Mar 10, 2016

Tales Of A Female Turkey Hunter

By: Kim Jordan

Not all women are as lucky as me.  I grew up in a family with all sisters.  My dad didn't treat us any different than if he had boys.  We were expected to work hard and we were given chances to hunt, fish, drive snowmobiles, and go camping.  When I met my husband, I was just out of high school.  Our first date was at the races in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  We had a blast and we quickly became an item.  His first gift to me was a 12 gauge single shot.  The second gift was a bow.  I knew if I wanted to spend time with Steve, it meant I'd better learn to be a hunter.  Not all men want the women in their lives to hunt along side them.  That's where the lucky part comes.  He not only wanted me to take part in the sports he loved, but he was willing to teach me.

Of course, that was a long time ago, in the mid 70's in fact.  Turkey hunting wasn't even an option in Wisconsin back then.  Eventually turkeys were reintroduced to Wisconsin in the southwestern part of the state and Steve's buddy, Mark Livingston, got hooked on turkey hunting near Boscobel, WI.  He begged Steve to apply for a tag and join him and finally he did.  Well, once Steve was hooked, he decided it was time to get me involved.

Back then, turkey hunting seasons would go from Wednesday through Sunday and only lasted from dawn until noon.  I was teaching grade school at the time and sometimes would take a personal day to be able to hunt three days, from Friday through Sunday.  This usually meant carrying a backpack of school work with me to finish while sitting in the blind.  That wasn't always easy because Boscobel is full of steep hills.  That meant going on a long walk up trails carrying the blind, turkey calls, snacks, the guns and ammo, folding chairs and a blanket to cover the ground with.  If it was wet and muddy, it was even more difficult.  I would often have to stop and catch my breath before moving on.  Steve was always patient with me.  Once up in the hills and set up before the sun, we would hear gobbling all around us.  Do you know the theme song from The Sound of Music movie?  Well, we hummed, “The hills are alive with the sound of turkeys.”  One hunting trip sticks in my mind from Boscobel.  It was Sunday of my week of hunting.  That meant we had until noon and we'd have to head back home.  We were hunting at the top of a hill with grasses at the center and woods around the edges.  Steve would use his turkey call to try and get a response.  Steve called and a tom turkey came out from the woods on the other side of the hill, gobbled, and headed back into the woods.  This happened over and over again.  We nicknamed this turkey “Bashful” because he was too shy to come to our call.  He just showed himself and hid back in the woods.

After some time went by, we started worrying that the season would be over before getting a shot.  It was closing in on noon.  We came up with a plan.  We would pack everything up except for the blind and my gun.  The next time he would come out and then go back in the woods, we would pick up the blind and carry it over our heads and run across the field, get in place near where he'd been showing himself, and be ready before he came back out.  Just as planned, the tom came out, strutted a bit, and then he ducked back into the woods.  We were ready.  Running the distance across the field with backpacks loaded up and a gun slung across my back plus holding onto a blind over our heads wasn't exactly easy, but we made it.  We just got the blind in place and the backpacks off our backs and out he came.  There wasn't much time to get set in place and I had to line up the sites and shoot.  Bam!  With the awkward position I was in, I toppled backwards.  Laying there, I said to Steve, “Did I get him?”  He said I did!  What an exciting last few minutes of a hunting trip.  I think we sang our turkey hunting theme song all the way back to our truck with a turkey slung on our backs.

Over the years, as most people have noticed, turkeys have expanded their territory to every part of Wisconsin.  We have fond memories of going to Boscobel, but now we hunt on and near our property in New London.  Seasons have also been expanded to a full week and it is open all day until dusk.  A few years back, I was hunting on our own property along the Embarrass River.  I sat in a raised plastic blind that I often use for deer hunting.  For two days straight, I would see a big tom across the field that would never come close to my blind.  It seemed like he was following a pattern, so Steve and I talked about making a plan.  I was teaching at the time, so it would be a tight schedule to get from school to a blind in time.  Steve was working part time driving school bus, so he was able to put up a portable blind near where I'd been seeing this tom.  I would be on my own because he had a field trip to drive for after school.  I had hunted alone in a blind before, but Steve was always in the area to help me out if I shot a turkey.  I hurried from school and drove to our land.  I quickly put on my camo clothing in our cabin and walked out to the blind.  It was a nice day, and I was excited to spend some time outside.  This is one reason I love turkey hunting.  The weather in the spring is usually comfortable to hunt in, plus I am eager to hear the sounds of spring after a long winter. 

I climbed into the blind and got situated on my chair.  I loaded the gun, brought it up and tested out the height of the window openings I then set the gun in the corner close enough to grab when needed.  Next, I pulled out my book that I'd been anxious to read.  It is a habit of mine to read a page, and then look around.  I didn't do any calling because I was relying on the pattern my tom had been following.  I didn't want to spook him.  I read one page, and then looked out.  He was coming out to my left, a little farther over than I had hoped.  I couldn't believe he was already there.  I had just finished setting up.  I could see the direction he was heading was not good.  He would not get any closer than he was now.  Steve taught me to make a noise which causes the turkey to stop and stretch out its head.  My tom stopped, and his head went up to see what the noise was, and bam, down he went.  Turkeys like to flop around before becoming still when shot.  I ran out to my turkey and he seemed to be quite active.  Should I shoot it again?  I didn't want to spoil the meat.  He eventually stopped moving.  Then the emotions of shooting my first turkey entirely on my own flooded over me.  I was so excited to share this with Steve.  I sent a text saying, “I got him!”  Steve was by then watching a track meet that he had driven students to and answered back, “Way to go!” 

Now I had to carry him back to the cabin.  I would carry him a 100 feet and set him down.  Then I'd pick him up and go another 100 feet.  Eventually I got back to the cabin and my car.  I hauled that turkey home and asked a neighbor to take a picture of me with my turkey because it would be dark before Steve got home.  It wasn't the best picture because it was right in town, and didn't have the scenic outdoors, but that is okay.

I could go on and on with stories.  Some of those stories include my daughter, Therese, who also learned to enjoy turkey hunting.  Once Therese and I counted to three with a flock of jakes coming in, and we each shot a turkey at the same time.  Another time during first season we hunted in a snow storm.  I shot a tom early in the day and later in the morning, Therese shot hers.  Another hunt took place out of state in Alabama during an Easter break where Steve and I both shot nice toms.  I've been lucky enough to hunt deer, geese, ducks, pheasants, and elk, but one of my favorites is turkey hunting.  Spending time in nature with my husband can't get any better.