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Shotguns

Pheasants

 Pheasants

By Kathleen Kalina

President of Womenhunters

Wisconsin

 

 

Pheasant hunting opens in most states this month and is a great sport for women.  The best benefit is that you can go alone and not worry about having to haul a heavy animal out of the woods.  There are pheasant-growing farms in every state nowwith some pheasants sold to be released by the state or to private hunting preserves.

Pheasants were brought to the US from Asia and have really taken hold in prairies or woods.  South and North Dakota are famous for  their huge populations and excellent hunting, but the cost of out of state licenses , motel and gas prevents most of us from getting there.
Pheasant egg


To get started you need to be comfortable with a shotgun, either 20 gauge or 12 gauge.  Shooting fast and skillfully is the key.  Many women prefer a 20 gauge shotgun because the recoil is light and the weight of the gun is less than the 12 gauge.  Carrying a 7lb gun along with a vest full of shells through high grasses and marshes can wear you down.   I am always too optimistic and carry more shells than I ever need because my real worry is running out.  Having a comfortable orange cap and orange shell-holding vest makes a big difference in how long you will last out there. Having water for you and the dog is vital.  I have never used a 20 gauge because I believed the small 20 gauge would be a disadvantage. But a recent interview on a sports channel had 3 expert pheasant hunters who also represented ammo companies and they answered the shot shell and gun size question.   They believed that using a 20 gauge for this type of hunting was just as good as a 12 gauge because if you are shaky from the 12 gauge recoil, you are likely to miss.  They believed that the amount of pellet difference in a 20 gauge doesn’t  make that much difference if you have the bird in your sights.

Rule number one, aim with your eye on the bird, not through the gun sight,  because your eye follows the fast moving target and you are not shooting a stationary target where you need a sight to aim.

Rule number two, have the correct shot shell and choke for your gun.  You can experiment ahead of time by either going to a trap shooting range and asking to pattern your gun or at another area.   Using a huge piece of paper ,  try shooting with different chokes and different shot shell sizes.  Not all shot shells work the same in different guns.  The practice is called “patterning.”  
 
 
 
 
Pheasant tracks
 
 
When you will find that shot shells hit a wide area of the paper at 20-30 yds without big gaps between pellets then you have the right combination.   An improved cylinder choke allows for wider open spread of shells and is best for close shooting, but loses pellets going farther out.  A modified choke squeezes the pattern tighter, but goes out further.   The best shot shell is 4 and 5 in lead.  If you use steel shot it flies differently, too.  Pattern out for both on the paper to see the difference.

Shotguns: single shot, double barrel, OU (over and under),  semi automatic and pump.   A single shot is for those people who expect to hit a bird on the first shot, so it gives you no room for error.  Double barrel shotguns have two barrels side by side. The advantage here is that you can put a 4 shot shell  in one barrel and a five size in the other.  If you miss with the five, you might hit it with the four.  An OU, over and under, shotgun has a similar advantage, except the two barrels are top and bottom instead of side by side.   These shotguns cost $1000 or more.   The Semi- Automatic is gas powered and allows for several shots to be fired and automatically moves another shell up into the chamber.  You can really shoot ‘em up like that!  The semi-automatics are expensive and tend to jam in really cold weather.   The pump shotgun can hold several shells, but most states require that you have a plug preventing no more than three shells.  You manually must pump each shot shell out with the forearm slide.  I own four pump 12 gauge shotguns.  If the pump shotguns are good enough for police SWAT, then they are good enough for me. I don’t want jamming due to ice in an expensive semi-automatic.  I want to be able to pump fast and swing and shoot.  It’s not hard to pump out three shells as a pheasant flies.  Hopefully one will knock the bird down.

Dog or no Dog: A good pheasant hunting dog is a pleasure worth experiencing.  Many breeds are natural pheasant hunters either as pointers or as flushers.   Pointing dogs will freeze and point to you where the pheasant is.  But will the pheasant jump out of the grass and fly?  Only a flusher can make that happen.  Some dogs do both.  It doesn’t matter how big the dog is, but how well they hunt.  The Brittany and Springer Spaniels are the smallest dogs at around 40lbs.  They have plenty of energy and will go all day, well after the big Labs have gone back to rest.  The German Pointers and Shorthairs are high energy dogs, but excellent pheasant locators.    Can you pheasant hunt without a dog? It’s hard, but you will still flush birds just walking through the woods and grasses.  Certainly, you won’t jump as many as a dog will, since they can smell them and go straight for them.   A perfect hunting dog holds back and works circles close to you so that they flush a bird within shooting range.  It does no good if the dog is 100 yards ahead of you and flushes a bird that you are not in range to shoot.
My Springer at 13 weeks old out pheasant hunting. Get them out with scents early.

