The Future Of Hunting…

A”There will be no giggling while hunting!” friend and guide for the day, Arnie Minka, light-heartedly tells Taylor while on their way to hunt spring turkeys in northern Michigan. At that moment Taylor begins to giggle wildly. Her infectious ten year old smile leaves no doubt in your mind that more than anything she wants to be in the woods, hunting.

As soon as her father Sean informs Taylor that Michigan lowered the age for small game hunting from twelve to ten years old, Taylor could not wait for the chance to actually hunt. She loves the trips afield with her dad, but the opportunity to be the hunter now and use her great- great-grandfather’s 20 gauge shotgun has her glowing. Even when plagued by the allergies that Mother Nature so abundantly throws out in the spring, Taylor’s will to hunt is stronger than the discomforts she struggles with and she will not allow it to steal this experience from her.

Of course the more the “no giggle rule” is enforced, as Taylor, Sean and Arnie search for turkeys, the more they come. With eyes sparkling and her chocolate brown hair tucked under her camo cap, Taylor’s excitement builds. Trying to fill her tag during the second season in May, in between school and Dad’s job they try to make the most of their time in the woods. Feeling the cool air against her cheeks as the pale green leaves shiver in the morning breeze, Taylor envisions a strutting gobbler as the colors of his head transform from white to blue to red and appreciates her privilege to hunt. Set up in a tent blind on their first morning, Taylor catches a cat nap (even the most seasoned hunters have been known to succumb to the tranquil stillness when there is a lack of action). After setting up at the base of a tree later that morning, Taylor gets a feel for different scenarios. “It’s sure hard to sit perfectly still, that’s something I need to work on” she admits.

On that evening of the hunt the trio catches a glimpse of a gobbler running across the edge of an oil well site. Pulling camo face masks on, they silently and quickly sneak to circle around the site hoping to get in a good position to call. No response and as the evening sun fades, the woods grow even quieter without a sound from a turkey for the rest of the evening. On their way home from the hunt the threesome spot turkeys in a well known private land area and stop to watch their movements. Suddenly a vehicle races across the field attempting to herd the turkeys toward a hunter hidden in a grove of pines, practically running one of the toms over with his truck. At that point Taylor’s dad, Michigan conservation Officer Sean Kehoe exits his vehicle and confronts the subjects, eventually issuing a citation.

The following morning Taylor and Sean head out early on their own and hear birds sounding off in several locations but no opportunity to get close presents itself. Meeting up with Arnie later that morning, their spirits are still high in hopes of finding birds and this time try the sit and call method. Taylor and Arnie both pull hen decoys from their vests and position them for the hunt.

Sitting next to each other at the base of a large tree, Taylor and Sean set out a small portable blind in front of them to help hide any movement, while Arnie positions himself behind the pair. Arnie strikes his box call, a muffled response is heard. Is it one bird or two? They can’t be sure. Arnie calls, they respond, the sound swelling with each gobble. Soon with even the slightest note from the box call the bird responds, then fades away and then back again.

Now circling the trio, hiding behind gullies and clumps of trees, the turkey never seems to breathe between gobbles. Arnie crawling on all fours from tree to bush to tree works on keeping the bird’s attention. Slithering along the ground like a giant scorpion, trying to stay undetected, he keeps the box call singing. At forty yards away the jake starts to circle to the right, searching for that persistent hen.

The only swing of the shotgun Taylor can’t make is to her right and the bird begins to drift away. Arnie, trying to keep the fading bird’s attention, slithers from tree to tree, calling from various locations. Just when they thought it was over the Jake runs back toward the blind, gobbling non-stop. As Arnie is once again repositioning himself to call, a big tom works his way in, sending the jake in the other direction.

Arnie, now caught between the bird and Taylor, tries to get out of the way but the tom’s excellent eyesight catches the movement and he disappears back into the trees. As minutes turned to hours Taylor’s adrenalin pumped and her body shook, but she held her gun steady while waiting for that one right moment that might have presented itself.

After the hunt, on that last day of the season, the three sit in the early spring sun and reflect on the morning. As Taylor’s nerves settle, Sean’s pride in his daughter grows and Arnie rests from his aerobics. The sun climbs its way up into the cloudless sky and Taylor breaks the silence, “Dad, I’m hungry, let’s get some lunch.” and talk about that morning’s events continues in town, none of them wanting to let go of the memories.

Each time Taylor hunts she feels confident that she will get her bird and is never disappointed if that doesn’t happen. She has fun every time out while learning something new. Prior to this spring hunt she and her father patterned and practiced with the family shotgun, but she knows it is an entirely different feel between a target and a live turkey and that each hunt will be a different experience. Practicing with her box call Taylor hopes to call in her own tom someday.

Sean shot his first turkey with his great-grandfather’s gun the previous week during his season, but was even more excited for Taylor, stating “Hunting with Taylor is exciting, it’s a thrill to hunt with my daughter, I couldn’t wait.” As long as fathers take their daughters hunting and there are giggles in the woods, we can be assured that we will always hear gobbles as well.