Hunting And Fishing With Jo, Part 4

Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final part of a story written by Brandon Jewett of Yakima about hunting and fishing with his dynamo of a daughter, Jo. We’re serializing it in four installments this week. Parts one, two and three ran on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – see

WE HAD COLD HANDS, AND THE HUNT was over because of it. Naturally we needed breakfast, again, because we “didn’t want to waste our pack snacks when there is a town full of restaurants.” I was mapping out how to get to all the spots recommended by my friend and answering curious questions in the McDonald’s parking lot when I heard a little snore from behind me. Jo was out cold. It may have only been 45 minutes and a little walk to me, but that was a big hunt and an early morning for a 5-year-old.

I drove around and listened for gobbles at various parcels of state land, talked to a couple other hunters and maybe even dozed off myself for a bit.

“Can we go hunting again now, Daddy?” I heard just as I drifted off.


 I turned my head and opened my eyes as she bit into a plum with her molars because all her front teeth were loose. We got out of the truck and stretched our legs. We had a very lengthy lesson on how to safely cross a fence because apparently, that is very fun. Again, this was her hunt, and it’s a good safety lesson anyway. She wanted to demonstrate her technique several times and expected a quiet round of applause. She took a bow each time. 

Jo finally decided we’d better hunt, so we quietly approached the tree line. The wind was blowing a bit, so I broke out my old, scratchy box call and made some turkey noises.

GOBBLE-GOBBLE-GOBBLE! came the response.

Her eyes were as big as the plum she was eating. We crawled into some bushes as the turkey gobbled again.

“Can I get another snack?” she asked.

“We don’t have time, sweetheart; hold still, Bean,” I replied. 

“He was so big and so loud! They look like dinosaurs when they run, Daddy! Did you see him running?” Jo asked, noting, “That’s the second one that has ran away from us today!”

–Brandon Jewett

About that time, he made his appearance – a beautiful example of a Merriam’s turkey. Strutting, spitting and drumming, he put on quite the show. However, over all the amazing turkey noises being made just a few yards away, all I could hear were the chopped-up breaths of an excited little girl in my left hear. 

Jo was standing in somewhat of a hole behind me; she hadn’t had time to sit down, and her head was right next to mine. She was seeing everything exactly how I was seeing it. She was frozen. Hearing and literally feeling her excitement as her little heart almost beat right out of her chest was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. It was also one of the most stressful and nerve-racking shots I’ve ever prepared for. The pressure was like nothing I’ve ever felt.

“I’m going to shoot; are you ready?” I said. 

“Yeah, shoot,” Jo said, her words quivering. 

I took aim with my brand-new 16-gauge, and the worst possible thing happened. I missed. Then I missed again.

Despite being extremely disappointed and ashamed, Jo wasn’t discouraged at all.

“He was so big and so loud! They look like dinosaurs when they run, Daddy! Did you see him running?” Jo asked, noting, “That’s the second one that has ran away from us today!”

WE HAD A SNACK, OF COURSE, and I contemplated giving up. Jo was still so excited, though, as she held my two empty purple shells, smelling the gun powder. Remember that as a kid? Jo was not fond of the idea of leaving and going somewhere else at all. I, however, was having a hard time not showing my disappointment in myself. 

“Let’s just walk over there and shoot one,” Jo said nonchalantly. I figured I had just scared the only bird within 12 miles out of the county, but thought to myself, why not? This is her hunt, after all. We walked about another 400 yards, and she asked me to use “the wooden call” again. I got down on my knees, on her level, and scratched out a few yelps. I think. Turkey noises are a mystery to me. The sounds echoed across the canyon. 

Jo’s eyes lit up as she smiled and pointed – those young ears of hers come in handy a lot – indicating a bird. 

“Are you sure?” I asked in a playful, sarcastic dad-type of way.

“Yes!” she replied. 

I’d heard nothing, but I could tell from her excitement that she had. Was it a gobbler? I don’t know, but she was convinced it was, so we made our way in that direction. After all, this was her hunt. Sure enough, after another series of yelps, or whatever, a gobble echoed through the trees.


