by Joni Marie Kiser
In April I had the privilege to attend an all girls turkey hunt in Mound City, Kansas with Wheelers Whitetails. The hunt was organized by Becky Lou Outdoors and my company Rockstarlette Bowhunting was one of the hunt sponsors. There were a total of 13 ladies that attended, split into 2 groups who hunted 3 days each. My group consisted of 3 girls from my Rockstarlette Bowhunting Pro Staff: Jayme, Ashley and Kate, some new friends Cyndie and Kerry, myself and the always energetic and fun Becky Lou.
Day 1: I am from Alaska, born and raised. I’ve hunted lots of things with my bow, but never turkeys. We don’t have turkey in Alaska so not only had I never even seen one in the wild, but I really had no idea what their calls sounded like, let alone how to make them myself with my cheap calls bought the day before! So after my first morning of sitting in a blind, we all came back to camp to regroup and have lunch. One of men who worked at the camp asked if any of us had tried to call from our blinds. I said, “I did” and got my box call to show him what I had done. He smirked, shook his head and said, “oh no!” He took the call and made a completely different sound from it. Well, I guess that’s why I didn’t see any toms! I laughed at myself and then did some practicing in front of him before heading back out so I wouldn’t scare anything off. Strike one for this Alaska girl!
Several of us were actually novices at turkey hunting. 3 of us had flown down from Alaska so everything was new to us. Ticks? They do what? We were horrified! Snakes? Brown Recluse Spiders? Hunting in Alaska and avoiding bear attacks was sounding easier and easier! For the type of hunting that I’ve done in Alaska: black bear, brown bear, moose etc…. We don’t even use face paint (or hunt out of blinds!), so even this was a real change from the norm. The “Lower 48″ girls in the group painted the Alaskan girls faces up for us and we headed back out. Jayme and I sat in a blind together. We saw quite a few hens and jakes (young male turkeys), but no toms. Mike at Wheelers doesn’t allow jakes to be taken, so we were just waiting for mature toms to come in for this hunt. My calling was getting better and we got some answers back. We stayed till last light and hiked out with a pack of coyotes calls getting closer and closer as dark approached.
Day 2: 4 AM again? Good Lord. I barely got to bed and we were back at it. Of the 3 days hunt; the guides took each newbie hunter out for one 1/2 day sit in the blind with them. This morning Jayme and I split up and she went with guide David and I went with guide Mike. My spot in the woods was near a river. We hiked in in the pitch dark. Once settled it wasn’t long before you could hear all the gobblers that were roosted on the river start to call. For someone who had never heard anything like that before, it was such an incredible experience to hear the woods “wake up”. Eventually hens, jakes, deer and finally 2 toms started to come in. However the toms were off to the left of the blind, angled too far back for me to see them at all. As there were no windows/openings on that side farther back. Mike was sitting to my right and could barley see them at an angle and though he called and they answered back and even were making the “drum” sound, they never did get to an angle where I could see them. Regardless, it was a cool experience and I really enjoyed learning from Mike so I headed back for lunch feeling really fulfilled. We hiked back to the truck and started to drive out. But to make things even better, when we stopped at Becky Lou’s blind she had a great Gobbler on the ground with her shot gun and when we got back to camp, Jayme had also gotten one with her bow in her blind with David! I get just as excited when my buddies get something as when I do, so I was hugging them and jumping around. Then we drove the guides crazy taking a ton of photos before finally heading back out. We each had 2 tags but Jayme, being the super loyal friend that she is, refused to hunt any more until I got one, saying she “wouldn’t feel right about it”. So we headed back out to the blind with her as my side kick.
