What Matters Most?

Posted on June 8, 2021



Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.

 – John 15:13


Friends. We all have them, or at least we should. We have social media friends, and usually so many it is hard to keep track. I personally have over 2,500 hundred Facebook friends, most I know little to nothing about. I have many personal acquaintances, but again, so many that I don’t really know much about them. How many people do you call your friend? How involved are you in their lives?

Long ago I developed an inner circle of close friends, those that I know nearly everything about, and they know the same about me. To have this kind of relationship requires time, effort and care to maintain. It truly is an investment. I came to the realization many years ago of two very important things, one, that life was not about me, and two, that my friend’s lives were far more important than my own.

I have been blessed beyond measure with success that I have enjoyed in most all of my endeavors, but if I were to have selfishly consumed all of it alone, without sharing in the bounty, it would have been a very narcissistic and lonely venture. After all, dead deer, bear, turkeys etc., don’t bring a lot of comfort or contentment for very long.



Beyond that success, and more important, is my circle of close, intimate friends that are vital to my life; men who have invested in me as I have in them. Men who know me and tell me what I need to hear not what I want to hear. They are loyal to a fault with impeccable integrity. They have influenced my life and had a hand in shaping me over time. My life has been fulfilled as a result of these relationships. There are six of them with relationships having lasted 16 years to 40 years. One of them is my son, one died unexpectedly three years ago, and four are still with me.



It has been written by the master himself, Archibald Rutledge, that “some men are mere hunters; others are turkey hunters.” Two of the remaining four are indeed turkey hunters. They love the sport and the game bird that they hunt.

Where I reside, there are birds to hunt, but not so much for where my two turkey hunting pals live. Thus, I extend an invitation for them to come and stay with me for however long they need or want during turkey season to hunt, but most importantly, to share time with them. The following is the result of their efforts this spring. As a disclaimer, although I photograph turkeys extensively each spring, those areas are off limits to me and my friends due to my personal rule never to hunt where I photograph. But I do have hunting locations that are special to me that I have only ever brought these two friends into. The following is the result of their efforts.


Captain Carl


Carl is, at times by all definition the fictional character in the Winnie-the-Pooh books named Eeyore who is characterized as a pessimistic and anhedonic, old grey donkey.  Many times, I have invited him to hunt deer and/or turkey with me and for many reasons, it had never happened. When I once again offered the invite for this turkey season, he finally accepted. He said to me, “I’m coming with absolutely no expectations.” I quickly cut him off and replied, “If you have no expectations than you’d best just stay in Pennsylvania where the birds are as hard to come by as hen’s teeth.”



At this point in the season, I had one bird under my belt, but knew there was some much bigger, older birds available in all of my favorite locations.

After all of my talk leading up to Carl’s arrival, I told him that just as soon as he stepped out of my truck he would hear a cacophony of gobbling from the roost. I can’t tell you how dismayed I was that not a single bird was gobbling on the very roosts they had bellowed from each time I hunted this location. Despite this, on the first morning out I set him up in a great spot and slipped off to cover another opening between fields. By 7 a.m. with no birds showing (another first for the season) I walked over to Carl and said, “Let’s go, we can’t shoot what is not in front of us.” I’m surely glad that Carl trusted me, because already I was two strikes down.



We moved to a wooded oak grove and set up. I asked my buddy which side of the tree he wanted. In typical fashion Carl wanted me to choose. I said, “No, you choose.” He took the side facing deeper into the woods while I watched the field side. I set out one hen dummy and began to talk like the prettiest girl in the flock.

On my third sequence of yelps, a booming, thunderous gobble came from Carl’s left. It was close enough to jar us both. Within seconds, hens began to filter into the picture heading straight for the decoy. Following them were two stud toms. I whispered into Carl’s ear, “Let’s see if we can get them both close enough to double.” A wonderful thought that often doesn’t come to fruition.



As the scene unfolded, the gobblers were drifting further away as the hens exhibited some apprehension with the dummy. I told Carl, “When you have a good shot that you’re comfortable with, take it.” Within seconds his 870 barked out a load of #4s and mayhem broke loose. Hens were scurrying in every direction as I was trying to see where the other red head was, all the while Carl’s bird was flopping like crazy at 40-yards out.

