Jimmy and I began fishing and hunting together when he was young. He took an instant liking to both. We didn't always have the time to enjoy getting out along the Loyalsock Creek to fish or down to my Dad's to hunt whatever was in season due to his sports schedule and my coaching commitments. But as time passed and his focus became more on baseball it freed up more time for the outdoors.
Jimmy has become a better fisherman and hunter then I am, keep that a secret. Most importantly we do both together and I get more satisfaction out of his success than anything I have caught or hunted. Dads that hunt and fish with their sons and daughters know exactly what I mean.
The story of the big bird actually began the day before. My son had not shot a Pennsylvania long beard. So the day before my birthday we hit the woods early. It was a beautiful morning. As soon as the sun began to rise the birds began to gobble. I was on the call for Jimmy; I don't carry a gun very often these days. I had three birds coming right to us, the last one a tank. As they got to about 30 yards, Jimmy and I were sitting in a Big Buck Down Blind and had to adjust our positioning a little bit.
That's when I broke a key rule that I learned years ago in my youth, never set your turkey call down. I have always used an old-fashioned round slate call; two things can happen if you don't keep it on your person. One, you can't find it when you need it or two, which is much worse; you drop it at the worst time.
Yep, and that’s what happened as this long beard was in full strut and working towards us. The call fell off my leg rattled and on the wood floor of the blind made enough noise to scare anything away in Lycoming County. To say I felt bad is an understatement, Jimmy was good about it, "Don't worry about it Dad."
So when the next day, my birthday, came there were only two things I wanted. To hunt with my son and for him to take his first big, long bearded bird.
It was a more beautiful day for spring turkey hunting than the day before. When I looked outside at 4 AM it was raining, perfect turkey hunting weather.
Jimmy and I hit the woods earlier than the previous day. I said a little prayer as we left the truck and gave thanks for all the wonders of nature God has blessed us with. We soon encountered one, if it wasn't for my son my birthday would have gotten off to a stinky start. Under the cover of darkness, my older eyes didn't pick up that skunk that was oh, 10-15 yards in front of us.
Jimmy stopped me before the skunk got me and we took an alternative route, funny thing the skunk followed us. As we took a horseshoe around Pepe Le Pew to the blind he stopped only a short distance from me, and yes I could see him then. I made a break for it, up the steps and into the blind I went, my son soon to follow laughing at his dad. The skunk went into the woods only about 5 yards from our spot, the only thing I could figure out is that she had a nest of young nearby.
As the rain came down and dawn was upon us my spirits went up. That special sound of a gobbling bird filled the air. Jimmy and I went over "the plan" and switched seats from the day before.
As I first hit the call more gobblers awoke and I thought don't over call and get them moving in silence to us. My good friend Ron Wenning reminded me of this after I confessed my sins to him of the day before. Thanks Ron.
As the birds got closer they were loud as a band. My inner sense and ears told me to glance behind us; sure enough the perfectly laid plan was out the window of the blind. I informed Jimmy where they were, he could not see them from his seat.
I touched the call with a light yelp and the woods to our right exploded in a gobble as did the birds in the field behind us. The excitement we shared was unbelievable, long beards converging on us from two directions.
As I was about to hit the call one last time, Jimmy stopped me. The birds in the field were now in his vision line and continued moving our way.
We're going to have to move a little and you take him out the side window I said. Jimmy changed positions from his view straight ahead and I shifted back in the corner away to open up his shot, turkey call firmly clutched in my hand.
The next words from my son, "Dad that one has two beards, he's the last one coming." My answer – that's the one, go for the gusto, be patient.
He did and we did it together. A 23lb spring long double beard, 11 1/2 inches and 8 inches with inch spurs. The words "I got him, I got him," were the best birthday present I have ever received.
Jimmy and I gave thanks; we both knew just how special the day was and then off to the taxidermy man, Kenny Resh who is a true artist of the turkey. A little breakfast at the Steam Valley Restaurant made for a perfect father and son morning.
Take the time and get the young folks out fishing and hunting. Turn your smart phones off with the exception of a couple pictures to document the day, whether you're successful or not.
Teach and pass on the blessing of Penns Wood to the next generation and create a bond that will grow stronger with age. Thanks for the special present Jimmy.