A Common Ground
Josh Honeycutt is a young outdoor writer and journalism student attending the University of Kentucky in Glasgow. He is the 2012 recipient of the Lindsay Sale- Tinney Award from the Outdoor Journalist Education Foundation. The award was presented by the South Eastern Outdoor Press Association at their 2012 convention. This is Josh’s first contribution to AVFTBR, but look for more in the future.
As I sat there on that April afternoon, I was reminded of my childhood and all of the fond memories I had of this place. As I reminisced, I lay back on the bank and listened to the water rush by. The steady breeze was hitting my face and slowing not for the next obstacle in its path, which happened to be a tall, gnarly oak that stood rooted a few yards to my left.
I slowly come back from the day dream I had been in, which had kept me mesmerized for going on half an hour now. I glanced down, as I felt my hand brush against something. The shotgun laying there reminded me that it would not kill that longbeard on its own. As I started to rise back up, I noticed that same big oak tree that had been there for so many years.
Childhood memories came rushing into my head as I took in and observed its valiance and immaculate prestige. The river had obviously fed it kindly over the years. I as a grown man could not reach halfway around it.
As I sat and stared at it, a thought came across my mind. What if it had not been for this river, for this mighty oak, and for the river bottoms I had been trekking through all morning? This was where I had gotten my start, my introduction to the great outdoors.
While setting there I thought to myself, where would I be if not for this winding river that shaped me as it had the land around? I sat and pondered on it for a few minutes before finally dismissing it to the back of my mind. Concluding alone, that if not for this place I would not be the man I am today. The thought of not knowing this land made me cringe as I finally rose to my feet. For this place had been my play ground, my work shop, and ultimately, my life.
The sun was midway through its descent by the time I started back up the hunt. Each time I passed a familiar spot or landmark I would stop and think back to an old memory. Sometimes it was of a boy and his father trying to swindle a lone tom into range. At others, it was of them waiting on a rut crazed buck to come crashing through the timber. No matter what it was, each time it brought a smile to my face, and I gave thanks to this beautiful land for allowing me such memories.
At one particular spot I spent a little extra time. It was a small woodlot with two big ash trees that grew right next to each other. Here my father and I often sat in wait for a longbeard to come struttin’ around the bend. I remembered each hunt in my head and each one tugged a little harder at the corner of my mouth until eventually I was smiling like a clown.
As luck would have it, a distant gobble was heard over the rise. I quickly ended my lackadaisical mind wonderings and subconsciously plopped down up against the very tree that had provided my perch so many times before. I sent a soft yelp the tom’s way to see if he would respond. He answered with a clatter of thunder that echoed throughout the river bottom.
My limbs started trembling as they always had when calling to birds along this river. I have always gotten a rush from the wild turkey no matter where I was hunting. But there was always something about this piece of ground, this river. Something serene and charismatic made this land stand above the rest, and made the hunt that much more exciting.
I called again. This time with soothing purrs to go along with the yelps that seemed to be turning the gobbler on. He was coming in on a string. It was as if he had read the script. He came strutting up over the little rise in front of me. A sight I had seen so many times before. He crested the rise and slowly came out of strut as he looked for his lover. Just after doing so he popped right back into strut and took a few more stiff- legged steps.
By this time, my adrenaline was peaking and my finger was seconds away from pulling the trigger. Just before the gobbler took his last step, memories similar to the present experience flooded my brain. With confidence, I regained my focus and lined the bead up on his neck. With the sound of gunfire, the big tom fell and flopped for several seconds before ceasing his movements.
It made me appreciate the world around me, our country, this land, and the river there that still flows. It was the last time I ever hunted that farm. As the years passed, it gradually sold. Luckily today the land still remains untouched by our ever industrializing world. The wildlife there still thrives and the forest still flourishes. The gobbler still sounds his thunder each spring and the whitetail still runs the timber with his nose to the ground each fall.
Most hunters share a common ground. One where we can all go back and remember the lands that molded us and allowed for our passion of the outdoors to grow. For me it was that river that flowed so smoothly and the rich crop lands that it winded through. As hunters we should remember and appreciate not only the people, but the places that we learned our trade upon. We should remember the places that instilled in us the culture we practice. We should remember, respect, and protect the land. Without it, we would not have the memories that we so fondly cherish. We would not share this common ground.