It was the morning before Thanksgiving and Sawyer and his father, Abel, were up before dawn. Sawyer was disappointed he couldn’t bring Fred, but he knew the chances of seeing and bagging the cautious and easily spooked bird would be greatly diminished, rather extinguished, if Fred came along. Thanksgiving Day was strictly reserved for family, therefore Sawyer’s mother Rosa Lynne strictly prohibited the boys from hunting on Thanksgiving morning. Sawyer secretly believed the real reason was because Rosa Lynne slow-roasted the turkey all night at a low temperature so that the meat would fall off the bone. Bowen, Caleb, Nora, Willie and Birdie, and a few others would all be there. The Thanksgiving meal rarely varied. Over the years as everyone agreed on a dish that was well liked, the women cooked and brought the same one each year. The same took place at Christmas.
It was still dark and would be for a few more hours. The moon shone brightly ensuring the trek to their blind they had set up at the edge of a wood line two weeks prior would be easy to navigate. Abel and Sawyer had risen early several cold mornings to scout out their previous turkey hunting location. It hadn’t failed them three years in a row. Just a few miles north in Hensley Hollow, Abel was friends with a farmer who allowed him to fish and hunt on it year round. The location was perfect. In the middle of the farm was a medium sized pond with Elk Creek running on the southern edge. To the north was a wooded ridge line and to the west a pointy wooded hill that Able called “Mole Hill.” In the shadows of the Blue Ridge of Shenandoah National Park while the sun rose every morning, Mole Hill was a fitting name. The blind was set up near the base of Mole Hill, concealed between a copse of oak trees on the right and some low bushes to the left. The field of fire ran the entire length of the fields, pond, ridge line, and a portion of Elk Creek.
Abel switched on a lamp beside his reloading table and turned the dial of his safe. Left. Right. Left. The large safe held family heirloom firearms dating back to the 1800s and more modern purchases. Today, Sawyer would be using Abel’s Remington 870. With blued steel and a walnut stock, it was as beautiful as it was efficient. Although popular with law enforcement, Abel purchased his in a field configuration and it was the only firearm he had used to hunt Turkey for several years. Sawyer wrapped the shell sleeve around around the stock of the Wingmaster and Abel handed him five #4 shells to insert into the sleeve. Fleece lined camouflage overalls and boots were put on, and with caps and caller in hand they both gave Fred a scratch on the head as they walked out of the house.
There wasn’t usually another vehicle on the road this early in the morning, save a few other hunters such as themselves. Abel turned onto the gravel farm road and and drove about half a mile before pulling off into the grass beside the fenceline. It was cold and the field was empty so the cows must’ve been huddled in the barn. They got out of the truck and Sawyer asked if the choke had been tightened for the longer shot and Abel said it had. Sawyer placed two shells in the tube and chambered one of them. There was really no use in loading any more than that since the turkeys would flee at the sound of the first shot. The two often alternated shooting and spotting and today was Sawyer’s hunt. They walked by the moonlight through the field and to the blind in the wood line at the base of Mole Hill to wait. Near the pond there were several oak trees that dropped the acorns turkeys loved to eat. If the bears or deer didn’t eat the bad ones, the turkeys still would.
They sat quietly as the unseen sun slowly began to rise on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge. Sawyer was anxiously waiting to feel the warm of the sun on his face and Abel began to call. He started slow, but began to call more aggressively. Although a tom could be stubborn every day of the week, Abel’s intuition and practice often ended with one strutting over. After switching calls a few times, a flock of with a handful of hens, one jake, and a tom appeared from behind the rise just to the right of the stand of oaks. Knowing the turkey’s eyesight would catch anything out of the ordinary, Sawyer slowly moved the shotgun into position inch by inch in a painstaking process, figuring his arm would be tired by the time he could take a shot.
The large tom was obviously interested as he was slowly parting ways from the flock, inquisitive of Abel’s calls, which he was starting to tone back. Within fifty yards now, Abel still held up his hand by Sawyer’s shoulder. The tom stopped and they both held their breath briefly. Abel changed up the call and the tom still hesitated. Hoping they wouldn’t do anything to bump him, Sawyer held his breath. The big bird hesitantly looked back toward the flock but began walking toward them again. Forty yards. Sawyer felt his heart beating faster and methodically inhaled and exhaled as he steadied himself for the shot by removing his index finger from the trigger guard and placing it on the trigger. Thirty-five yards. Abel dropped his hand and Sawyer focused for a second before he slowly squeezed the trigger.
The recoil pushed him back slightly as the tom went down with little fuss. The rest of the flock immediately vanished back into the woods. Abel and Sawyer walked out to claim their prize. They were back home by 9AM and promptly got to work preparing the bird. That night Rosa Lynne placed the turkey in the largest roasting pan she had, stuffing it with freshly sliced lemons, onions, and rosemary, sprinkling it with salt and pepper. Sawyer woke the next morning to the herby smell of the roasted turkey and couldn’t wait to dig into his Thanksgiving Turkey.