I’ve “donated” a few hunts to fundraising events over the years. Most of the time I ended up being the benefactor.
In about 1991 or so, I donated a duck hunt to the CWA Youth event at Comanche Hills. The hunt was a guided hunt on the public waterfowl hunting areas. Many people probably laughted at the idea of paying for somebody to take them hunting on the public areas. I can hear them now, “The audacity of that guy…”
I didn’t think I was making any kind of statement. I just wanted to take somebody hunting who was also willing to help raise some money for CWA. Surprisingly, the man who purchased that hunt, for he and his son, has become one of my regular hunting partners. He’s one of the nicest and most considerate people I know and his name is Tom Billingsley.
Not only did he and his son hunt with me at Mendota that year, they still hunt there to this day. And, Tom frequently hunts waterfowl, pheasants and even deer with me. The donated hunt was the start of a lasting friendship.
This weekend I took two young gentlemen turkey hunting. A good friend of theirs and mine, Pamela Atwood, purchased the turkey hunt at the Mule Deer Foundation banquet in San Jose and gave it to them. They had not been turkey hunting previously and she has been a hunting mentor for them, especially Eric, who was introduced to hunting by winning an SCI essay contest at the age of 13.
Eric and Michael Maida joined me at 5:00 AM on Saturday and we headed for turkey country. Our first stop produced only one long range gobble. However we did see quite a bit of wildlife including three blacktail bucks. One of them was a keeper and we watched him for a few minutes before we concluded we’d have to scare him off to get back to the truck. It was a beautiful morning, but by 9:30, it was obvious that we’d better move to another spot. We were hunting on a ranch managed by a friend of mine because I could find only one gobbler on our ranch and what good would a two-person turkey hunt be when there was only one trophy.
Anyway, we shifted to another part of the ranch and hit paydirt. After a little hiking and calling we had two birds down – a double.
After our success on Saturday, we headed to camp on our ranch and hunted for pigs in the evening. Finding no pigs, we ate barbecued mallard and slept out near the canyon where the turkeys live. In the middle of the night, (2:41 AM exactly) one of the bulls penned in the field next to our sleeping spot decided to bellow repeatedly about 50 yards from where we were sleeping. It was quite a wakeup call.
We rose about 5:30 AM and within minutes a gobbler began sounding off in the canyon below us. We set up early in the howling wind and chilly temps. I failed to impress him with my hen turley impersonation. We followed him for a couple hours, finding the old bird stutting in an open bowl, but we could never get closer than about 75 yards. Eventually he walked off leaving us frustrated. But it was a great hunt.
Eric and Michael were great hunting partners and I haven’t had more fun on any hunt since I was their age.
Thanks to Pamela and Stan Atwood for setting up a great hunt.