“I told you!” Jo exclaimed. 

I had to remind her to be quiet but also made sure she knew I was so proud of her. I decided to set up right where we were, as the ground between us and the bird was mostly open. We had talked about that very thing that morning: “Why don’t we want to cross here, Jo?” I’d asked. “Because he will see us! And he will run away like the other ones,” she replied.

Jo picked our spot because she wanted to stand behind me again. Sitting was not an option. This was not negotiable. It was not the most ideal spot, but the bird was on his way. I sat up as tall as I could to hide her as she peered over my shoulder again. I told Jo where I thought the bird was going to come from, which meant that it would not be where he came from at all, and to remember to just hold still. 

“OK,” Jo responded, slightly confused, through the crunching of chips. I guess she had planned ahead this time and got in her new backpack quickly and quietly.

The bird showed up within 10 minutes, gobbling all the way. Jo’s breathing got more and more excited, and I could feel her little feet dancing. “Hold still, baby,” I urged. 

The tom poked his head up from behind some bushes at about 50 yards. I had to tell myself to wait, as I couldn’t handle another miss. Then I heard some spitting and drumming below us to our left in a little draw where I couldn’t see. There were two birds! 

“There he is, Daddy!” Jo said. “Oh, my gosh, he’s huge! Get him, get him!”

From her point of view, she could see what I was hearing, and apparently it was quite the show. Unfortunately, the bird took off, running like a dinosaur. I had no shot. The other one, however, was not as keen, and perhaps was mesmerized by the bright blue chip bag shining brightly in the sun. He stepped into the open and stood up tall. I touched off a purple shell.

“You got him!” 

“Hey, Daddy, when I grow up, I just want to live in a camper or probably hotel rooms with pools and turkey hunt everywhere.” 

–Jo Jewett

I’LL NEVER FORGET THE SOUND of Jo’s little voice echoing through the forest. It was louder than the shot. She took off towards the bird, half running, half hopping, clapping, pointing, but never dropping her chips.

Oh, the questions. So many questions. We looked at the bird for close to an hour before we even thought about heading back to the truck. Jo helped me tag him. We talked about why his head changed colors, his beard, his feet, and all the feathers. We took pictures, had more snacks, and she decided she would carry him back to the truck. She changed her mind quickly. 

We picked flowers, collected rocks and looked at the bird some more. We took lots of breaks and enjoyed the rest of the morning. Jo reminded me many times that we saw and heard so many turkeys and we got the one she had heard. Not for a second would she let me forget she had heard it first. I was a very proud Dad. 

Then I realized all the stressing I had done the last several years over trying to do everything right and keep her interested in the outdoors had been pointless. I realized she just wanted to be there. She always had. It didn’t matter if we were successful or not. We were bringing home rocks and flowers and more memories together regardless of our success. She just wanted to be hunting with her dad, just like I did when I was her age. 

I realized if it weren’t for Jo, I would have given up on that spot out of frustration after I missed that first bird. She wouldn’t let me give up. All that time, for the previous five years, I thought I had been teaching her, when in fact it was the other way around. I had learned to slow down, take my time, stop and smell some flowers, enjoy a good snack and most importantly, to never give up. Success isn’t a notched tag at all. It’s all in the experience. It’s all in creating memories and having adventures.


“Daddy, why are you crying?” Jo asked. 

“I have dust in my eyes, sweetheart,” I replied.

“Daddy, can you put his tail and beard on one of those wood things?”

“Of course.”

“Hey, Daddy …” 


“Can it be purple?”

“Of course, it can.”

“Hey, Daddy, I love turkey hunting.”

“I do too.”

“Hey, Daddy, when I grow up, I just want to live in a camper or probably hotel rooms with pools and turkey hunt everywhere.”

“You are my little Gypsy.”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Yes, my love?”

“Why did you give that first turkey TWO warning shots?”