When the dust finally settled, two-and-a-half hours into his hunt, with no “expectations”, Carl had shot a three-year-old long beard, and his smile – which doesn’t happen often – was from ear to ear. (Observe the photos and you will see one happy guy.)



I will tell you, there was a guy on scene even happier than Carl. I could not have been more thrilled for him if I were to shoot twenty birds just like this one. Of course, Carl being the friend that he is told me, “That should have been your shot, your bird, you’ve invested two weeks into trying to get him.” I simply asked, “Is the bird dead?” He responded, “Well yah.” I then inquired, “Was I here?” Again, he answered in the affirmative. “Well then, I’d say mission accomplished. Had I wanted to hunt that bird exclusively, I would never have brought you here or told you to take the shot.” That’s what friends do. I will never forget those moments and that hunt; they are special to me now and will be forever and a day. I’m so very happy that my friend drove back to PA with a great bird he will be having fully mounted.


The Silverback


My hunting partner, Hart, also known as “The Silverback” was back for another day of turkey hunting at the end of the same week. After striking out on our first sit, I said, yet again, “let’s go, I’ve got another location I’ve only hunted once, three years ago, but it was a successful hunt with lots of gobbling.”

After stopping for a breakfast sandwich and coffee, off we head to our destination. Once set up, still sipping our coffee (Yes, we brought our coffee with us.) Hart let out a call and we got an instant response. Each time Hart called, the gobbler responded along with others on the periphery. Let’s just say the coffee got cold.



The bird came within shooting distance, not once, but twice but neither of us could see him due to the dense underbrush and grass. He finally walked off back towards the field.

We both agreed to get up and make a quiet approach to the field using the topography to our advantage. After about an hour, with no bird in sight of gobbling, we decided to go back, get our vests, chairs and other accoutrements and head for the very edge of the field. And as is so often the case, “Big things happen from small beginnings.” Hart said, “Might as well give a call.” And when he did, a big gobble resonated from the hill behind us.

Hart continued to call and got a response each time, but it didn’t seem like the bird was moving in our direction. We agreed to slowly move toward the field and continue calling as if the hen was walking away. Well let me tell you mister, that was the ticket! The gobbler was on his way!



We quickly got set at field’s edge watching behind for the approaching tom. Once again, I gave my friend the choice of which side to sit and low and behold the bird was approaching his position. I whispered to Hart, “You should shift your chair so you can shoot at a better angle.” He just looked at me with a glint in his eyes and calmly said, “I can shoot left-handed.” (Training from his long history in law enforcement.)

And just like that, there was the big red head moving from our right to left. Due to the height of the grass all we could see was his head. Hart gave out one more soft cluck and purr, and as the old boy lifted his head Hart said, “This is going to be a long shot.” And at that the chess game concluded with the blast from his Benelli.

As quick as a rabbit being chased by a beagle, Hart raced the distance to where he was hopeful the bird was laying. At 52-yards my friend raised his fist in victorious fashion as did I in jubilation.



When I arrived, he told me that this was indeed a good one. He was right, with long curled spurs and a paint brush beard it was at least a four-year-old tom. Hart and I hugged as he thanked me profusely. I said, “No thanks needed my friend; I could not be happier than I am at this moment.” That was a magnificent shot at such a small target just above the grass line, left-handed at that.

And then my pal says, “When we struck off for the field, knowing this bird was coming, you should have stayed at the tree, it would have been a chip shot for you.” I responded, “The pleasure of witnessing how this event all unfolded, and you getting this bird was far more enjoyable than a chip shot from me.”



In the end, I am the one most blessed. Both of my intimate friends shot incredible birds and their happiness became my ultimate joy. I love these two men and would indeed, if the situation ever arose, lay down my life to save theirs. And I’m certain that they would do the same for me…just ask them. King Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs 18:24, “…there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” These men are and continue to be such friends.


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Posted in: Turkey