Some times the unexpected happens. Actually when hunting, you can almost guarantee that things won't go as planned!
When I filled my first tag on Wednesday morning, I had no expectations of filling a second tag. I knew I would only hunt one or maybe two more times before our week of hunting Kansas was over. I'd let Troy hunt the remainder of the time so he could fill a tag. I was happy to just get one and was planning on playing at the pool, sleeping in and exploring the town parks with our almost 2 year old daughter. So when the weather didn't look optimal on Thursday evening, I volunteered to take that hunting slot and let Troy have the following morning hunt.
The wind was HOWLING and at times my blind threatened to lift off the ground and take to the sky. Luckily the huge trees along the creek acted as a wind break and took the brunt of the forceful wind gusts. Not sure if the turkeys would even hear any calls, I thought, "well at least I can practice my calling." I made several LOUD calls on my box call, hoping that if anything was close it would catch their attention. After about an hour of the wind fest, things calmed down and I began to wonder if I actually had a chance of catching a turkey heading to their roost. I reached for my Colorado custom glass call and began to make some sweet hen calls.
After a short time, I wondered if anything was down below across the creek, curiosity got the best of me as I peeked through the small slit in the back of my blind. Another round of hen calls were made and the feeling you get when someone is staring at you washed over me. I turned my head and caught two red heads just beyond a small pine tree. I ALMOST got busted but froze and hoped for the best. Legs in the squatting position began to burn as I did my best to S L O W L Y turn my body around and sit down in my blind. Now out of sight of the eyeballs piercing through the grass, I reached for my gun and sat motionless, hoping the toms would make their way up the hill to my decoys. Finally, I could see them making their way across the top of the hill, but not trusting my naked eye, I made a clumsy effort to look through binoculars to check for beards through the grass. Yep! The one leading the group was a tom! They were now about 50 yards out and making a bee line towards the roost tree, skirting my decoys and in a matter of seconds would be out of range. As the lead tom crested the top of the hill, it was now or never! I took aim and thought, "it's going to be either miss or kill on this one!" BOOM! I dumped him and sat in shock at what just happened.
After gathering my wits and realizing I just filled both of my tags, I smiled and sent my husband a quick text that simply said, "I'm done." I hunted a grand total of two times that week... a morning hunt and an evening hunt and ended up with a turkey on each hunt. I'm still kind of shocked about it because that NEVER happens for me. We laughed later because Troy was right in the middle of changing an extremely dirty diaper when I texted him that night. He kinda got the short end of the stick. That wasn't the plan.
The soft red beam from a headlamp clicks off, replaced now only by faint moonlight, I slow my steps until my eyes adjust to the darkness. Quiet blankets the earth in the pre-dawn hours. The sound of footsteps cutting through the prairie grass are carried off behind me as a gentle breeze kisses my face. A modest cut in the prairie snakes its way down toward the lower ditch lined with tall cottonwoods, paralleling a stream, marking my destination.
Nestled against a small pine, a dark form is now barely visible in the blackness. Climbing into my blind, the silence is disturbed only by a slow and steady unzipping of the windows, cutting the darkness, revealing only a glimmer of moonlight into the pitch black hideout. I have enough light to pull decoys out and get everything situated, as I prop my 20 gauge beretta against the wall of the blind, a quick check with the red headlight beam is done which reveals no spiders, snakes or other intruders in my home for the morning. A girl hunting solo is now confident, comfortable and ready for the world to wake up around her.
Midway into the hour before sun-up, an owl swoops down landing on a branch visible from my blind window and makes his presence known. The sound that answers his soft "Hoo..h'HOO-hoo-hoo" would make even a non-turkey hunter's heart explode with excitement and wonder. The tree towering above the blind, not even 50 yards away, erupts with gobbles. I can now hardly contain my excitement, waiting on shooting light, listening to turkeys gobble from the limb right above me. I sit listening to the gobbles, just taking it all in. Another owl in the not so far distance joins in the fun, prompting even more gobbles from the towering trees above me.