You can hunt at a hunting preserve and rent one of their trained dogs.  I recommend spending time hunting at preserves where you pay a fee for them to release 4-5 birds for around $80-100.  The land usually has birds that were not shot and this increases your odds.  Even if you can see them release the birds, don’t count on them being there when you arrive.  They run very fast and can out run you especially in circles by running back behind you.  Hopefully, they will hunker down and will jump to flight when you get there.  Shooting at a preserve can give you valuable practice so that when you hunt wild areas, you will be ready.   Every state has many pheasant hunting preserves. 

Chukars are another bird that is also released at pheasant hunting preserves.  They are smaller and fly similar to a pheasant.  Quail and Doves may also be available.

Pheasant hunting is a great sport for women who love fast shooting with their happy dog.
 
Minnesota Dept of Natural resources graphic.
Author- Kathleen Kalina with Daisy- 3 yr old Springer Spaniel, 12 guage Benelli pump shotgun with modified choke and 3 chukar taken with Fiocchi Golden Pheasant- number 5 shotshell. 2008 Glencoe, MN.
Photographer-Janice Baer.
Close up of rooster spurs.  This is 1 year old… notice rounded off spur. Kalina Photo
Rooster-Male on left.  Hen-Female  Pheasant on right.  Pheasant preserves allow you to shoot either gender. But state laws often allow only roosters to be taken on public land. Kalina photo.
Typical excellent prairie grasses for pheasant hunting.  Sunny with no wind is the best for dogs and pheasants. Wind makes it hard for dogs to catch the location of the scent. Wearing sunglasses helps cut glare down. State Land in Marshall Minnesota-2008.   Kathleen Kalina Photo
Daisy 6 yrs old in a typical pheasant habitat.  She has the scent and is starting to point.  However, she is more of a flusher than a pointer.  It’s common for dogs to do both.  However, the Master Hunter champion test requires that a dog being only one, a pointer or flusher.   In real life it’s okay that they can do both.  Carlos Avery state hunting area, Wyoming, Minnesota.  Kalina Photo.
Daisy beginning to flush a pheasant hunkered under grasses.  Without a dog, a human would have walked right by it.  Dogs will push into the grasses and force the bird to fly.  Minnesota State land. Kalina photo

 

Double Cross

Double Cross

by Jill Christensen, Staff Writer, Georgia

How does a big ole fat tom turkey disappear behind a two-inch sapling?

Read more: Double Cross

Turkeys and Coyotes/

Turkeys and Coyotes
by Kathy Eckstein
Contributing Writer, Minnesota

The first day of turkey hunting started wet. We arrived at the land we were going to hunt on and it was raining cats and dogs with lighting. So we sat in the pickup until it quit and got a nap in too. When it quit raining, Bill, my husband, dropped me off and I commenced to walk to my blind which was about a mile away. After it rained, the field road was a little slippery and carrying the decoys, backpack and my bow got to be tricky. I finally got to a grassy part of the road and scrapped the mud off my feet so I could walk better.

Read more: Turkeys and Coyotes/

Brandon's First Turkey

Brandon's First Turkey

by Marti Davis

Contributing Writer, Missouri

This past weekend was the Missouri youth turkey season.  Saturday morning I took Brandon, my 8 yr-old nephew and Matt, my brother to one of my spots.  A storm rolled thru about 2-3a.m. and the birds were awake and already gobbling from the roost as we were sneaking in.  We set the Carry-Lite HD decoys about 10 yards in front of the shooting house.

Read more: Brandon's First Turkey

My Baby’s First Turkey

There are few events more inspiring to me as a parent than that of sharing my enthusiasm for a sport that I love with my child.  Yet when my child’s fervor for that sport and her skills turn out to be superior to mine, this engenders even greater joy.   

My 14-year-old daughter, Christina, grew quite a bit over her last year.  She always was a fan of the shooting sports since age seven, plinking alongside her older siblings with their BB guns.  She received her first .22 rifle at age ten.  It was then that I noticed her raw talent:  Blown out bulls-eyes were common at 25 yards with iron sights; two inch groups in and around the bulls-eye were habitual at 50 yards.  Plainly, my baby could shoot!

At age 12, Christina’s skills and self-assurance really bloomed when she was rewarded with her first shotgun, a 20-gauge, Remington 870 Express, she named “Diane.”  Nearly every Sunday afternoon we were off to our local trap range, blowing 50 to 100 rounds of ammo.  She said again and again how trap was way too much fun.

