I took my first turkey in spring of 2006. It was special not only because it was my first turkey, but also because it was the first game I took with my granddad’s shotgun (a side by side Springfield Arms 12 gauge). The old shotgun belongs to my nephew Hans, who inherited it from my granddad. I have offered to buy it, but at present I am holding it for him while he serves in the US Army. If I don’t end up keeping the gun, at least I have had the privilege of hunting with it.
I had been seeing turkeys everyday in late April. The spring season in NY is from May 1st through May 31st. Any bearded bird is legal game. When the season opened I began carrying the shotgun and 5 shells of Remington #5 shot 2 ¾ length turkey loads in the truck during my commute.
I saw no turkeys the 1st day or the 2nd. The 3rd dawned with a drizzling rain. I left home and as usual continually scanned the roadside meadows, woods and pastures. About 5 miles from home I spotted 5 fat birds only 25 yards off the road at the edge of a cow pasture. Between us, about 5 yards off the road a bright orange POSTED sign stood guard. So while I looked longingly at them as I slowly coasted by, the flock remained unafraid as they fed along just yards away from me.
I knew it was the right thing to do, but I admit that I had been tempted to bust those birds. I continued on my way to work telling myself that a trophy you can’t be proud of is no trophy at all. Any time you can’t be honest about what you do whether it is a hunt or anything else, you probably shouldn’t do it. I continued on my way to work and just five miles later as I scanned the edge of a corn field near Cossayuna Lake I saw a fat black bird just off the shoulder of the road. It is illegal to shoot from a vehicle or over any portion of a road, so I continued on to the next intersection and pulled in. Pulling over about 100 yards from where I had last seen my quarry I readied the gun and shells and hoped that the sound of the falling rain would cover the noise.
I loaded the shotgun and walked as quickly and quietly as I could toward through the wet grass toward the bird, closing the distance as quickly as I could while peering ahead through the misting rain. The bird was no longer where I had seen it, but as I reached that spot I saw movement about 20 yards into the wood. I took a few quick steps closer and brought the shotgun to shoulder as the immense rain-blackened bird began to run. It leapt up and its huge wings beat the air once, then twice before I fired fearing it would soar away into the brushy cover. The dense pattern of copper washed shot swatted the sixteen pound bird to the ground in a heap. Unlike deer that often run with a mortal wound, the bird simply crashed to the ground.
I walked up keeping the gun on my shoulder ready to fire at the first sign of the downed bird leaping up to run. It didn’t. The pellets had taken it through the back, passing well into the body cavity, and I recovered a dozen of them dressing the bird out.
At sixteen pounds with a six inch beard the turkey was neither large, nor an exceptional trophy to anyone except to me. As a first bird and with Gramp’s old gun and it being within a year since he passed away, it was a trophy indeed to me. I mounted the fan and beard to hang in my gun room and I wear a wing feather in my hatband.
My good wife helped me to roast the bird and despite its ugliness, it was the most delicious wild game I have ever eaten.