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. 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.
Realtree turkey hunting editor Steve Hickoff has chased gobblers all over the United States and Mexico. He was born and raised in northcentral Pennsylvania, and now makes his home in Maine. Hickoff was named the NWTF Tom Kelly Communicator of the Year for 2019, a prestigious award reflecting his longtime work promoting hunting and conservation as a turkey hunting writer, editor and book author.