“Crank one, babe” he whispered, motioning toward the sprawling valley below us. Our
shed hunt had quickly turned into a wild turkey stalk, leading us up a drainage and across the
pine-covered ridge. With each beginner’s attempt at my mouth call, an enthusiastic gobble
erupted in reply. Somehow, that sound alone was enough to send my heart racing. After a flash
of smile and a wink, we crept slowly downward; our footsteps silenced by the bed of soft
You see, we had no tags or weapons. Our turkey seasons had come and gone; his
successful and mine tag-soup. Our only trophy this day would be our first turkey encounter
together, and maybe a photograph at best. We had each traveled over six hundred miles to
hike, camp, and spend the weekend together in the Black Hills of South Dakota: the perfect
public half-way of our long-distance relationship.
Over the course of three days, we enjoyed each other’s company and explored the
corners of a National Forest that is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We
photographed endless wildlife, found my first elk shed, and finally engaged in proximal banter
with the elusive wild turkey. This tale ends with neither trophy nor filled tag, but with the simple
notion of togetherness, brought to you by lands that would cease to exist without the most
robust and impactful bipartisan conservation program in history.