By Michael L. Dixon, Elsbury, Mo.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to raise both a boy and a girl. And like many fathers raising both, I’m guilty of stereotyping them based on their sex. Boys get dirty and girls wear dresses. There was always this mental “wall” I had built in my mind that my son would be my hunting buddy and my daughter would be, well, my daughter. I always included her in our fishing trips because they were family outings, most times overnight and many times for the weekend. When it came to hunting, though, she didn’t seem that interested. And for one reason or another I didn’t promote it. Why would I? I already had a hunting buddy in her older brother.
One morning in early March, my now 24-year-old daughter approached me about going hunting. “Dad,” she said, “is there a hunting season open now? I want to try it and see if I can shoot something.”
“Not right now,” I responded, “but the spring turkey season opens in April. If you want to go, I’ll take you.” Two weeks later we began making plans.
Fortunately, she had completed a hunter safety course when she was in sixth grade. She also had done a little shooting on the range with me, so the basics of safety and gun handling were taken care of already. She had always been outfitted with her own waders and fly fishing equipment, but never her own gun or camouflage clothing, and her brother’s would be far too large for her small frame. Armed with her clothing sizes, I set out to the sporting goods store to get her equipped. As for the gun, she would have to use mine.
She was at my house when the first weekend of turkey season arrived. With some encouragement I was able to get her out of bed before 5:30 that Saturday morning, and after a quick cup of coffee we were out the door. It was a short drive to where we would hunt, but it was daylight by the time we parked the truck. The turkeys were already awake, and there was no sneaking past them to get where I wanted to hunt.
We quietly slipped into the woods and set up along the edge of a small meadow between a creek and a timber-covered hill. I set out my decoys and began to call. Occasionally we would hear a gobbler, but it would not respond to my calling. A hen flew from the hill behind us and landed in the meadow. She saw something she didn’t like and quickly left the area.
Then it happened.
We heard gobbling at the end of the meadow to our right, and the birds responded to my calls. Two adult gobblers were coming in from the end of the meadow, and they were interested in the decoys.
“Put the gun to your shoulder,” I told her. The birds came closer.
“Take the safety off,” was my next command, followed by, “Take the shot.” She did, and the bigger of the two birds fell over dead.
After a high-five and hug while standing over her first turkey, the wall I had built in my mind about my daughter not wanting to be my hunting buddy had been torn down. It was 8:30 in the morning on the first day of her first hunt. With one pull of the trigger, my daughter became a hunter, and I was there by her side.