Mike Frederick tried everything he could think of to get his wife, Faye, a clear shot at a male wild turkey on Friday morning.
First, he set up four decoys, including one that had real tail feathers. Then, he used a variety of calls to see if he could get any toms in the nearby woods to respond.
One call made the harsh sound of a crow, while three others generated the tempting clucks and purrs of turkey hens. Finally Mike pulled out a device that, when he turned its knob, imitated the noises made by two turkeys fighting.
One tom – or maybe two – replied with gobbles, but for 1½ hours, nothing flew or walked onto the dirt road near the Fredericks' blind at the Savannah River Site.
“I think I'm going to shut up for a while,” said Mike with a sigh. “I'm worn out.”
Then everything happened at once. A young male turkey, which is known as a jake, ran across the road. Next, a big tom stepped out of the forest. Spotting the decoys, he spread his tail feathers and puffed out his chest.
“There is he is,” Faye whispered to her husband right before the boom of her 20-gauge shotgun shattered the silence.
Knocked backward by the blast, Faye fell off the edge of her folding chair and landed on her backside.
For Faye, the first day of the 10th annual SRS Ultimate Turkey Hunt had ended.
“I am so frustrated,” she said after being helped up by her husband of nearly 37 years. “To work so hard and get so close is aggravating, but that's hunting. The good Lord willing, there will be another day.”
Faye was among 29 disabled people who participated in the SRS hunt, which offered another session of hunting on Saturday. The Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and National Wild Turkey Federation teamed with numerous other organizations and businesses to put on the event.
“I had polio when I was 4 years old, but I've been blessed,” said Faye, who uses a cane to walk and wears a brace on her left leg. A resident of North Augusta, she is a registered nurse.
Faye, 63, started hunting years ago as a way to spend more time with her husband.
“I figured if I wanted to see him, I better go with him,” she said.
Faye enjoys eating what she shoots, but she also gets pleasure from observing the beauty of nature.
“God's creation is just amazing,” she said.
Participants in the SRS Ultimate Turkey Hunt are selected in a random drawing and Faye is lucky enough to have been chosen for almost every event. On her first SRS hunt, she killed two turkeys.
Faye's husband has been a volunteer guide ever since the hunt's inaugural edition. Mike escorts his wife most of the time, but he also has gone out with other disabled hunters.
“Being the person who is able to give someone the opportunity to come here and kill their first bird gives me a better feeling than any bird I've ever killed,” said Mike, who works for Wackenhut Services at SRS.