At WOHF we hear all sorts of stories about people helping the families of fallen heroes. These people come from all walks of life, but this particular story is not only about a dozen kids sharing their first hunting experience; it’s also about how the experience touched the lives of the people who made the outing possible.
Enjoy this journal entry from the field.
What started out as a conversation between two Teammates about taking a couple of kids on a Turkey hunt quickly grew into a weekend not soon forgotten by the four Mentors (Teammates) and the nine children of our Fallen Brothers who were able to attend. After conversations with the mothers about their husbands and the countless laughs and stories we shared between the Teammates and the kids during the weekend my resolve to carry on and ‘Keep the Promise’ was cemented.
The weekend started out on a very nervous note for me and the guys. The gear showed up just in time, the day before we setup camp. To top it off, the weatherman was calling for severe thunderstorms all night and most of the day, the last day of the season. We decided to continue on schedule and started rousting the kids from bed around 4AM to give us time to eat and give them a crash course in Turkey calling.
Just before sunrise the lightning subsided, so we went for it and loaded the kids up in spite of the rain. We ended up with four groups. For some reason I made an unusually (for me) smart decision to put a blind out the night before giving us a dry place to hunt from. In the tried and true fashion of ‘following in their father’s footsteps’ the other kids toughed it out and went hunting in the cold rain without a complaint other than “where’s the Turkeys at?”
My group somehow pulled of a small miracle. We were running late. As we approached our blind because of the storm. We peeked over the ridge. The turkeys were already on the ground right in front of where we needed to be. After a quick discussion with the kids to let them know what was going on, we voted to get down in the wet weeds and crawl up behind the blind, trying to get in without scaring the birds away. Here’s where the first part of the miracle comes in.
Anyone who’s tried to kill a turkey before knows you can’t sneak up on them, yet somehow we did and all four of us climbed in the blind undetected. By now several of the turkeys had taken off because of the little red fox out in the field with them. We started making turkey calls to try and get the remaining birds a little closer. We weren’t having much luck getting their attention so I let the youngest (7 year old) use the slate call to see what he could do. Once he started making noise with the call, wouldn’t you know it, but they all popped their heads up and started walking toward us, another unlikely event in the turkey woods.
Now we’re getting really excited and I’m trying to keep them quiet and telling them not to move while the birds are getting closer. They worked behind a small rise and a couple of minutes later I see a red head peek over the hill and I knew that he was a Jake, a Legal Bird, and ‘Bam’ we got our first Bird. Hugs, laughs, high fives, and a bunch of pictures ensued and then we realized all that took us less than ten minutes; ‘Miracle’.
By the end of the Day we had three turkeys down and the kids had made the anticipated migration from sitting patiently in the woods trying to hunt, into the exploring of the farm and playing phase of the day.
As we packed up late in the afternoon I had the joy of experiencing what this day truly was. I witnessed all these kids, some who had never met, make a bond between themselves and their father’s friends with the sharing of phone numbers and email addresses, and we facilitated a couple follow up sleepovers when we dropped them off back at home.
I was not only fortunate in fulfilling a conversation that I had with one of my fallen brothers about taking our kids hunting when they got old enough, but also blessed with the opportunity to establish a relationship with some of the families that I only knew through their fathers/husbands.
One final note for WOHF. Be prepared for many more of these type events because every time I see any of these kids the first thing they ask is “when are we going again” quickly followed by “what are we going to try and shoot?”