A snap of a twig, leaves rustling in the wind, frogs croaking in the distance, then suddenly complete silence is all my dad and I heard when we looked up and saw a 175-pound black bear walking straight toward us.
My turkey-hunting weekend had just begun an hour before our bear encounter.
After a short walk through the woods, we settled in our turkey ground-blind, hoping I’d get a chance to shoot my first turkey. My brother was in a blind of his own not too far away. This was my second hunting season with my dad and he was there to guide me. Spending time in the blind is our special daddy-daughter time. We whispered about our day, the strange animal sounds we’d hear and just about anything else on our minds.
My dad and I would look out each window of the blind searching for any turkey signs, our eyes crossing each other’s paths. I’m sure my dad felt my anticipation. We were not going to miss that turkey!
The sounds of nature gave us a peaceful feeling. From time to time, all the sounds would stop. My dad said, “It could mean a bear is in the area.” And boy, was he right. Just then we both looked up at nearly the same time. A big black bear was looking right at us about 30 yards away. I was so nervous, I felt like I was about to speak in front of 1,000 people – sweaty palms, heart racing, breathless.
I grabbed my phone’s camera and started clicking as fast as I could, thinking to myself, I have to show my brother, he will never believe it.
My dad looked at me and whispered, “Stay quiet and still and he might come closer to us.” How exciting to see him closer up than at a zoo.
What seemed like an hour was only about eight minutes. The bear walked slowly up to our turkey decoys about 10 yards away, sniffed and licked them. He looked over at us and walked right up to our blind. He was so close we could see his nostrils move as he was trying to retrieve scent from the air.
The bear backed away from us and ran as he had winded our scent. He stopped a few hundred feet away only to lie down and rest, then disappeared into the distance.
I texted my brother, who replied “Are you shaking?”
“Still,” I replied.
Things quieted down the rest of the evening, but I think my heart was still racing when I went to bed.
The turkey license I purchased was for five days, of which I could only hunt for three.
The second night, we saw seven deer in the field and three turkeys. One turkey in particular was being sneaky. We watched him from across the field, tried to call him closer to us, only to have him come right behind our blind and stay there for an hour. As soon as we had him in our sight, I tried to get him, but he was too far away and I missed. I was devastated, but my dad was so supportive and understanding.
He kept telling me patience is very important and you are never guaranteed an animal. A lot of it revolves around chance and skill. He wiped my tears without even wiping them, giving me an instant sense of comfort.
The whole time I was thinking even if I don’t get one, I still had the chance to experience this with my dad and that means the world to me.
The third night and my last evening of the season was the quietest night so far. I thought to myself, first night bear, second night tried and missed, and now my hunting experience is going to end like this! Quiet. No animals. Not even a squirrel. Weather was perfect. The longer we sat and nothing was happening, the more relaxed we got. My brother had shared his stash of candy bars with us.
Even though it was quiet, my dad said to still be on watch and look out my side of the blind from time to time. I sat up, not expecting to see anything, only to see a huge tom turkey about 10 feet away looking right at me just like the bear had! I leaned back quickly, tapped my dad and whispered “Big turkey, big, big turkey!” I pointed to my left. My dad got out the turkey call, made a call and the big turkey walked right in front of our blind. Within three minutes of first seeing it, I got my first turkey! My turkey weighed 22 pounds, had a 9-inch beard and 7/8-inch spurs. Best day ever! And a great way to end the weekend.
Hey dad, when do we get to go hunting again?
My brother heard the commotion, helping us photograph the moment. To see the picture my brother took of my dad, myself and the turkey, and the picture of the bear, see page two of this week’s Newsleader.
Turkey facts: Male turkeys typically weigh between 11 and 24 pounds. The length of the beard on a mature male tom turkey determines age and maturity. Jake, a young male turkey, might have a 1″ to 3” beard, whereas a 3- to 4-year-old tom can have around a 9-inch beard. Spurs also help determine age. Female turkeys, called hens, can only be hunted in the fall as they raise young in the spring. Hens typically weigh between 5 and 11 pounds. Wild turkeys can run at speeds up to 25 mph and fly up to 55 mph.