By Capt. Rami Ashouri . March 4, 2022

In March of 2008, Americans were on the precipice of experiencing a deep economic recession that would have lasting impacts on the country. In that same month at the urging of fraternity brothers who were also experimenting with hunting for the first time, I picked up my shotgun, purchased years before shortly after my eighteenth birthday, and headed to the woods for the first time in the hopes to actually kill something with it other than clay pigeons. 

Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to hunt. I begged my parents for a Red Ryder bb gun and would kill songbirds in the backyard with it. Without guidance, my parents being immigrants from the middle east and unfamiliar with southern traditions, I knew not about wanton waste or the ethics of hunting. When I was a little older, I begged my father for a bow and arrow. On the advice of a salesman at Sports Authority, my father purchased me a Fred Bear double pulley compound bow. It had a thirty inch draw and a fifty pound pull weight with eighty percent letoff. I chased cottontails and squirrels with it, unsuccessfully, in the empty lots of my childhood neighborhood. I was big for a preteen, and I still use that bow to hunt to this day. 

In the summer of 2005, when I turned eighteen, I worked as a medical assistant in my father’s medical practice to earn the money to purchase my first firearm. On my eighteenth birthday, my father gave me a bonus and doubled my paycheck to get me to my goal. I earned $1200 that summer, and after a lot of research and consideration, I decided to go for broke on my first gun and purchased a Benelli Montefeltro twelve gauge semi-auto, complete with stunning walnut stock and foregrip, aluminum receiver and a blued barrel. I was given the advice that “if I intended to stick with it, I should get a nice gun for my first.” I knew I intended to stick with it.

Back to 2008. I geared up to turkey hunt, purchasing camouflage for the first time in my life. Pants, shirt, jacket, lightweight gloves and a face cover all made their way into my closet. I purchased snake-proof hunting boots because the internet, only recently coming into wide-scale utility for the dissemination of information, said that March in the Florida Panhandle, where I was attending (or perhaps not attending) college could be notorious for venomous snakes. I bought turkey shells, number-five three inch lead, and a Primos Box Cutter box call, because the internet gurus said that was one of the easier calls to use. I would scour YouTube for video clips of turkeys calling and learned to imitate the sounds I heard with that box call. I went to the woods every afternoon to scout for turkey sign. I began to learn a world totally unknown to me before.

The first time I went into the woods toting a gun, mere weeks after completing my required hunter safety course, I went with those friends from my fraternity who were responsible for introducing me to a lifelong addiction and got to an area where we found fresh sign when scouting before the season opener. We reached a crossroads in the trails.  I cut a series of yelps from that Primos Box Cutter. I was met with response from a bellowing, baritone gobbler who I didn’t know at the time would lead to a whole lot of frustration and failing grades in school that semester.

I hunted that gobbler for fourteen days straight. Every morning, he would gobble on the roost and stay gobbling from that time until the 1:00 PM cutoff for hunting on public land. I researched every method I could to try to kill him. I added a mouth call and a Primos Jackpot slate call to my arsenal. I added a hen decoy. I flushed him twice trying to run and gun to get closer to him.

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