Eight-year-olds rarely rise at 4 a.m. It usually takes nothing less than the anticipation of a visit from Santa Claus to stir a youngster awake that early.
A developing love of nature can be quite a motivator. I was a proud papa this past turkey season as my little Bailee, time and time again, rose from her slumbers long before daybreak with a sense of purpose.
On the opening day of youth turkey season, Bailee and I were settled in our blind long before daylight. The conditions were perfect, and I knew it was going to be a special day.
Turns out, it was more than a special day. I needed a bit of time to reflect on the last month to finally see the trophies of this turkey season.
Lesson 1: Give it some time
“Why do we have to come so early, Daddy, if the turkeys won’t be out of the trees for a long time?” Bailee asked.
I explained to her the importance of giving the woods time to settle down from our arrival. We are foreign to this environment, and initially our presence strikes fear in its inhabitants.
However, once we settle in and blend in, the fear we caused by showing up goes away and everything settles back down to normal.
Humans in this sense are very much like creatures of the forest. Change and differences scare us. We are disturbed by the arrival of something we’re not used to; but if we wait long enough, the fear subsides, and we go about our routine.
Lesson 2: Seize your moment
“Bailee, Bailee, Bailee,” I whispered as I gently shook her leg to wake her from a nap. “There’s a gobbler coming.”
We spent in the neighborhood of 30 hours sitting in a ground blind this spring, and only once did Bailee pull the trigger. And when she did, she missed.
When you miss your shot, whether at a turkey or another life prize, you may not have another shot for quite some time.
This season, Bailee never had another shot. She put in her time, hunting five more days after her miss, but we never had another gobbler in range.
Lesson 3: Expect unexpected
We would set up on the west side of the property, and the gobblers would sound off on the east side. We’d head over to the east side, and then they’d start gobbling on the west side.
“Why don’t they just stay where we can find them?” Bailee asked.
Life rarely lets us obtain our goals in an easy fashion. The universe keeps moving, and we must move with it. Just when you think you have it figured out, everything changes, and your target has moved away from you. All you can do is pick yourself up and move again.
Lesson 4: It’s the journey
“You know Dad, even though I didn’t kill a turkey this year, it was still awesome,” Bailee said.
Turkey hunting isn’t about killing a turkey anymore than going to college is about getting a diploma. It’s the lessons, the learning and the living along the way that make a life.
Even if they don’t realize what they are learning, sharing the experiences of hunting and fishing with your children early on in their lives just may help them prepare for a richer understanding of what it’s all about before they have time to be corrupted by shallow alternatives.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Sundays in The Republic . Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.