It could be said that hunters are second to none when it comes to embracing the illusion of control. When I set out planning a hunt, there are elements that can be controlled and oh-so-many others that cannot. However, as a hunter, I possess a naive optimism that seems to overshadow every uncontrollable factor that, although considered, inevitably plays out “best-case scenario” in all my considering.
But…hunting “is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
Spring Turkey 2019, One of My Kids, One Mossberg
With military precision, we planned, prepped, and executed the hunt. Gideon put in the hours behind the gun, practiced calling, and even tromped along with me on a turkey hunt or two. He bagged a beautiful tom. It was his first kill.
Topping it all off was the fact that it was done with his dad’s gun – a Mossberg 500, pump-action, 12-gauge. My father-in-law gifted the shotgun to my husband. The occasion was Christmas, which just so happened to be Gideon’s first Christmas on planet earth as well. It seemed only fitting that the gun and the boy, who together celebrated their first Christmases as a part of the family, should now experience their first turkey hunt together.
The Mossberg 500 had been on countless bird hunts with my husband but never for turkey. The whole situation was textbook. A boy, a gun and a record book tom…a wonderful box of chocolates!
Spring Turkey 2020, Two Kids, Two Mossbergs
Fast forward to Spring Turkey 2020…and two of my kids. Once again, the hunt was planned for, prepped and executed, although somewhat lacking in the “military precision” department.
Right out of the gate, my son bagged a beautiful tom, this time with his own Mossberg shotgun, a Mossy Oak Obsession camo-clad, 500 Youth Super Bantam 20-gauge. This prize came equipped with a fiber optic front sight, a 22-inch vent ribbed barrel, and a synthetic stock finished off with interchangeable, rubber spacers that allow for length adjustment for growing kiddos. An ideal choice for young hunters and one that proved extremely effective!
Gideon had hoped to give his younger sister first-shot as it was her first hunt. However, I had both instructed both the kids to take a shot when they had a shot. So, when that tom strutted over behind his collection of hens, squared off to the blind and dared my testosterone-ridden teenager to do his worst, Gideon HAD to put that bird in the dirt! As much as you can hit the bullseye with a shotshell, my boy did just that. It was lights out in a blink and not a single bb in the meat (our teeth rejoiced)!
Up next was my 12-year-old daughter.
Let me set up some backstory on Alexis. She has been scared – no, TERRIFIED – of guns since she was born. Firearms are a regular part of our everyday life. Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or a Sunday afternoon at the clays course, guns are with us. Education and familiarization regarding responsibly and safely handling of weapons have been as much a part of the kids’ upbringing as brushing their teeth and saying their prayers.
From the time she was three, she was presented with opportunities after opportunity to shoot. But she refused. No matter how much we encouraged, supported, and reasoned, she absolutely refused – even to the point of tears.
But something happened the day we went down to Magnum Shooting Center to pick up her new package.
Alexis eagerly watched as the associate retrieved the box from the back room, laid it on the glass-case top, and cut open the edges. She gasped as the cardboard was pulled back revealing a beautiful Mossberg 500 Turkey .410 decked out from stock to barrel in Mossy Oak Bottomland camo.
“It’s Mossy!” Lexi exclaimed, instantly bonding with the contents of the box. I was dumbfounded.
Originally, this was to be her brother’s gun and the Bantam Youth was going to be hers, but when I saw her reaction to that gun, the choice was clear. Mossy belonged to Alexis – a girl and her gun!
I’ve never experienced such a dramatic shift in what I can only describe as a phobia. She teleported from would-not-touch to would-not-put-down. All it took was a little box of chocolates. This particular one had Mossberg written on the outside and a little
bit of magic inside.
The hunt was a roller coaster of emotions. My Lexi is the epitome of all the feels all the time and if I did not fully appreciate the profundity of that phrase before I very much do now. Over the four days, we hunted she laughed, cried, froze up, relaxed, freaked out, panicked, and joked. I LOVE HUNTING. I NEVER WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN! MOM, THIS IS AWESOME! MOM, DON’T MAKE ME GO! UGH, IT’S ONLY BEEN 20 MINUTES. WHAT??? IT’S ALREADY SUNSET? She called birds in, watched toms fight, watched toms strut, and sat with me staring in amazement as bird after bird gathered around us unaware of our presence then flew up to roost.
The End? Or the Beginning?
She shot at 4 birds and missed 4 birds. How could she not? I am not so naïve to think that a .410 with an extra-full chock is a good choice for a first-time hunter, but it was more than that. Pulling a gun into her shoulder, taking aim, squeezing the trigger and accepting the recoil was an intensely novel notion to her. It was something I was not certain she would ever embrace.
For whatever reason, when she met that .410 Mossberg for the first time, she was suddenly willing to shoot, and given its softer recoil, she was excited to keep shooting. So please understand me when I say there was no way in hell I was going to compromise that by suggesting she switch to an “easier” shotgun. Unfortunately, her open-mindedness toward shooting and skill to kill are not a package deal. Sigh. In my mind, it was too little too late.
On the last night of our hunt, as I sat with Lexi balancing Mossy across her little knees, watching the sun disappear behind the trees, I could not help but feel that the whole thing had been something of a catastrophe. I had failed her. I had completely relinquished any illusion of control. My optimism for success had been assaulted to the point of surrender and in terms of filling a tag, my planning had come to nothing, my preparation was all for not and our execution was far from military. Just as I was getting ready to stand up and brush the pine needles off my backside, Alexis turned to me full of pride and said, “Mom, now I’m a hunter!”
“Yes, baby.” I agreed. “Now you’re a hunter!”
…at that moment a little box of chocolates popped opened and it was perfect! I have no doubt that Lexi and Mossy have much more adventuring to do together!