By Safiyyah Motaib

North Carolina

I had just bought my first shotgun a month prior, and I found a landowner who let me target practice on his farm through a friend of a friend who knew someone. Somehow I ended up on his property on the coast, getting ready for my first hunt ever.

I had no idea what to expect, and while I didn’t want to get my hopes up, I couldn’t really help it.

After setting up the decoys on the morning of the hunt, we sat down and I glued my eyes to the skies and opened my ears to the sounds of the forest. We did some light calling, and after what seemed like forever,  we heard a gobble and immediately looked at each other, wide eyed and excited. My mentor stopped calling and put his finger to his lips, making sure I knew not to make a peep.

A tom flew over us.

My heart sank.

I thought he was long gone.

But after a couple minutes, the gobbler flew back over the brush that lined the creek behind us and landed. He stared, then started to slowly make his way towards the decoys… towards us.

He stopped.

He was still too far for me to make a comfortable shot, and he turned around as if to walk away.

My heart sank again.

We  called to him again with a cluck.. Or was it a yelp?

The gobbler stopped in his tracks and aggressively turned around. He opened his fan, his head turned red, and he came into the decoys at full strut.

He was coming our way.

I knew what I had to do, I just wasn’t quite sure when. I didn’t want to shoot too soon and miss but didn’t want to wait too long and risk getting busted either.

My brain screamed, “ HE’S COMING “

I could feel the smile on my face and my heartbeat in my throat.

He got within 30 yards and I spring up to clear the burlap, shouldered my shotgun and took a shot.

Got him.

No wait.. “I GOT HIM”

The shot was not immediately lethal, which was apparent as I watched him hobble away, unable to fly.  I quickly ran to catch up to him, grabbed his neck in one hand and my knife in the other and quickly finished the job. While I was relieved knowing that I did the best I could to reduce the turkey’s suffering, I wished I had made a better shot in the first place.

All the emotions of that morning settled into one at that moment: pride. Although I had a lot of help with setting up the blind, setting up the decoys, and had no clue what was going on with calling, when the time came, I did not hesitate and I made a pretty good judgement call when it came to when and when not to shoot. I was proud of that turkey.

That was it. My first hunt. My first kill. My first opportunity.

We took some pictures and took the bird back to camp. The beard was nine and a half inches. We started to pluck the bird but I could not stop petting it. I noticed that I do that with all the animals I get to harvest, I wonder if anybody else does that?

An image that followed me for the rest of the year and will probably do so for the rest of my life:

A clean animal, a smile on my face, and blood on my hands.