ETW turkey

Lee Treadway finds his “first kill” while learning to hunt with brother, father and grandfather.

The fact that Thanksgiving is becoming nothing more than a prelude to the Christmas holiday season is truly a shame. I recently mentioned to a friend that I almost wish they would move Thanksgiving up on the calendar to the beginning of November so that we could better enjoy the holiday for its rich traditions. But after second thought, that would probably just add another three weeks to the Christmas holiday season.

What I like about Thanksgiving is the focus rests more on time than on gifts. What we share with our family and friends is our time, and in the long run that is so much more meaningful and memorable. The corn pudding and cranberry-pecan stuffing is quite memorable, too.

Then there is football and hunting, what would Thanksgiving be without the early morning hunt in the brisk fall air? My favorite family activity follows later in the day — seeing who could stay awake the longest during the boring Cowboy’s game after eating 5 pounds of turkey and mashed potatoes.

I have been blessed with a large extended family and a pile of grandkids. It’s important to me that the traditions of this holiday are taught and passed on to our kids. This past year, I made a special effort to do just that for my youngest grandkids, Sam and Lee.

Now I am by no means what one would call an avid hunter. My idea of hunting turkey consists of comparing the sale papers of Kroger and Food Lion. But far be it for me to deprive my 4- and 6-year-old grandsons from experiencing this wild outdoor tradition of the holiday.

My first stop would be to West Franklin Mercantile. You can’t take the boys out on their first hunt without decking them out in the proper clothing. So I grabbed everything I could find in their sizes that was either camouflage or blaze orange.

Next stop was Walmart’s gun shop. I was a bit out of my element here, but I was fairly confident that the 12-gauge pump would probably be a stretch for a 4-year-old’s first gun. I settled instead on a couple Crossman Pellet Air rifles for the both of them. I was almost ready.

But what would they shoot at? The chance that a few wild turkeys would happen by as my two loud and boisterous young’uns trounced through the woods was much to ask. My good buddy, Aaron Haigler, resolved my dilemma with a couple large turkey decoys that were perfect. We were set!

I went out early and hid the decoys deep in the woods down by a creek. They would experience a good hike before they would discover them. Then back to the house to introduce them to their rifles and get them both uniformed for the hunt.

Christmas morning has nothing over the excitement and anticipation these two boys exhibited getting ready to go out. It brought back memories of little Ralphie running through the kitchen with his brand new Red Ryder range-model BB gun. We decided, however, to forego loading the guns with pellets this first time in fear that they would “put somebody’s eye out”— more than likely mine.

The initial idea was to make this first hunt a bit of a training exercise. A way to teach them some of the basic skills of maneuvering through the woods with a quiet, alert awareness of your surroundings. That idea crashed the moment we reached the edge of the woods when little Lee took off running like a bat-out-of-hell so he could beat his brother finding the first bird.

They each eventually found a bird on their own. They both had fun wielding their guns and shooting everything that got in their way. And what a sight to see those boys struggling back up the hill to the house with their prized turkeys in tow.

What a hunt we had. What a great day. What great memories for the family. It’s just the sort of thing that makes the Thanksgiving season so darn special.

As we start this holiday season, my wish is that all my readers experience the joy that comes with quality time investments with our loved ones. To all of you, a Wild and Joyous Thanksgiving!

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