Turkey Season 2022 Wraps Up On A Wing and A Prayer

The last day of the 2022 turkey season found the author staring down at the face of his granddaughter.

Reader Contributed | May 27, 2022

By Rickey Thomas

The meaning of “On a Wing and A Prayer” means we set out to succeed, despite not being fully prepared for it. This expression pretty much sums up my 2022 Turkey Season.

I started with a quota hunt in the pristine woods of the Gaither WMA. I first visited Gaither in 2020 and was hooked on this property after getting some reverberating distant gobbles on a crisp, late April morning. I had high hopes of getting some birds to gobble this year while closing the distance with more patience and less calling. Since I did not get a bird in 2020 and did not get selected for a quota in 2021, I thought for sure that 2022 would even the odds. I mean it was like deuces wild and all bets were off!

Rickey Thomas, of Athens, with his 9-year-old granddaughter Lilly Parker, of Madison.

The type of work I do does not allow me much freedom for turkey hunting until after mid-April, so the later start to the season did not discourage me too much. I was optimistic that this just might be the year for my first Eastern wild turkey.

As I made it up the hill to the ideal spot I had marked on the map with GPS, I was pleased to see that DNR had used a tractor to aid the hike up the big hill, which previously I had to navigate in 2020 by low crawling through a briar patch. The path cut by DNR helped along the contours, but I still had to quietly wind my way through the brush to get to my tree. In 2020 after low crawling to the top and being near exhaustion, I appropriately labeled the spot on my GPS as “death tree” because I thought it was going to be either my end or a turkey’s end.

I set up quietly and still and began calling. I waited patiently, and then I waited some more and even a little bit more. I have heard that patience is what helps kill turkeys. Enjoying the isolation as I was most likely the only hunter on the property that day, I was grateful for being selected to hunt in this beautiful section of public land. I enjoy the peace and solitude that turkey hunting brings. Whether you harvest a bird or not, it’s amazing how nature is the best way to relax and soothe the soul from the daily rigors of work and stress. When hunting, I often find myself more submissive to the higher power we all depend on for salvation, blessings and grace. Spending time outdoors helps me remember that the birds, wild flowers and trees hold more wisdom and can tell the truth about their Creator and can drown out the noise and distraction of the world news and crazy events around us. The gurgling brook can purge the soul and tell the story as the water runs over the rocks.

I wish I could tell you that I harvested a bird that morning. Instead of taking something from the woods, I was blessed to leave something behind: the cares of the world, the worry and the stresses of work, which was beyond insane prior to entering the stillness of the woods.

I thought to myself on the way back to the car how blessed I was to have been selected on the quota hunt. I then turned to think about a few opportunities I still had to hunt on private land in Morgan County. 

I have a good friend who has been helping me learn to hunt turkey, and I wanted to show him some of the land where some of my family resides. I had seen turkeys there in the past and one wily coyote that ruined a good setup a few years back. When I took my friend hunting there, we saw nothing. No birds, no gobbles and not even a coyote. 

I think we need to get some expert advice on how to manage the small property to attract and keep birds and hopefully see a resurgence of turkeys because it seems they have disappeared from this property. 

We then drove out to a nearby tract of land where we had permission to hunt and were hopeful after seeing signs of scratching and disturbed areas where the turkeys had been feeding in the pine straw. Once again our efforts were met with silence. At least in 2020, I had found a tail feather or two, and that’s about as close I have been to a turkey in a while.

As fate would have it the last full week of the 2022 season I got bronchitis and was pretty sure my hunting was over. Well, I woke up early on the last Saturday of the season and felt good enough to go, so off I went trying to choose between the family land or the other tract a little farther away. Due to time limits, I chose the closer location of the family land where my grandchildren live. 

Evidently when I pulled in, I had not gone unnoticed by my young granddaughter, who shares my love for the woods. I saw her coming out the back door of the house as I was still at my car. A few years back my hunt had been busted by that coyote, and this morning I got busted by my granddaughter! My wife did not even know I had left the house to go hunting so it appears that generations of women’s intuition is being passed down. 

I decided to use this moment to have her join me, and we quietly made our way to the tree I had selected as a decent spot. I showed her how to do the owl hoot and the turkey calls with a box call and push button yelper. 

Her smile and enthusiasm made me forget all about not getting a bird this season, which we knew starting off was going to be a big challenge. After quietly sitting there and not getting any responses, we decided it was time for breakfast. As I turned toward the tree on my knees, my heart was filled with gratitude for seeing my granddaughter’s smile that morning. It was certainly much better than getting a turkey. At that moment I felt impressed to pray with her and thank God for the beautiful morning that we were able to share together. 

Although my turkey season started with the hope of seeing turkey wings flopping on the ground, the blessing I got at the end with a prayer shared with my granddaughter was priceless. I am thankful for turning to the tree on my knees and couldn’t help but reflect on Jesus, who was lifted up on a cross made from a tree that even though when we think we don’t have much chance for success, His grace is sufficient if we turn our focus to Him and let Him be our Savior. 

On a wing and a prayer and a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6)

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