Spring has sprung and turkey season is in full bloom! Thanks to the focus of many conservation organizations on protecting and preserving wildlife habitat, there has been a rise in the number of hunters…and that includes people hunting the elusive wild turkey. The increased interest in turkey hunting can be largely attributed to one nonprofit organization, the National Wild Turkey Federation. Without its determined efforts for more than 43 years, turkey populations would be low and opportunities to hunt them would be scarce.
The NWTF’s focus on bringing women into the fold has been wonderful, and in the past few years women have truly embraced the opportunity of chasing those thunder chickens. I took my first turkey in 2007 in the beautiful Ozarks of Missouri, so I can stand up proudly and say, “My name is Becky Lou Lacock, and I am a turkey hunting addict.” In an attempt to share my love of the outdoors with women who are curious newbies or experienced outdoorswomen looking for their next adventure, I began seeking out and creating opportunities for women-only hunts. Instead of a girls’ night out, we have a “Girls’ Hunt Out.” Over the years I have shared camp with both experienced and novice hunters, and made lots of memories. I leave each group with a full heart and new like-minded lifelong friends. I have many stories I would love to share, so in honor of the season, here are 3 terrific turkey hunts that should fill your heart.
5 Beards for a Beautiful Girl!
You have heard many stories about the success of a hunt being on the last day at the last hour, but few will ever top this one in my book! Kara Jo Lorenz traveled from Oklahoma to Kansas for the second group of girls of the 2nd Annual Great Gobblers Almighty turkey hunt at Wheeler’s Whitetails. This girl is no slacker, and never misses one minute of opportunity. After 3 full days of hunting with one close call, Kara had finished her last morning’s hunt and was packed to head for home. Her husband, Travis, who is extremely supportive of her outdoor adventures, urged her to do one last hunt on her way home. He had the home front secured and the kids corralled, and did not want her to miss that one last chance for bird. Leaving the lodge, Kara bid the group adieu with a positive attitude. She was all smiles as she got in the car to do a drive-by hunt. Kara is a real trooper by anyone’s standards, but she was headed for the hunt of a lifetime. Within a few minutes of setting up in her blind, Kara had a big bird down with 5 beards and 1.5-inch spurs. I am still amazed at how she managed to send out the group text through her happy tears. Congratulations again, Kara. If there was ever such an honor (as there should be), Travis Lorenz would receive the Huntress’s Hubby of the Year award!
Shoot, Elizabeth, SHOOT!
Elizabeth is the classic example of what happens when a newcomer is invited to join a group of women for an adventure, especially one that involved a road trip. Elizabeth’s dear friend and mine, Ruth Cusack, was traveling from Alaska for the 1st Annual Great Gobbler’s Almighty turkey hunt, and had invited Elizabeth to meet in Kansas for the Girls’ Hunt Out. Although Elizabeth loves the outdoors, she had never hunted. Ultimately she decided to make the trip, make some new friends, and make the most of it, with or without taking a shot. After harvesting a great gobbler early in the hunt, Ruth decided to sit in the blind with Elizabeth to share her expertise with her dear friend and do her best to call in a big bird for her. Lady Luck was with them, as several gobblers succumbed to Ruth’s clever calling. But when Elizabeth picked up the gun to take aim, inexperience and the rush of adrenaline took their toll. Elizabeth started to set the gun back down when Ruth’s killer instinct kicked in; she urged her in her lowest voice to “SHOOT! SHOOT!” (Ruth is an avid hunter and knows that when an opportunity is before you, you should take it without delay.) Elizabeth said, “I think my nose is bleeding!” Ruth replied, “Let it bleed and shoot the dang bird!” Elizabeth took aim and put the bird down on the first shot. Later, back at camp, we all heard the story and had a huge laugh. Ruth is a hard-core, disciplined hunter, and when it comes to playing the game, she is in it to win it!
