A perfect spring day…clear, still. The ground is wet with dew, and the early morning sun glints off of the thousands of little drops, reflecting back off into a thousand little suns. Violets and cowslips grow at the edge of black swamp muck. A turkey gobbles, just on the next ridge. I look over at my dad, and just before he pulls his headnet on, I see him smile…

Some of the best moments of my life I have spent hunting. I first went out hunting on my seventh birthday. I wasn’t old enough to actually carry a gun, and it was a few weeks too early for turkey season. But, Dad took me turkey calling. I can still remember the exact way I felt, the things we said, what calls we used. The way the gobbles made goose bumps go up and down my arms. They way the turkeys looked in the early morning light. From that morning, I was hooked.

I was eleven when I got my first deer, and thirteen when I got my first turkey. Dad was with me both times. I got my first turkey on my thirteenth birthday, April 13th, 2002, which made it extra special. On the same day, my older brother and one of my younger brothers both got turkeys. Dad called them all in. My turkey weighed 22lbs, and had a 9-½ inch beard with 1-¼ inch spurs. I entered a contest for youth hunters, ages ten to sixteen that had shot turkeys that day, and my turkey won the trophy for the biggest bird. Dad said that my turkey was my birthday present from him. That day will always remain among my favorite memories.

When I turned fourteen, I started deer hunting by myself, though dad still took me turkey hunting, which makes turkey hunting very special to me. I have killed many deer on my own, but I know I never could have done it without everything Dad has taught me about hunting.

I have learned so much since I began hunting at ten, the legal age in New Jersey, and I guess even before then when I went along with my Dad in the woods. You can see and hear things that a non-hunter never would. You learn to feel the presence of an animal before you can actually see it. You can hear the silence of a first snowfall. The magic of a moonlight walk can’t be painted on paper, and the song of the wood thrush can’t be written. You realize that you can’t just hear about these things to enjoy them, but you must live it.

To me, hunting is so much more than just the kill. Dad and I spent a lot of hours together, both turkey and deer hunting. We brought our cameras, and would stop for little things, taking our time. We stopped for coon trees, leaning and hollow, or to listen to the call of a cuckoo, the hooting of a Barred Owl. We would stop and look at flowers. We drive around, stopping at our usual turkey hunting spots. And, we always keep a look out for lilacs. Or, we would just stop to talk. All of these small moments meant so much to me, and I feel a companionship with my Dad that I could never feel with anyone else. There are moments so special that there is no way to capture them except in my heart.

If anyone asked me what my favorite time was hunting with my dad, I probably couldn’t say. For me, it is impossible to pick a favorite time. Dad and I have spent so many hours, so many seasons together in the woods, that it would be impossible to choose which time I liked the best. Most people would probably say that their favorite time was when they shot their first turkey, trophy deer, etc., but not me. I enjoyed the times dad and I spent just talking, and never hearing a bird, not seeing a deer, just as much as the times that we killed something. To me, killing should be important to the hunter, but not as important as just enjoying yourself.

The turkey appears in front of us, hopping up onto a log, his feathers glinting in the sun. He struts, then gobbles. He lets his tail down and stretches his neck to look around for the hen he just knows is somewhere close. We don’t have much time, but I wait a second, two. He is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen…

A perfect spring day…

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