobbling bird at 100 yards, a Dave Smith decoy and a short spring wheat field, I will kill that bird every time. But in absolutely classic eastern wild turkey behavior, our bird did exactly what I couldn't imagine he would. He made a wide circle and kept a rise between us and him. He got past us and kept on trucking. That bird has no idea how close he came to meeting his demise!

I sure do wish we could have killed him, but let me tell you what was better than killing a bird on Tripp's first hunt. The turkey woods gave me the perfect opportunity to teach my son one of life's finest lessons. At dinner last night, as we told Lindy and the girls all about our hunt, I talked to them about how much work it sometimes takes for it to all come together. I told them how all of that effort made success so sweet. 

I told him, "Son, I want you to remember something about turkey hunting that is also true about life. Nothing in life worth having comes easy." 

In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon says, "A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul…." Obviously, Solomon was a turkey hunter, because it surely is sweet when it comes together and it is accomplished!

While we didn't kill one this weekend, I sure am thankful for the opportunity to spend time with my son. I am especially thankful for the backdrop the turkey woods provided for me to teach my son one of life's greatest lessons.

Youth Turkey Hunter

As I reminded him of this lesson throughout the weekend, I encouraged him to keep going whenever he felt like giving up. Boy, what a flood of memories of spring mornings with my dad these last two days brought back to me. My dad is the quintessential teacher, always gently working in the life lessons that seem small in the moment but over time prove to be critical elements to living a humble, God-fearing life. I hope I can be half the teacher and mentor to my children that my Dad has been to me.

I saw that spark in his eye when he heard his first gobble, and as long as I'm alive, I'll never forget that. I saw the little grin on his face when he said, "Oh man he's close Daddy, and we're gonna get him!" Man, you couldn't get me to trade that feeling for anything in the whole world!

If you had asked me two weeks ago if it was possible for me to appreciate hunting wild turkeys any more than I already did, I would have said absolutely not. However, after toting this young boy that calls me Dad around for a couple days, I have a new respect and appreciation for this incredible tradition.

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