Holding my new Colorado custom glass call, I recall a conversation prior to our hunting trip. It was mentioned that I would have a tough time hunting by myself this trip since I wasn't as good a caller as others. Words that were absorbed, not denied but not taken to heart either. I was just happy to have the opportunity to hunt, regardless if it I had to do it solo. Honestly, I was up for the challenge! Listening closely to what was happening in the trees above me, I wait for the first hen to wake up. At the sound of the first cluck, I try my best to match her call. A few more strikes on the call and the Toms know there is a "hen" up by me. The waiting game begins.
There is no mistaking the sound of turkeys flying down from their roosts. The first one pitches down into the field on the other side of the creek bed, as branches unburden their load, and flapping of wings reveal the next round of the game is about to begin. One, two, three, four, and I begin loosing count as the sequence continues. Then silence.
It doesn't take long to spot them. Peeking through the slit in the back window of my blind, I can now see several toms fanned up, showing off for the ladies. Letting out a few calls, I try my best to convince them to cross back over the creek and compete for the hen decoy in front of my strutting jake. No luck.
Apparently my calling wasn't too bad though because shortly after the toms made their way up the creek bed, I heard another gobble coming my way. Another quick check through the back window and three turkeys were coming in FAST! I had enough time to pull up my binoculars, determine they were jakes and make the decision that I would still fill a tag if presented with a shot. With my gun at the ready, I made one last call and sat down with my back to the creek, watching my decoys on the hill, straining to listen for their next move. A distinct flap of turkey wings told me they made the commitment, crossing the creek behind me. It was only a matter of seconds before they were at the decoys. Game over. They may have hung around and tried to beat up on my decoy, which would be fun to watch, but I didn't waste any time finding out. My first turkey was down and I'm a little proud that I made it happen hunting solo, calling them in and putting my tag on a bird!
We joked about my turkey calling afterwards and I received a couple apologies. In all fairness, I surprised myself a little and will admit that I didn't practice calling like I should have and don't know how to use a mouth reed for turkey calling. That's okay... gives me something to strive for next time!
I ended up with a second turkey this trip also! Two solo hunts.. one morning and one evening set and two tags punched (more on the second hunt later). WOW! That never happens for me. Don't mess around with this momma!
Have you introduced your kids to hunting?
Are you not sure how or when to get your kids involved in hunting? We weren't sure either at first, but knew that we wanted to introduce our daughter, Lindsey Jo, at an early age and take her with us as soon as possible. Here are a few tips and what we've done so far with our now almost 2 year old baby girl. We aren't experts by any means, but thought it would be fun to share what has worked for us. It isn't always easy, but the extra effort is worth it!
TALK ABOUT IT!
Leading up to our hunting trips, I made sure to talk to Lindsey about all the animals we would see and what we are going to do outside. Granted, she was only 15 months old when we took our first big hunting trip, but I think it did really help to get her excited when I told her what we were about to do. Plus I let her help me clean and pack the camper. By the time we set up our home on the mountain, she was used to the camper and excited about living in it for a couple weeks.
BRING THEM WITH YOU!
When we found out that we were pregnant almost 3 years ago, Troy and I knew that our hunting lifestyle was about to change, but we also knew that it didn't mean we would stop hunting. We spend the majority of September hunting elk in Colorado, so what was this going to look like now with a baby / toddler?
It was a lot of working planning and preparing to take along a one-year old on a hunting trip, but trust me, I'm glad we did it. Take your kids with you if you can! Here is what we did to make it possible...
MAKE IT FUN!
Whether you are just bringing kids to hunting camp or letting them actually go on a hunt with you, remember to keep it FUN! Young kiddos have short attention spans, so be prepared with fun activities to keep them occupied. This may be simple things such as "washing" rocks, making daisy chains, catching grasshoppers, drawing in the dirt with a stick, etc., or just sit back, watch them explore the outdoors (within your vantage point) and let their imaginations soar! Lindsey and I took many walks around camp just exploring, which was one of my favorite memories from last September.
