Quarter century. Twenty-five years. Longer than the life of James Dean, longer than some pine sawtimber rotations in the southeast, longer than it took for the internet consume society following the conception of the personal computer. Twenty-five years ago this spring a fire was sparked inside of me. A fire that would burn hot enough to sustain itself with essentially no fuel for some nine months out of every single year to follow. A passion of enormous proportions. A passion that would consume my thoughts many days and dominate my dreams many nights.
This photo was taken twenty-five short years ago on the very spring morning that this passion was born. I am so thankful that the Lord our God saw fit to provide me with a father that was gracious enough to instill this passion within me, even though many times since that day he has openly admitted to the regret of having ever taken me.
Over the last twenty-five years the pursuit of the wild turkey has casted the mold for some of the relationships that I hold most dear, furnished me with some of my fondest memories with some of my favorite people, and strengthened bonds with friends and family like little else in this life possibly could. I am indebted to those with whom I have shared a spring sunrise, I am grateful for those whom I have helped instill this passion within, and I am already thankful for those whom, Lord willing, I will share this passion with in the future.
After chasing turkeys for every legal minute that I possibly could for a quarter of a century, the following is my attempt to consolidate twenty-five years of emotions into a few sentences: Twenty-five years of passionately doing anything will teach one a lot about the trade at hand. There are the experienced, but there are no experts in this sport. Unless you leave the house refusing to pay attention, you will continue to learn something new almost every single day. There have been in the past and there will continue to be those who will hear more turkeys than I do, there will continue to be those who will kill more turkeys than I do, there will continue to be those who will travel to more states to hunt than I do, but there is not a single soul that will ever love the sport of turkey hunting more than I do. To quote arguably the most definitive three sentences ever uttered in reference to our great sport written by the legendary Colonel Tom Kelly: “The first turkey that ever came to me on the ground did it a long time ago. I sat there with my hands shaking and my breath short and my heart hammering so hard I could not understand why he could not hear it. The last turkey that came to me last spring called forth exactly the same emotion, and the day that this does not happen to me is the day that I quit.”
With twenty-five years of turkey hunting behind me I can only hope that the Lord will allow me another 50, and maybe, just maybe, I will have done it right enough times to afford a few extra innings at the end of regulation. The reason that we, the mutually afflicted, survive through the other un-anointed nine months out of the year is upon us- our time to live as opposed to just exist. I hope that everybody’s spring of 2019 is filled with calm, crisp, bluebird mornings and willing two year gobblers. Best of luck to each and every one of you this spring, enjoy every second of it, and share it with somebody new if you get the chance.
By Matt Persons