I knew something was going to happen when I heard the faint, raspy calls of a turkey emanate from the hollow below.
I had hunted the entire day in search of turkeys, but only found a few day-old scratches on every hilltop I walked.
It was late afternoon and the day was drawing to a close when I heard the series of yelps. I was making my way down a hillside when the calls stopped me in my tracks.
I answered with a few clucks and a purr from my box call and got an immediate response. A couple more yelps and the bird replied again, this time heading in my direction.
I didnā??t have time to find a decent tree to sit against, so I just knelt alongside a small sassafras as the turkey continued to move closer.
Seconds later, a large hen followed by three other birds quickly walked over the rise below me, producing excited clucks and purrs along the way. As the lead hen stopped behind a tree about 30 yards away, I gently raised my shotgun and clicked off the safe.
The woods grew silent and the turkeys froze as I waited for the hen to step out from behind the tree.
When she did, I placed the bead on her head and neck and pulled the trigger. The turkey erupted into a flight, as did the one behind her, and sailed across the hollow to a neighboring hillside. The other two birds ā?? smaller hens, bolted for the cover of a grapevine tangle and disappeared.
A look at the tree behind where the hen had stood indicated my pellets struck about waist height. I shot just a little high and missed the turkey cleanly.
As hunters, we never like to miss a shot. Itā??s an empty feeling to watch a turkey fly or a deer run away after a shot is taken, but it happens.
And missing is what makes hunting that much more exciting, as odd as it sounds.
If we connected on every shot we took, it would take away some of the challenge of what makes hunting fun. Missing makes us try harder next time. It builds our anticipation to hit the woods again for another opportunity.
We shouldnā??t be ashamed to acknowledge a miss, yet when it comes to the outdoor media ā?? whether itā??s on television or in magazines, itā??s as if missing never happens.
Donā??t be misled by the television shows or magazine stories where it seems like every shot connects and every hunt is a success.
In the real world, itā??s not uncommon to come home empty-handed or even have a chance and miss the shot.
Iā??ve connected on many deer and turkeys over the years, and I remember them all well. But I also remember those that Iā??ve missed. Big bucks, spring gobblers and fall turkeys.
Iā??ve taken lessons from them all. The large buck I missed during the rifle season a few years ago compelled me to move my treestand a few yards to the left so I could have a better view of deer as they exited a thicket below.
Iā??ve connected several times since.
While I donā??t like to miss, I donā??t view it as the end of the world either. I take solace in the fact that I was able to put myself in position to get a shot. That includes calling in turkeys or stillhunting a buck in the snow.
A miss simply means I get to go another day, and thatā??s why Iā??ll be hitting the turkey woods again this week with renewed motivation to redeem my recent miss.
Tom Venesky covers the outdoors for The Times Leader. Reach him at [email protected]