It was 2018 — my first year truly pursuing a spring turkey.
I had bought a used blind in 2017. I was using someone else’s gun, an inexpensive call purchased from a local store and two decoys that were given to me. The only education I had on turkey hunting was what I had watched on YouTube and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s turkey calling clinic I had attended.
On opening day, I headed to a just-planted piece of farm ground next to a creek. I was by myself and anxiously awaiting for my first tom to come strutting in front of my blind. After several hours, that first trip resulted in no success. I left my blind up and came back to try again the next day, which also ended unsuccessfully.
The theme of no success seemed to be repeating itself pursuit after pursuit. Rain or shine, I could hear turkeys but never see them. As a new hunter trying something new but having very little knowledge, I got frustrated.
Before giving up, I started asking questions. I got advice to move my blind, try a different call and to not give up. After many questions — and two people probably feeling sorry for me — the moment came when someone offered to take me into the field and help me learn. I eagerly agreed, and a few days later we headed into the field. My persistence paid off. Before I knew it, two toms were standing right in front of me and I had my choice of birds. After a few minutes of watching these beautiful toms, I took a shot and successfully harvested my first turkey.
Looking back on my first successful hunt, what I remember most is the moments with my mentors. We had a few inside jokes, I marveled in an experienced turkey hunters calling, and I learned how to process my bird. This hunt was about so much more than just shooting a bird. For me, it was about taking in every minute, so that I could replicate the experience the next year.
Without my mentors, I may have grown more frustrated throughout the season and given up. But now I have plans to head out on three hunts with new and experienced hunters in 2019. And probably a few on my own as well.
I am a new hunter. I am not just a new hunter but an adult on-set hunter. I didn’t begin hunting until I was nearly 20 years old. My family owned nothing more than a .22 rifle when I was growing up, and I don’t think I have even heard Dad say the word “hunt.” The most hunting experience I had growing up was eating the deer jerky that my cousins shared with me. Before 2016, I would have never dreamed of hunting turkeys, let alone going out on a hunt without my husband or by myself.
As you think about your outdoor pursuits this turkey season or in the years to come, don’t underestimate the importance of bringing along a new adult hunter. Someone taking me into the field and showing me the ropes made all the difference in my plans to continue identifying as a hunter and pursuing wild game.