I had heard turkeys were wiley, and thought about that as I packed. I wondered if I would even see one, and if I did, could I get close enough for a decent shot?
That concern didn’t gain much purchase – I was excited. Robin Hood and I hadn’t hunted since December, and we hadn’t camped since October. We were due for an adventure. Not to mention campfires, good company, and the under-appreciated upper-body workout known as “carrying a shotgun around in the wilderness while also wearing a densely-packed backpack.”
With our gear, our 4-wheeler, and one sassy redbone coonhound, we trucked down to the Apache National Forest. When we arrived at camp, the friends we were meeting had already left for the evening hunt, so we hustled to get out there ourselves.
Leaving the dog to mind the camp (don’t worry, she was safe), we hopped on the 4-wheeler and drove to the spot where we would hunt. Walking on pine needles, feeling the mountain breeze, I couldn’t help but breathe more deeply.
The best part of New Mexico is its wilderness.
I was hunting with a 20-gauge Stoeger Coach Gun. Granted, a 20-gauge isn’t ideal for turkey hunting – I would have to get pretty darn close – but I didn’t care. I was spending quality time in the great outdoors and quality time with my husband.
The turkeys eluded us that evening. We returned to camp and proceeded to have a great time catching up with our friends, stuffing our faces with tamales and rice, and enjoying the campfire.
The next morning’s wake-up call came dark and early. Somehow we got dressed, geared up, got the dog settled, and found ourselves walking quietly through the pines again. We had picked a different spot this time, and felt optimistic.
Suddenly, Robin Hood motioned me to be still. I looked where he was pointing, and saw not a turkey, but a small herd of elk!
Now where were they last fall??
Seeing the elk was a beautiful surprise. They traipsed off, but we kept seeing them as we walked along, and it felt like a little blessing.
Once again, however, the turkeys stayed out of sight. We found tracks and poop, but no actual gobblers.
Next time, Tom. Next time.
The evening hunt was nixed due to wind (I guess it can be too windy to hunt?), which made room for another adventure. Specifically: Robin Hood decided it was time for me to learn to drive the 4-wheeler.
I started out very…cautiously. As the speedometer crept past 5 mph, I had to swallow squeaks of terror.
Toto, I was not on my single-speed cruiser anymore.
Thankfully, Robin Hood is a patient and supportive teacher. He sat behind me as I, with the lightning speed of an overweight snail, negotiated the ruts and rocks of the roads by our camp. We reached another road, a smoother one, and he asked if I wanted to keep driving.
“Yes,” I lied. I was scared, but feeling ornery.
I kept driving. We cruised along the smoother road, then turned onto one that was clearly beyond my skill level. “It’ll be fine!” my husband assured me.
His words ten minutes later: “Wow, that was a lot rougher than I thought it would be.”
I’ll forgive him someday.
The main point, though, is that I kept driving. I even got up to 30 mph on the way back to camp!
Learning a new skill? Playing in the wilderness? Even without a turkey, I’m calling the weekend a victory.