By: Al Nixon
Right after the spring turkey hunt, Stalker and I thought that maybe our wives would like to try going out with us. It really isn’t quite as uncomfortable as deer season, and there are fewer hunters and it doesn’t have quite the "good ole boy" stigma that deer hunting does.
We didn’t want to manipulate our wives but at the same time, there is a certain wisdom in choosing the time and place to approach new and sensitive subjects. Well I blew that. I waited long enough to say anything, so that Ruth got the word from the grapevine that I was planning to "con" her into going hunting with me. We did discuss it and being the great wife that she is, I survived without any serious argumentation. Her immediate comment, which I took as her final word, was, "I might go along, but I’m not going to carry a gun".
Since that time we have talked about camouflage, and how to hunt turkeys. The latter was a very short conversation, because I know very little about turkey hunting and it’s very hard to communicate what you assume is true, and why.
As time approached we both started getting a bit more interested. Several weeks before hunting season, I took her with me on a scouting trip through the woods. This is seriously akin to the blind water buffalo leading the princess through the wilderness. While I don’t look much like a water buffalo, I sound like one in the woods. Ruth, on the other hand, can weave her way through the swamp grass and dead twigs and make a lot less noise.
Unfortunately, on our scouting trip we didn’t see any deer or turkeys, but we did see a lot of signs of deer. In that particular woods you’d have to be blind not to. The greatest benefit of this trip was that Ruth got out into the back acreage of the old farm and began to absorb the natural beauty of it all. This is a farm that has not been fully worked in about 30 years and hasn’t had even one field worked in probably at least 5 years. All of the landscape and critters have gone back to purely natural status. She fell in love with the beauty and serenity of it all. This was not a "slick plan" on my part, but I thought that it might happen and was extremely pleased when it did.
Since that trip we have talked more openly and with more interest about the turkey hunting venture. The weekend before the season opened, we went trap shooting with some friends and Ruth did very well indeed, especially since it was her first real experience. She had shot one or two rounds at another outing, but was not comfortable with the weapons we had there, and not really too interested. This time we borrowed a youth sized 20ga pump and it fit her quite well. She ended up breaking about 40 –50% of the clays that she shot at.
Now for hunting. I am both a creature of habit, and I always want to revert to the last thing I did which was successful. For that reason, all of my wanderings and scouting through the woods will invariably wind up with me in "the big blind." That’s where I’ve shot all my deer, and where I shot my spring turkey. My subconscious, and parts of my conscious mind, won’t let me stray too far away. Stalker had told me that the turkeys seem to dwell (I assume at night) in the swamps. One is at the north edge of the property and one in the southwest corner.
It has been said that you can’t stalk a turkey. That was probably said to or about a good stalker. Needless to say, but I will, that with me it is triply true.
We swept the edge of the north swamp and circled around back to the big blind. We hadn’t been there long when Ruth saw the first group of birds. (By the way, we saw absolutely nothing in our sweep. Surprised?) Anyway, there was a group of about 5 birds sticking together at around 50 yards and not coming any closer. We called and they peeked, we called and they peeked. Eventually they stopped peeking and wandered away. We waited quite a while longer and then went back to camp for lunch.
After a nice long lunch we again pushed the north swamp but this time walked right through the thick of it. We spooked a nice buck and saw lots of sign but still no turkeys. We circled back and ended up on a shooting lane by the big blind. Ruth was in no mood really to sit in the blind, and said she was going to circle around some. She waited until I was in the blind, and she was off. Remember, she had told me that she did not want to carry a gun and would not shoot anything, so it made sense to me that she walk and I sit with the gun. Besides that, I can be totally quiet while sitting.
Immediately on entering the blind and watching her start her circuit, I saw two nice birds with what appeared to be about 6 inch beards standing right in the same clearing as earlier. I checked them with the binoculars and sure enough they were nice birds, about 60 yards out. I called and they moved closer, to about 50-55yds and then gradually worked back out. I called, they responded exactly the same. It was like there was some invisible fence out at about 50 yards. In a little while a tan blur blew by the turkeys and they disappeared. I know what the blur was, because I’d seen it from exactly here before. It was a deer that Ruth had walked up on. I hate it that everyone can walk up on game but me. She stood and looked at the deer and the deer looked back, she stepped, the deer stepped, finally she gave up the game and just started walking again and the deer bolted. Right past the turkeys and me.
Ruth made it back to the blind and was elated and a little worked up. She sat for an hour or so, got bored after a couple little naps and decided to walk some more. She wandered and I called turkeys. After what seemed like a long while, I noticed her standing about 60-70 yards out waving frantically, and miming the holding of a gun toward the west. I figured that she had spotted a whole herd of gobblers, tied to a tree, so off I went. I thought, if I hurry, they would hear me and leave. If I take my time they will be gone anyway, so I tried to hurry quietly. What a laugh. When I got close, I could see the silhouettes of turkeys gently meandering away. We tried to get close, but they disappeared and we never got another look at them. By now we are getting tired, and it’s starting to get late in the day. We head back to the blind for the rest of our gear.
Upon arrival, we see the turkeys out at about 60 yards again in the same clearing as before. I had a sixth sense that they were hanging around there, but now I’m sure of it. OK Ruth has no license and no gun, but I left her in the blind to call and I went to "head em off at the pass" and started to circle around them. I obviously didn’t take a wide enough circle because before I got halfway there they had crossed the clearing and went on. I didn’t know that, because I was too busy being quiet and watching the ground for things that would snap when I step. I did walk up on a raccoon and two squirrels though, so maybe my stalking skills are improving a little.
After I had frightened away the last of the birds we worked our way back through the woods and then out to camp and eventually home, empty handed.
Ruth had two frustrations about the hunt. First, that we did see game, fairly close and weren’t able to score. Second, that she had gotten to nearly within shooting distance of some birds and no one was around with a gun.
Another thing that she noticed was that she understands why hunters hate to go back to camp, to eat or whatever. She has experienced first hand that the game is out there, and at any heartbeat could show itself, close enough and immobile enough to take out. I can see that she’s developing a sense of having to be smarter that the critter so you can know where it will be. It’s just too bad she didn’t have someone more experienced along for her first try. Better calling or better concealment, might very well have produced meat. We will probably go again.
Bottom line of this article is, I took her turkey hunting with me, and she had a great time. I hope this encourages others to gently persuade your wives daughters or other non-hunting relatives to just join you sometime. Whether anyone ever becomes a hunter because of such an outing is not an issue. A better understanding of what you do and how it feels is always a good thing.