It was still dark and a couple hours before the sunrise as we moved silently along the logging road into the trees. We had parked at the bottom of a steep rise and unloaded. The cold mist hung in the air as the glow of the moon broke through the pines. Our goal was to set up on the edge of an open area in the woods. This was the place where this particular old bird was visiting daily to strut and showoff for all the woods to see. Ben had been watching this turkey for about two weeks and he had him figured out. The plan was perfect and we were going to execute.
We got everything in place and settled in. It was going to be a long morning. Ben’s studying led us to have good confidence that the turkey would show up, but it wouldn’t be until at least 8:30AM or 9:00AM. We hunkered down around 6:00AM and waited. We were riding on high hopes and good information, but would have to have the discipline to stick to the plan.
As we got everything positioned in the blind Ben drew back on his Matthews bow. Hunting wild turkeys is a challenge in general, but when you add the element of using a bow and arrow it takes everything up a notch. Turkeys can see the slightest movement from over one hundred yards away so the margin for error is only slightly larger than a hair. When you introduce hunting with a bow that margin shrinks even smaller.
Ben was checking his range of motion in the blind because we would likely only have one shot at this old and very smart bird. After all, you don’t survive multiple turkey seasons in Alabama as a turkey if you don't have some street smarts. The blind was tight and Ben was shifting around trying to find the right angle so he could pull the bow back smoothly and without too much motion. It was almost perfect, but still too tight.
“What if we switch sides” Ben whispered? “That way I can have a better angle and a little more space…”
“Let’s hold tight and see what happens” I replied in a hushed tone. “If we need to we can switch, but let’s see.”
Neither of us gave much thought to it after that moment.
After three hours of little to no action the sun broke out. It was 9:15AM. Something in my gut sensed the moment, or at least hoped for it. We were in the zone and any minute now he should be here.
Suddenly, like thunder on a summer night, a sound exploded out of the woods. It was so loud and so close that it startled me and I nearly dropped the camera. It was game time now. The turkey hammered again. He was close, but we couldn’t see him. This crafty bird had switched sides on us and was coming up the road to our right. We didn’t have any visibility to that side because of a row of privet. We didn’t know how close he was, but knew he was close enough to be serious.
We were frozen in place. The turkey continued to gobble and strut for thirty-five minutes just out of our eye sight. Our pulses were pounding now. Everything on the outside was still as a statue but internally we were fully alive. If you’ve never heard a wild turkey gobble in nature I would submit that you’ve not truly lived! It really is one of the most powerful sounds in nature. A wild turkey gobbling in the woods in Alabama must be the equivalent of a lion roaring in the African landscape. It’s incredible.
After almost forty-five minutes it happened. I saw him. He was strutting our way. Making his way into the clearing directly in front of us. I held my breath for fear that any move I made would spook him and the moment would be lost.
“He’s coming!” I whispered.
Ben drew back on his bow and held firm, waiting for the shot. We were just over ten yards away from a trophy wild turkey. My hands were shaking from the adrenaline and the only thing I was shooting was a camera. Ben was shaking too. I noticed the tip of his arrow quivering as he held back on the string.
The plan had worked. He was right in front of us. Another two steps and Ben would have had the perfect angle for the shot. I waited for the release and watched the screen making sure I had the camera just right to capture the moment.
Suddenly I heard the sound of the arrow being fired. In a split second I looked up from the camera expecting to see feathers floating in the air from the impact. Instead I saw the bird turn away from us and suddenly retreat.
The shot had missed. In that moment I was overcome with many feelings. My adrenaline was surging from the sequence. My heart sank for Ben. My mind raced to give logic to everything.
Because the bird had approached from our right and we were blind until the last moment Ben wasn’t able to get the best angle for the shot. Furthermore his arm was squeezed into the back corner of the blind as he held the bow back waiting on the shot. Being in a less than ideal position he had attempted to shift while he was pulled back and inadvertently touched the release. He took a shot he never intended to make. The arrow sailed over the target and the opportunity was lost.
We should have switched positions earlier in the morning when we realized it wasn’t the best setup. We shouldn’t have opted for “easy” in that early moment. We knew it, and it hurt.
How many times have you found yourself in a similar situation? Not a turkey situation, but a life situation. How many times have I talked myself out of making a move when everything around me was telling me to make the switch? How many times have you opted for easy and it cost you something greater?
There is a thing inside all of us that speaks to us. Some call it a conscious. Some call it intuition. In my life that voice is the Holy Spirit. The truth is that the God who created you deposited something in your soul. It’s that voice that reminds you right from wrong. Sometimes it whispers. Sometimes it screams. Regardless of whether you believe in God or not, I believe that you know the voice I’m talking about.
This voice isn’t audible. It’s a gut feel kind of thing. If you’ve ever had one of “those gut feelings” then you know what I’m talking about. We had that feeling in the blind that morning, but we ignored it, and it cost us. The same thing happens in our lives. We can be overcome with the emotion of a moment that we will willingly ignore the voice of reason within. We can become obsessed with a payoff or reward that we knowingly violate our own boundaries. Whenever you choose not to respond to the voice in your soul it will cost you something.
What we learned on this day in the turkey woods will serve as a reminder for me many days to come. When it was all said and done and we had dissected every angle of the hunt we were left with one conclusion. Our only mistake that day was not going with our gut, listening to the voice within us, taking a risk, and making the shift.
Where are you in your life? Is it time for a shift? Have you been ignoring that voice in your soul, the Holy Spirit, that is prompting you to make a move? Don’t make the mistake we did and assume you’ll have plenty of time later to make an adjustment. The opportunity you’re waiting for will be here before you know it and you must be ready to take the shot.
You were made for more. You were made to matter. Listen to the Holy Spirit. His leading always leads to a life that satisfies.