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Feet First With Clay All the Way to the Knees

by Tom Kelly

If you are reading this it is because the court martial has decided to give me one more chance, and extended my contract for another month, although at this point the staff of the magazine must feel as if they had signed up for a course entitled Ethics 101, and then found that the instructor was a retired Brigadier General named Benedict Arnold.

During what has been an extremely lengthy career I have missed many turkeys. You might even say that I could be considered an expert on the subject. For those of you who have little experience in the matter, the actions taken after the act of missing generally fall into three familiar categories.

If you were hunting alone it is a non-event. Nobody knows you did it but you, nobody needs to know it, and the incident can be shoved under the rug and forgotten.

If there were someone within hearing, but not physically present at the act itself, all you have to do is lie. Simply insist that no matter how it sounded, the shot came from across the property line and you have no idea who shot, or what he shot at, but it positively was not you.

If there was a witness, there is always the possibility that you can buy him off, or threaten him, or blame the incident on faulty equipment. The faulty equipment theme has almost unlimited possibilities, as you no doubt already know.

My own case has none of these face saving characteristics. It leaves no openings whatsoever. It eliminates every redeeming characteristic, every evasion, and every excuse. It is almost unique in that it leaves me in the nearly unprecedented position for any turkey hunter to occupy, and that is the necessity to rely wholly upon the simple truth. I find myself in this unusual position, and I am here because of the following incident.

I missed a turkey in broad daylight, a turkey standing perfectly still, 30 yards downrange. I missed him in front of the landowner of the property, a cameraman, a regional director of the NWTF, and the whole thing was captured on film for the edification of future generations.

No clever tactical maneuver made the occasion possible. There was no classic battle of wits between Holmes and Moriarty, no move and counter move, no clash of intellects. The turkey gobbled profusely, more than enough to give us all time to get there and occupy the position, and gobbled from the roost at my first tree call. He flew down very quickly, came to the third call made, stepped around a medium-sized oak tree and waited, center stage, to be sure that all attendees had a good view of the proceedings.

The cameraman had asked me to give him time to get sufficient footage, and when I thought enough time had elapsed I whispered,

“Do you have all the footage you need?”

And the cameraman said, “Yes, I have enough. Do it any time.”

So I pulled the trigger and missed him for the benefit of the gallery and the edification of future generations.

A freshman dropout from Ed’s Law school could get a conviction on this one, and the jury wouldn’t even have to leave the box. Every man among us tends to have a little clay in one foot or another. Some of us have it in both feet. I don’t think the magazine expected a new contributor to show quite so much clay right off the bat, show it even before he gave the reader a chance to see a little of the polish. It is going to take a pretty fancy collection of lies to smooth this one over. Fortunately, I lie a good deal better than I shoot.

Hope I get the chance.