When I had been out with Mike and he called those 2 toms in, I heard them do their drumming sound. I was floored. I had no idea that they did this and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I tried to explain it in camp to Jayme, Cyndie and Kate like this; “you know when you pull up to an intersection next to a guy in a hooptie car and he has all the windows up and all you can hear is the bass pumping and booming from inside the car?” Because that is really what it reminded me of! They looked at me like I was crazy until they each got to hear it for themselves. That night, as we sat in the blind, Jayme and I got to experience it together. First one, then two, then three, finally a total of 5 toms, all in a row came strutting up over the hill towards us and they were all “pumping bass.” With 5 of them doing it all at once, it was vibrating the tent. We were giddy with excitement; totally in awe, gasping and smiling at each other. They never got closer than 50 yards and even then it was through the trees and I never had a shot with my bow, but it didnt matter. We left the blind that night at dark, totally elated. I didnt care if I got a turkey or not, because I had gotten to share that amazing experience with my friend. It was a once in a lifetime thing for us Alaskan girls. To me, that is really what the hunt is all about more than a trophy in the end, its the beautiful memories that you make along the way.
That night David had headed out with Kate to her blind and Becky Lou had gone with Ashley. They didn’t get birds but learned a lot by having a seasoned turkey guide along with them in the blind. Cyndie however, came home with a beautiful, bearded hen with her shot gun. It was incredible! I don’t even think she realized how rare it was until we all told her. Extra cool for her first turkey ever!
Day 3: 4AM again and Jayme just wasn’t having it. So I let her sleep in and I went out alone. I had fun, but didn’t see any toms just lots of jakes and hens. After lunch she agreed to come back with me since it was the final night of the hunt. I had had a lot of fun on the hunt, learned a lot and seen some really cool things. I felt pretty peaceful about it. Of course I wanted to get something but ultimately I felt happy with my experience with my friends and I know that getting a turkey with a bow can be really tough so I was okay with just having a fun afternoon in the blind with my friend. We had lots of jakes and hens come in, in fact we had 2 jakes that bedded down less than 2 ft from the blind and took a nap for hours. Then finally 2 toms came in. They were on the left side of our blind and one came right in to 10 yards but stopped right behind the metal feeder leg. He just stood there with the pole blocking him so that I couldn’t shoot. I was ready, just waiting for him to take 2 steps when I heard footsteps off to my right. A deer had come up and was beside the blind, then he winded us. He started stomping his foot and snorting; and the next thing I saw was the turkey disappearing into the brush to my left. Jayme and I looked at each other with disappointment, we thought that was going to be it! I called more and got answers from 2 directions. It was so funny, I would make a call and Jayme would whisper “oh that was such a good one”. I found it really funny that 3 days earlier we had never even heard a wild turkey call and here we now were experts on what made a “good one”.
Finally, another 2 toms came in strutting. They walked straight in and stopped at 10 yards with no obstructions. The larger one was all puffed up, but the smaller tom had mellowed out and was starting to peck corn. I’m not a trophy hunter, I enjoy hunting but I am not concerned with having the biggest or best of anything, I just enjoy the whole experience of the hunt. So I raised up to shoot the smaller tom. Mike had warned us not to shoot a turkey in strut so I was fine with taking the smaller of the 2 toms. I drew back, put my pin on him and was about to shoot when the larger one all of a sudden dropped his feathers down and started to eat. I swung my pin over to him and dropped him. He went face down in the dirt. Jayme who had been tense this whole time watching this all go down, yelled out, “Bird down! Go get em!” Super loud, scaring every other turkey, deer and raccoon that was around us. Things went running, scrambling, flying in all directions. It was hilarious chaos. I unzipped the blind and lept out and ran over to my turkey. On Jayme’s turkey she had taken a side shot through the vitals and afterward, the guide picked it up by the feet and stood on the neck to finish it off. Well we didn’t know anything about turkey hunting and my turkey wasn’t moving, just twitching, but there was no way these inexperienced Alaska girls were taking any chances! So we both ran out and each grabbed one leg, turned him upside down and stood on the neck, just in case! We were giggling and squealing. Normally on a hunt, we’d be hugging at this point but we couldn’t since we were holding up the turkey so we just head butted over top of the turkey and laughed about how Jayme scared the whole forest off with her yell.
I felt really proud that I went from Day 1 never having seen a turkey on my own, to day 3 harvesting one with my bow without a guide! I learned a lot in a short amount of time and got to spend some amazing time in the woods with girl friends. I will definitely be back to the lower 48 to try it again in the future!
*Joni Marie is owner of Rockstarlette Bowhunting and Full Curl Archery and has harvested a wide variety of big game animals with her bow.