Almost always after killing a wild turkey, I whisper: "Thanks."
Sometimes I'm alone; sometimes I'm with a buddy. I'm moved. I'm grateful. My hands are almost always shaking, even after all these years. It never gets old. I'm forever amazed I got to do it one more time. And I'm thankful.
What you say after killing wild game matters because . . .
A young hunter or someone new to the hunting tradition is watching your actions, trying to fit in and figure out the deal. They regard you as a mentor whether you know that or not. Be an example.
A landowner gave you permission to hunt their land. Somebody told you where you'd find action.
Your state's wildlife management department, along with pro-hunting conservation groups such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, have worked long and hard to give you such an opportunity.
Family. Friends. They all played a part in this.
Yep, it's easy to be cynical these days. It's even easier to think you earned it on your own. But you didn't. You had help.
Hunting – for wild turkeys, deer, ducks and whatever else – is almost always a "we" deal.
Kill what you were hunting? Tag or limit out? Congratulations.
Now take a second. Look up at the big blue sky, the red and yellow woods and green fields around you. Stop. Look. Listen. Whisper a few words.
Smile at your best buddy next to you. Smile to yourself.
Look down at the greatest gamebird on the planet – and give thanks.
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Editor's note: This Realtree turkey blog post was first published November 17, 2015.