A tear rolls down my cheek each time I place a few freshly harvested tail feathers on my grandpa’s grave. Every spring the sound of the wild turkey echoes through the hills of West Virginia. I’m reminded of my grandpa, the man responsible for what led to an obsession and love for hunting and being in the outdoors. Every spring I take to the woods with my gun and time to reflect on some of my best childhood memories hunting turkeys.
To give you a since of time my grandpa was born in 1912 and It’s been 14 years since he passed away. Every spring I take a bouquet of what I call fresh flowers (tail feathers from a turkey) to his grave, to remember him and the impact he made on my life. I remember life as a child and I especially remember every spring looking forward to staying with him and grandma. Grandma took care of us by cooking breakfast every morning before we headed out and Grandpa took the time out of his day to take me and teach me to hunt. He shared his love for hunting with me and the beauty of the forest coming to life in the morning sun.
I was often late for school on the weeks I’d go to stay with my grandparents, I didn’t just stay the night. I usually stayed for 4-5 nights at a time. We would wake up every morning during season, grandma would cook us breakfast and we’d be off to watch the sunrise and to listen for the turkeys gobblin’ on the roost. I remember some things like yesterday, like the time we took the motor home to Cheat Mountain to stay a few nights just to go turkey hunting. On the way over we stopped at a Sporting Goods Store where the man inside had a diaphragm mouth call. It was the first time I’d ever heard anything like it, I was amazed. It’s funny how you remember certain little things, but I remember later that evening we were driving out the ridge going into camp when a hen crossed the road in front of us. She was hope that grandpa and I would be able to harvest our first turkey together. We never heard a turkey that next morning, but as a child this was one of the best camping trips of my life. My grandma was an amazing cook, she made the best fried potatoes I’d ever eaten. I specifically remember wanting to know how she made them. She would skin and boil the potatoes at night then slice and fry them in butter and oil in the mornings. A recipe I still love and enjoy and share with friends and family at hunting camp.
Grandpa and I never harvested a turkey together. It wasn’t until I was in high school when I had finally figured things out, like how to call and successfully harvest a turkey. I remember buying my grandpa and I some of our first camouflage hunting gear when I was in high school, sometime in the 1980's. By this time grandpa was getting up in age and couldn’t get a round like he once did. I took him to the woods several times and called him in a turkey, but he never did get to harvest one. It certainly wasn’t about the kill to us; it was simply about being there together and enjoying the woods and one another’s company.
Looking back on the actions of my Grandpa, I realize now how he molded my life. Naturally I wanted to share life with others as my grandpa shared it with me. My little brother was much younger than me, but when he was 6 years old, I called him in his first turkey. He didn’t kill it, but this experience hooked him like Grandpa hooked me, and now this tradition is being passed on to his 2 young boys. I also have a daughter who’s harvested more turkeys and game than most of the boys. My name is Greg Moats. I’m a 4th generation logger and co-owner in partner with my daughter of Mountaineer Outfitters - a big game hunting and outfitting business. Every fall I shut down the logging operation and travel West where I get to share my love for the outdoors with folks all over the country. I never dreamed I’d ever become a hunting guide, but I give an ample amount of credit to my Grandpa for the start of our business. The Call of the Wild is one that must be answered, and I am proud to honor my grandpa in doing so.