Here for the Gobble

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 7, 2010

Don’t forget to set that gun down tomorrow as soon as you shoot that big gobbler, because all you’re going to see of me is my butt and elbows flying across the field. And do not, I repeat do not, be late in the morning.”

More than the gobble

I was very close to being precisely, almost, on time our second morning.

We had decided to revisit the scene of our previous encounter with the big tom. As Eddie rarely paused to call and listen this time, we made quick progress toward the ridge.

I was enjoying our spirited pace and the bouncy carpet of pine needles beneath my boots, when Eddie startled me with a seemingly loud and random call to my right.

My pleasant mental fog was shattered, but my ears perked as a gobble sounded thinly somewhere in the distant trees.

Eddie and I stopped and glanced at each another. He gave another call.

The gobble seemed to be significantly louder this time, and it was accompanied by frantic rustling.

Eddie’s eyes grew wide and he motioned sharply for me to sit down.

“Where?” I whispered, confused. “You don’t mean here, do you?” I was in the middle of a cleared path and quite exposed.

He did. He pointed to the tree behind me. “Quick!”

We stepped backward in tandem. My butt had barely met bark when the love-crazed gobbler thrashed his way through the forest debris and skidded to a stop at the sight of me.

He half-turned to retreat as I checked that the landscape beyond him was clear. The ruse was up, and I’d only have a moment.

I slipped off the safety, let out my breath, and took the best shot that I could.

All I saw after that was Eddie’s backside and elbows bouncing through the brush.

First of many seasons

Eddie and I replayed every detail of our brief hunt on the way back to his house, where he and Andy helped clean the bird and bundled it into my cooler. My second outing had lasted less than an hour.

In two days, I had been lucky enough to experience an exquisite range of turkey hunting experiences, from how engrossing and thrilling a hunt can be, even if you never pull the trigger or bag a bird, to how fast and crazy the action can be at other times. I was officially hooked.

My turkey weighed around 19 pounds, had an 81/2 inch beard and spurs well under an inch. He was a young gobbler, and he had obviously made his rounds before submitting to Eddie’s siren song. His wingtips were worn, he had been spurred in the breast by another gobbler and he was, to all appearances, a bit disheveled. Of course, he was still a very fine and handsome fellow to me.

Twenty-two women participated in our clinic last spring. Though some of them were unable to hunt this year, I hope they will make their debut next season. Six of the women brought home a bird in addition to a great experience.

I can hardly wait to congratulate them in the turkey woods next spring.

Outdoor Woman 101: Your one-day, kick-start clinic

“Women haven’t necessarily been encouraged to hunt,” opened instructor Kent Bridges, invoking our pioneer spirit. “I welcome you all.”

Though he did not speak to my own experience, his words were a reminder that we had all accomplished something already—we had moved beyond our comfort zones to try something new.

Our clinic was held at the Duck Creek Conservation Area near Puxico, and the room pulsed with an incongruous array of chatting, laughing women. There were young women, seniors and all ages between. With outfits, personalities and outdoor experience at least as varied, it was hard to feel out of place.

We learned about the history and biology of the eastern wild turkey, hunting strategies and techniques, and safety. We also learned the best ways to handle shotguns and practiced shooting them—some of us for long after the clinic “officially” ended.

We left with lots of information, new contacts and coveted goodies from the sponsors of the clinic, including turkey calls and padded hunting seats. Most of all, we left with the confidence that we could go out there and hunt turkeys.

And when turkey season finally arrived, they paired us with volunteer guides to go out and prove it.

If you’re ready to kick-start your own adventure, the Missouri Outdoor Women program is designed to give women 14 years and older the skills and confidence to pursue a wide range of outdoor activities alone, with friends or with their families. To learn more about upcoming workshops, including spring turkey hunting, visit their Web site at www.MissouriConservation.org/13108 or contact your regional Conservation Department office

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