If you are actually taking a young kiddo on a hunt, remember to adjust your expectations of the hunt to match your child's age. Asking a 2 year old to remain quiet for an hour, much less 5 minutes may be asking too much. WAY. TOO. MUCH. We are hoping to take Lindsey turkey hunting this Spring... we may not even see a turkey, much less shoot one, but we know that. It is all about the experience.
LET THEM SEE IT!
I wasn't sure how Lindsey would react when the first deer was brought back to camp last fall, but I wasn't going to shield it from her. I want her to understand the whole process, within reason of course. So when everyone was gathered around the truck admiring a buck that someone in our group shot, you can guarantee that Lindsey was there also.
She then became very curious about the deer hanging in the shed. I watched closely to see how she would react, since she didn't shy away from it, I allowed her to watch the skinning process. As appropriate, Troy and I will continue to explain the process so she understands where her meat comes from. At this young age, I don't think she needs to see the entire process from killing, gutting, skinning and preparing the meat. However, we will slowly introduce this to her, involving her in the process as she gets older and expresses interest. I am hopeful that she too will love and appreciate all that is involved with hunting.
What about YOU? We want to know when and how you introduced your kids to hunting. Do you have any tips or advice to share? What has or hasn't worked for you?
Kids and the outdoors go together like peanut butter and jelly, cotton candy and county fairs, horses and rodeos, the list goes on. As you think of memories from your childhood, does a common theme emerge? The ones easily recalled for me center around one thing... being outside.
The wild grape vines growing along the side of mom's garden made for a grand entrance to a young child's hideaway. Our imaginations soared as we stepped into the wilds of our backyard, carefree and full of energy, hours were spent dreaming up and embarking on the next adventure. With instruction to be home before dinner, we were off to explore the corn field just north of the house, playing, dreaming and simply being in the "wild" outdoors.
I can still smell the Mississippi riverbank as I let the water and mud squish beneath my toes. A school of tadpoles swim by quickly, as I call for my mom to bring a bucket down to the riverbank. We would spend hours catching tadpoles, skipping rocks and walking along the river's edge. A young girl's heart learns to love the outdoors a little more as tadpoles swim around in a handful of water. Balancing on a downed tree limb, I cross over and something on the island catches my attention. I'm off to explore. A quick swim across the swift flowing channel, and adventure awaits on the other side.
Swimming lessons were a high priority for my mom since the river ran right through our back yard. With a daughter of my own, I understand why we were required to be excellent swimmers. Looking back at my childhood through the eyes of motherhood, I now appreciate even more all my mom did for me growing up. It was a loving mixture of setting us free, making sure that we were equipped to stay alive, and setting boundaries. I want the best for my daughter. I too want her to experience the wonder of the outdoors and all the beauty of God's creation.
Yesterday, as my daughter reached down to pick up an antler in the woods, she told me that she is learning to love the outdoors. Her nearly two-year old vocabulary of "Daddy," "stuck," "no," "aw (straw)," "baby" and "a-o (Bravo)," didn't provide her with the words she needed in order to tell me. But words aren't always necessary. She simply told me with the twinkle in her eyes. I knew that I was sharing in a memory with my own daughter, that would be a stepping stone to her love for the outdoors. It is something that electronics, video games or the hum of a tv can never replace. I saw it on her face, in the irremovable smile spread across her tiny cheeks and in her outstretched arms that asked me to carry her across the muddy creek, while clinging to her antler shed. As my muck boots squished down into the muddy water, the smell brought a memory flooding back. I was somehow brought back to a Mississippi riverbank with my own mom, time frozen in the mud, captured then released with a splash, leaving only the memory.
I think my mom was smiling down on us as we walked along a small muddy Kansas creek bed, cheering us on as we instill the love of the outdoors in our daughter.
What are some of your favorite memories spent in the outdoors? How do you encourage your kids to love the outdoors? Be intentional. Get outside!
From the Draw
We are devoted to sharing our bowhunting stories. We have a passion for passing on our hunting heritage to our kids. From the draw in the mountains to the draw on paper, the moments live on.