Well, it was the end of the second week of Virginia turkey season before I stepped foot in the woods, but I finally got to go to the farm on Saturday morning to chase the eluded long beard. I had worked for three weeks without a day off and the anticipation of this day had been building for weeks.
I had planned on driving up on Friday night after work, but decided to wait until Saturday morning because of all I needed to do at home before heading out. As luck would have it, I slept right through the 4:00 am alarm and got a late start on my two hour drive. By the time I arrived it was already daylight and just before I made it to my farm, a big tom was strutting with a hen only thirty yards from the road. I knew at this point I was behind the eight ball!
I quickly grabbed my vest and gear along with my gun and headed across the hill to where my son had told me the birds had been roosting last week when he was up hunting. About mid-way up the hill I decided to use a call just to see if I could get a response and boy did I ever! A huge tom was already out in the field just on the other side of the knoll and he saw me at the exact time I saw him. Needless to say, he didn’t stick around long and I was not equipped to take a 150yrd shot!
I then decided to take another approach on the other side of the property. I managed to get several birds to answer, but all seemed to be with hens already and not really interested in what I had to offer. I worked hard all morning and covered quiet a bit of territory with little luck of getting a bird within range to see it much less get a shot.
Just after eleven I decided to start making my way back to the cabin as things had been quiet for an hour or so. About a quarter of a mile from where I had parked I decided to give my Knight & Hale Ole’ Lady Hen call one more try and boy did I get the response I wanted to hear! Not one, but three gobblers answered. I knew they were close and I had their attention. I worked my way down a small draw and to the edge of an old pasture. I hit the call again and I knew they were coming fast. I didn’t even have time to put out my decoy or a blind. I found some small pines to use as a natural blind and set up for the shot. A couple of clucks later the birds were within sight.
I started turkey hunting about three years ago and have been able to call birds in for my boys and friends to take, but have never taken one myself, so I was very excited to get a chance at my first long beard of my own! The first two birds were younger birds and the bigger tom was hanging back about thirty yards. The two in front had now came to within twenty yards and were beginning to get just a little confused because they couldn’t find the hen they were looking for. As a fairly experienced hunter, I knew I should wait for the larger bird and I felt fairly confident that I could call the bird in a little closer, but I decided not to be greedy and try to cash in on the opportunity that was presented to me and try to take my first gobbler that I had worked so hard and waited so long for.
I squeezed the trigger and sealed the deal. When I went to recover my harvest, I looked at my watch, which read 11:55. Only five minutes before the 12:00 deadline for Virginia spring season. He was a beautiful 20lb bird with about a 7 inch beard, but he was my first gobbler and I was very excited and proud of the work and patience I had shown to get him.
I bet at this point you are thinking this is where I got the title “Being In The Right Place At The Right Time”? Actually my day was only beginning at this point as the sequence of events that would add up from this day will remain etched in my memory forever.
The drive from the farm where I hunt in Virginia to my home in North Carolina is about two hours. I was heading home on hwy. 18 south a little after noon and had just past Laurel Springs going down the mountain toward N. Wilkesboro when along with the three cars in front of me I passed a young man on the side of the road with his right hand extended with his thumb out and his left hand was clinching a bible against his chest. I quickly checked my rear view mirror to make sure nothing was behind me, then stopped and backed up to offer him a ride. As he sat down in the passenger seat, I introduced myself. He shook my hand and in a low, soft spoken voice he stuttered the name “Jason”. He was a very clean cut and shy, but his clothes were worn and dirty and from the odor he was giving off I could tell he had been walking for a long time. I asked where he was going and he told me Wilkesboro. I asked what he was doing up the mountain and he stated he had walked the fifteen miles one way to mow a yard for a man. He said he had lost his job and didn’t have a car any more. I was impressed that had walked that far to make twenty dollars when most people would have found it easier to sit at home and draw unemployment.
I was excited about taking my first turkey and had just finished my entire thermos of coffee and was probably talking a little too much and asking too many questions! The man was obviously embarrassed by his speech impediment and was answering my questions with short and direct answers.
The twenty minute ride then seemed like hours as he began to tell me a story I will never forget. He told me his wife was at home waiting for him. He stated that she wasn’t feeling very well because just this past March she was six months pregnant with their first child when she became very sick and had an appointment with her Dr. in Elkin. When they arrived for her appointment, the Dr. had left for another engagement. The nurse told her to just go back home, rest and drink plenty of water. A couple of days past and the pain become more severe and again they called her Dr. only to be told the next available appointment was a couple of weeks out and to just stay off her feet and drink lots of water. On the third day, her water broke and she was rushed to the emergency room. The baby, a little girl, only lived for thirty minutes. They had no insurance, no money and were living with relatives in Wilkesboro. The only material possession they owned was an old car which they had to sell for $500.00 to cover the funeral home cost of $475.00 to bury the baby. He was now doing any jobs he could find to try to take care of his wife and to buy another car eventually.
He said he didn’t know why this had happened, but that God had a plan and would get them through these tough times. By the time he finished his story, we were in Lowes Foods parking lot with tears flowing from both of our eyes.
The past couple of years for me have been difficult for me both emotionally and financially after going through a divorce, loosing my job and suffering a few other hardships, but all my worries seemed small after hearing what he had to say.
I looked down with tears in my eyes to my center console where I had $220.00 I had received from work on Thursday and needed to get in the bank on Friday to cover some bills I needed to pay that were past due. I told him I wanted him to take the money and that if I had more I would give it to him. He accepted the money and looked at me with tears streaming down his face and said “God bless you sir”. I smiled and said “He just did son by allowing me to give you a ride and put my life back into perspective for me.”
There is no doubt that I will probably never see that young man again and he will never know how much he touched my life that day, but I promise that this is one hunting trip I will never forget and the next time I complain about having to work too much or how I am struggling to pay for my beautiful home, my nice car, my utilities, our nice clothes, a country club membership, etc. I will stop and think about the young man who had to sell his only means of transportation to pay to bury his only child.
The remainder of the ride home was a long and sobering trip for me and all I could do was pray and thank God for all he has done for my family and I. For my three healthy, happy children, a home, a job, a car and for all the many other blessings I take for granite everyday.
God placed me in the right place at the right time that day so I would realize all the good things he does for me each day. Thanks be to God.