Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My First Turkey Hunt

My First Turkey Hunt

by: Marissa Hoehn

To say the least, my first turkey hunt was very rewarding, except the fact that I left the woods empty handed. But it is not always about the trophy; sometimes the experience can be just as satisfying. It was my first true turkey hunt, and I decided to take it on all by myself. It took a lot of mental preparation, as well as the usual physical prep, but definitely more mental for me. Why so much mental preparation you may ask? Well the fact that I am a female in what is conceived as a man’s world. Most people will look at a female and think they won’t walk the miles it may take to track down a turkey, or the patience needed to call that big bird in. Well I decided to overcome the fear and take that hunt head on!
I recently moved here to Arkansas in August and have not been able to get into a lease yet, so I decided to hunt a walk-in area in the Ouachita National Forest. I started my preparation long before the morning of my hunt. I listened to my friends talk about their experiences, as well as stations on the radio that have conservation talks. I also read magazines, and of course the rules and regulations guide, to learn and soak in as much knowledge about turkey hunting as possible. I noticed when listening and reading, that no one hunts the same. Some people use mouth calls, some box calls. Some people hunt blinds over food plots and fields, while others do the listen and stalk. I feel that understanding a little bit about all the different experiences and ways to hunt helped make my hunt what it was. After trying to understand the hunt I had to become as familiar as possible with my location. I looked over topographic maps online, and also went out to the forest once before to scope out the area.
The night before I made sure my gun was all set up, laid out my clothes, made sure my backpack was packed with water and snacks, as well as my calls, flashlight, a knife, and extra shells. Alarm set for 4:30, I was ready to go. The next morning I made it to the woods before sunrise. I started my quiet slow walk into the mountains. Stopping every ten minutes or so to sit and hit my call. If I didn't have a response within 5-10 minutes, the slow walk started again. It was about 7:30 when I heard my first gobble, but I hadn't hit my call in a while, so I knew he wasn't answering me. I sat and listened for about 30 minutes to what I was hoping was a real hen and not another hunter. The last thing I would want to do was ruin someone else’s hunt. After 30- 40 minutes his gobble had started to fade farther away and I hadn't seen or heard the hen in a while, so the stalk on this tom was on. One thing I learned was that you can hit your call too many times. It was a major struggle not to call constantly while listening to him slowly fade out. But patience and perseverance were on my mind, I wanted to win this gobbler over. He kept gobbling and I hit my call rarely, I think this really kept him intrigued, you know like playing hard to get. Finally, I can tell he is on the ridge just northwest of where I was, so I trekked as quietly as possible to get just a bit closer trying to get a glimpse of this loud yet devious creature.
I listened and stalked him, finally catching a site of tail feathers through the brush almost three hours after first hearing him. This hard headed tom wouldn't budge though. I was sitting waiting about half way down the ridge of the small mountain we were on when I realized he isn't going to come find me. I was once told that the toms work their way to high ground towards midday so the hens can hear them better and they can search out hens more easily. Remembering this I decided I had to ever so quietly make my way to the top of this ridge to get this gobbler to make an appearance. So I did! Struggling with the dry leaves under feet I made it about 70 yds to his east. I finally found a good tree to rest on in a small opening in the underbrush. Settled in, I hit my call once, and to my surprise I hear another hen on the other side of this gobbler I’d been working so hard for. My first thought was that the last three hours were a waste of time and he was going to deviate from me and go after this other hen. To my surprise I see and hear this bright red head coming through the underbrush at me. Then, I see another, I was calling at two toms and had no idea. My nerves are racked at this point, gun up and pointed in the direction of my opponent. To add to the nerves of seeing my first bright red head, the long swaying beard as he walked didn't help. The tom, finally being at 30 yds and headed straight for me, stuck his head up to let out a gobble. Being green to the sport of turkey hunting, I couldn't wait any longer, he stuck his head up and I pulled the trigger. Thinking I was right on him with the kill, but to my surprise he flew away. Even though I knew he had no idea I was there prior to the trigger pull, my inexperience got the best of me and I shot long before I needed to.
I thank the Lord above for a beautiful day to experience my first turkey hunt. I think I learned more about myself that day then I ever have before. I realized that it doesn't matter what other people think, you’re the only person holding you back. There are no boundaries or limits to what you can do if you believe in your preparations and take your common sense and knowledge from other hunting experience and put them into use. Also, practice makes perfect when shooting a gun. I have duck hunted before but have never shot a shotgun at a still target. They are completely different! Pattern and be familiar with your gun prior to taking it out hunting!
I hope this story gives more women the courage and willpower to not be dependent on someone else to introduce you to a new hunting adventure. Take the bull by the horns, prepare yourself and believe in yourself. But most of all Shoot Like a Girl!

Marissa Hoehn is a Pro Staff member of Shoot Like A Girl. For more information on Marissa please go to www.ShootLikeAGirl.com and click on Pro Staff.

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