With a late introduction to hunting, this lucky lady experienced several decades worth of hunting firsts in just one year.
By Lyndsey Wesner
I’ve had a lot of firsts in the past eight months, so after I caught my first 20-pound king salmon, shot my first 8-point buck with a bow, took my first doe with a bow, and my first doe with a muzzleloader, naturally I expressed desire to shoot my first turkey.
My husband Rick said, “It's not easy. They have keen eyesight, and the slightest movement will scare them off.” I thought it sounded like fun.
I knew how to be still in my treestand. Could this be that different? I had no idea! Ladies, let’s be truthful. How many of us think our men are awesome and can do anything? We think, it’s just a wall, why not tear it down? It’s just a deck, build me one. It‘s just a fill-in-the-blank-project, what’s so hard about that?
So, when my husband told me how difficult turkey hunting was, I scoffed.
Ours was an evening hunt, so picture this: Chad has a ground blind strapped to his back. Rick has a real stuffed turkey decoy strapped to his back. I have a 20 gauge shot gun in my right hand resting on my right shoulder, and a double barrel shotgun in my left hand resting on that shoulder. We start our hike into the woods, each with our own luggage, and each with our own dance moves as we bob and weave through the thick stuff.
The plan is to perch ourselves under the roost, knowing the birds are away feeding in the field. Chad, being familiar with the turkeys and the area, tells us they usually will not answer calls at night. We set up our blind and nestle in.
This is normally my favorite part — a quiet time. Are you with me ladies? Quiet time. As I soon discover, quiet time only applies when you are hunting deer. Turkeys apparently don’t care as much about quiet time.
While I was trying to focus for hunting, Rick and Chad are to my left, whispering.
Really? We can talk when turkey hunting? Where’s my quiet?
Not wanting to spoil their fun, I kept my thoughts to myself, and there we sat. This hunt was for me (which is awesome; I won’t lie). After 15 minutes or so, Chad started with the calls. Mind you, I have only hunted deer. In the quiet. I did not call in any deer, or bash together racks. It was quiet. I just sat and enjoyed the quiet. This, however, was anything but quiet.
I got used to the hen call, but when Chad pulled out the gobbler and gave it a good jiggle, I nearly jumped out of the blind. That thing is just plain loud!!
Still having no idea what to expect, I sat and waited. My 20 gauge was perched on a rest. I had aimed at the decoy a few times as practice, and then scanned the rest of the terrain to check it all out. Chad’s calls were becoming familiar as the anticipation of a bird increased.
And then, I saw him.
The tom was just to our left and straight ahead. With the thick brush, the guys couldn’t seen him. A few seconds later, he strutted into the open. His beautiful tail was fully spread, and his body was completely puffed.
This tom was in full strut and heading right to our hunting spot. I, the novice hunter, started to get turkey fever. My heart started pounding and I felt my biceps and triceps tighten as I leveled the 20 gauge.
Meanwhile, Chad and Rick were maintining a running commentary.
“Holy cow, that is the biggest bird I have ever seen!”
“Is your safety off?”
“Look at that tom!”
“I’m not sure he is going to come in close enough.”
“Should she take him now?”
“Look at that bird!”
“Is your safety off?”
“Just wait; he’ll come in.”
“Should she shoot?”
“Honey, is your safety off?”
I was trying my best to focus, listen to the instructions, and control the shaking in my body, all at the same time.
The gobbler walked behind a tree and looked as though he was going to just keep going. In a last ditch effort, Chad created some gentle hen calls, trying to draw him in. Between the three of us, the stress was enough to blow the blind 30 feet into the air.
Just as the tom appeared to be going away, he rotated toward us and headed straight to the decoy. My brain was going a thousand miles a minute, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I slowly followed his movements in the scope, trying to keep him in my sights without making any noticeable movement.
The bird continued to walk forward and was now approximately 18 yards out. That’s when I got the okay from Rick and Chad to take the shot.
I focused and pulled the trigger. A loud echoing boom filled the evening air as my first turkey fell to the ground like a ton of bricks. I released the breath I’d been holding, and fresh air rushed into my heaving lungs. My eyes were wide with excitement as Rick approvingly uttered, “You got him!”
We all immediately fall silent again, wondering if another bird was going to grace our evening with his presence. When nothing happened for several minutes, we exited the blind. We were beyond excited to see the tom up close for the first time.
It was a large bird, but we had no idea just how big he really was. In the field, we were awed by his beard and spurs. While I had never even seen a wild turkey up close, let alone a spur or beard, Rick and Chad were very excited about how large they were.
As we began the trip out of the woods, I couldn’t help noticing we had a little extra baggage. But noboby minded. Chad still had the blind, and still had the two guns, plus a decoy strapped to my back. Rick was carrying the bird of honor. There was a different atmosphere during our track back to the truck — a sense of pride and accomplishment. All three of us had a new strut.
Arriving back at Chad’s, the bird weighed in at 25 pounds. His beard was 12 inches, one spur was 1 5/16 inches and the other, a little worn down, was 1 1/4 inch. Once we get the calculations credited, if accurate, it’ll mean my first tom will have a score between 74 and 75. Submitting this to NWTF, I am hoping to be ranked either second or third for the largest birds to be killed by a woman in Michigan with a firearm.
All of these firsts will calculate into a first turkey with a first record in my first ground blind hunt and my first shot with a 20 gauge.
None of it makes sense, but I feel so blessed! My husband still can’t believe it. Hunting is an amazing sport! To take all of that nervous energy and channel it is beyond words. What an honor to be part of God’s creation.