Two for One
Kerry Kemper found herself flying solo and decided to take up hunting about 5 years ago. When she spotted a group girls’ turkey hunt planned just a few miles away from her Kansas home, she signed up, adding turkey hunting to her list of things to do. After two seasons of hunting hard with no feathers to show for it, the lure of another Girls’ Hunt Out beckoned to her, and she made the call to secure her spot a few weeks before the hunt was to begin. She went it alone on the first morning’s hunt, and she saw 2 jakes come in to hang for a while. When she returned to camp for lunch, Mike Wheeler, the owner of Wheeler’s Whitetails, asked her about the morning, and Kerry told him about the 2 jakes. After listening closely to Kerry’s account of their behavior and her description of how long and bushy the beards were, Mike exclaimed, “Kerry, those sound like gobblers!” That afternoon Mike sent her to the same blind, but with Rosco, an experienced guide, this time. Kerry watched as the “jakes” came in, and motioned for Rosco to look to his right. When he could finally see them, he whispered, “Take your safety off; they’re gobblers! Pick one and shoot him in the head!” Kerry aimed as steadily as she could at the biggest bird, and within seconds made the fatal shot. She was shocked when Rosco said, “Oh my God, Kerry, you just killed two gobblers with one shot!” Then he looked at her solemnly and said, “Please tell me that you have two tags.” Luckily, the answer was yes. Kerry loves the all-girls hunts and plans to attend more in the future. Another addict added to the list of women hunting wild turkey.
Although I enjoy hanging with and learning from seasoned hunters, I adore the thrill of first-timers, too. VISTA Outdoor’s own Amanda Covington had her first turkey hunt in April 2016 with Realtree, and her story is both inspiring and informative. She covers it all from start to finish, and was fortunate to be working for a company that provides all the options and products you need for a successful hunt, including Federal Premium Ammunition, Savage Arms, Bushnell and Primos.
Join the “Girls’ Hunt Out” Facebook group for various postings of women-only events and adventures across the nation. You should be able to find something to fit your schedule, pocketbook and bucket list. You’ll find a growing list of organizations there, including Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women, DIVA-WOW, Babes, Bullets & Broadheads and NWTF WITO – Women in the Outdoors.
Gear For Getting That Gobbler
There are many weapons you can choose from for hunting turkey, adhering to the laws and regulations in your area, but the choices will usually come down to going with a firearm or taking the archery challenge. Savage Arms is a great place to start your search for a firearm, and where better to begin looking for the perfect bow than Bear Archery? Although my turkey-gear cup runneth over, it would be safe to say that you could set out on your first turkey hunt with these few items below and be well on your way to a successful hunt.
Turkey Call. To call or not to call, that is the question. It all depends on the circumstances, but I am a firm believer in talking turkey, and would never leave home without a call or two (or five). I started with a friction call, and I believe they are the easiest for novice hunters. Box calls are great but take a little more practice. Although I long for the day I can use a mouth call, they are still a challenge for me. They are very handy as you prepare for a shot; remember, though, that silence is better than spooking.
Camouflage/Cover. With or without a blind, concealing every inch of your body is critical. Although most of my hunts start out in a blind, I am always prepared to get out and go where the turkeys take me. Shirt, pants, gloves, hat, and a face mask or paint are critical components of a turkey hunter’s gear. Prois Hunting & Field Apparel has a full line of camo clothing for women with various patterns, and Primos has a full line of everything else you would need, plus ground blinds that are easy to set up and relocate.
Decoys. Turkey are social creatures. Whether it be a lonely hen, a hot hen, a curious jake or a gobbler looking for love, the perfect call and decoy(s) may help to get them within range. Pack up a collapsible hen and jake and you are bound to bring in a turkey.
Turkey Vest. Although I have carried my calls in a knapsack or even in a coat pocket, a bona-fide turkey vest is the first class way to go. Pockets of various sizes, inside and out, make it handy to reach for calls, water, snacks and more with minimal movement. Although this is last on the list, it should be one of the first pieces of turkey gear you purchase.