I don’t know about your wife, but, for me, serving as a hunting guide for my wife can be an uncertain proposition. Not as tenuous, perhaps, as hanging wallpaper together, but potentially risky just the same. Diane had had a bad first experience with a guide while elk hunting with me in Colorado a few years ago. That may have colored her thinking.

She hadn’t had much luck finding an elk for her tag. “I’ll help you find an elk, Diane, no charge,” offered our Colorado friend Richard. An old-school Westerner who is a crack shot and is better with horses and elk than women, Richard was highly regarded as an elk guide. Diane graciously accepted his offer.

At daybreak, the three of us left our horses in an Aspen grove and hunkered under a big Lodgepole pine not far from a watering hole. Moments later, guide Richard called an elk down off the Beaver Flat Tops. As the animal approached, Diane slid off the safety on her Ruger 7mm-08 and, laying her rifle atop her “steady stick,” she prepared for what was to be a challenging shot – maybe 120-130 yards.

Richard had kneeled down beside Diane. Behind them, I watched from the shadows and, as she took some deep breaths, I had every confidence. I know her. She can shoot, really shoot well at distances.

She was taking her time with this distant elk and Richard, I could see, was getting fidgety.

“Take it, now!” he commanded in a whisper.

“No, wait, wait,” he countered in another whisper.

The elk began to pace nervously. With urgency in his tone, Kendall said, in more of a growl than a whisper, “Take it, Di, for gosh sake, shoot!”

She didn’t like the sight picture, I could tell. By the time she did squeeze off the shot, the elk was moving and downshifting into second gear. She missed. The elk departed unscathed.

Words were exchanged between Richard and Diane. Later, back at camp, I heard both sides of the story when the disputants were out of earshot of one another.

“I can’t stand to have a someone talking in my ear when I’m about to shoot. It makes me nervous. I hate that!” she said.

“Man, your wife is some headstrong woman, V. Paul,” he said.

Fast forward to opening day of the 2007 Maine turkey season. Diane and I were seated side by side in a small camo tent on the edge of a field known to be frequented by our prey. She, born in an odd-numbered year, was the designated shooter with a first-week turkey license. I, born on an even-numbered year, was a second-week turkey hunter so I was the guide, the tent companion, and the caller.

“This could be a test of our marriage,” I mused to myself. What if I mess up on the call, or start barking orders? Richard Kendall had had it easy. He could simply ride away up Big Valley and find another client. At my age, wives who like to hunt and fish don’t grow on trees. According to Wiggie Robinson, the Dean of Millinocket guides, the most sought after Maine guide is tuned in and discriminating. He knows when to offer counsel and when to button his lip.Timing is everything.

Gobble, gobble, gobble! Diane’s Tom was definitely headed our way. The hens were milling about in front of the blind and this aroused Tom was hell bent on cozying up and attracting their attention.

In my own adrenaline rush, I thought. “I wonder if she will remember the safety? Should I remind her to be sure and get her cheek down on the stock, line up those white beads? Does she know enough to wait for his head to come up?”

Richard’s experience chastened me, however. I bit my tongue. Absolute silence prevailed in the camo tent, save for the heavy breathing.

Suddenly, there was our turkey! He was all fanned out just a struttin’ and sayshayin” into range. His head was chalk white and his black, coarse beard was almost dragging on the ground. Diane, with unruffled deliberation, slowly raised her 20-gauge and waited for the moment. Because of the angle, the Tom was not in my line of sight. Shifting position for a better vantage at this stage of the hunt was out of the question. What I did see from the corner of my eye was Cool Hand Luke holding a rock steady shotgun barrel pointing through the tent opening and eyes that showed deep concentration.

There were no whispered commands from me. My mother didn’t raise any fool, Richard.

Then….. POW! And the 18-pound Tom turkey was down for the count.

“You handled that perfectly, Di,” I said. “You make me proud.”

“So did you,” she said softly. “You were a real good guide and you have made me proud, too. More than you know.”

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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