As soon as she turned 14 (legal big game age in New York State), we made plans to hunt together.  After having received a ninety-percent score on her hunter safety test, we made ready for spring turkey season.  During this time, it tickled me to watch Christina during hours of gobbler hunting shows on television, rehearsing her friction calls, honing realistic clucks, cuts, purrs and yelps. I tell you what; the child was far better than I with my “expert” box call.  Then came the annual New York State Department of Environmental Conservation sponsored Youth Turkey Hunt.  The April hunt was open to youth ages 13 through 15 only for one weekend.  Because we are allowed to hunt just until 12 noon, we both hoped to harvest a bird before the busy regular season in May.

Christina and I rose at 4:45 a.m. We said our prayers, ate a quick breakfast, loaded the pick-up and headed for the woods near our home.  The April air was crisp, almost icy, with a soft frost shrouding the fresh vegetation.  Bright early morning sounds of cardinals and crows and the nearby river, was only matched by the sights of burgeoning hues of green leaves and diminutive blossoms dotting the forest floor.  Silently, I walked with my daughter, musing at her growth in just this last year:  I suddenly realized what the phrase, “fleeting moments” came to mean.  She could now carry her shotgun, her blind and her decoys without my help.  Wait, I was just changing her diapers not that long ago.  Why, just yesterday, she peppered all those empty soda cans at ten feet with that little Red Rider of hers- and left a huge mess.  How did so many years fly by so quickly?  Good Lord, she is taller than I am! 

We found a quiet open area, placed our decoys at 20 yards; two hens and a jake.  Christina set up at the base of a small tree behind her wrap-around ground blind and held her shotgun in the ready.  I sat at the base of an adjacent tree and helped her call.  Not 20 minutes later, we heard the thunderous gobble of a tom crooning for his true love with a bellow that pierced the still morning air.

“Get your gun up,” I whispered.  “Sit still.  Easy.  Sit still.” 

As hunters, we all know those primal sensations; your booming heartbeat, the effort to control what sounds to you like your own deafening breathing, your hands (and body) trembling; oh Lord, the adrenaline itself!  We likewise recognize that parents and children are bound in both mind and heart. I can emphatically declare that this is true.  Christina and I were later to admit how we simultaneously experienced a freezing of our thoughts and a racing of our hearts at the sound of that first gobble.  He was so very close.  We dared not turn our heads.  We could not see where the tom was, or from which direction he approached. 

“Easy.  Sit still,” I whispered again.

What I witnessed next amazed me.  Christina held fast to her shotgun, her entire body motionless with her finger alongside the trigger guard.  I observed a steadfast focus, such an intensive resolve that I shall never forget it.  The huge tom came in from our left in full strut.  She spotted him in her peripheral vision and froze.  The bird was at 35 yards.  She swiveled her head left, just barely.  She then rotated her gun, slowly, scarcely.  She sat tense and immobile, silent, patient, waiting.  The tom saw nothing; he advanced toward the decoys still at full strut.  At 30 yards, Christina squeezed the trigger.  The bang startled me.  It seemed to happen so quickly.  Then I saw the big tom flop over, kick out and lay still.

There was a split second of mutual silent, disbelief.  We flashed a glance at each other.  Suddenly, our bulging eyes were replete with the ultimate, elated, “OMG!”   I ripped off my mask, jumped to my feet and ran over to the tom with Christina right behind me.  All I could do was high-five her and seize her into my embrace.  My baby!  My baby had her first hunting victory!  If I could verbalize my emotions with language, mere words would be woefully inadequate to convey the heart of pride and my happiness for her.  I pulled her face back in my hands and looked into her smiling watery eyes.

“Baby, you are so awesome!”

“Oh man, I’m still shaking,” Christina stuttered gleefully, while she inspected the spurs, beard and his huge fan.  “He’s so beautiful!  Thanks, Mom.”

She filled out her tag and I returned to our nearby home to bring back my husband and the camera.  In the end, we recorded her turkey’s stats: Undressed at just less than 30 pounds, seven-and-one-half inch beard and one inch spurs, taken with two-and-three-quarter-inch 4-shot.  “Diane” now has a special place in Christina’s heart and I am certain that ‘she’ always will.  Grateful and happy, I know that my daughter the hunter will someday out-hunt and outshine my husband and me.  Knowing that is a joyful blessing.  Thank you, Lord, for her love of the shooting sports.

 

Extreme Waterfowling: Hunting Alaska’s Mud Flats

Three cabin boats loaded up with duck hunters at the city boat launch. Last in line was a 14 foot open air jet boat, and climbing aboard the boat was a man wearing an orange immersion survival suit. All four boats were heading over to the West Side of Alaska’s Cook Inlet for a duck and goose hunt. The smaller boat was necessary to traverse the many tidal guts to access the mud flats across the Inlet. Waterfowling in Alaska is not your usual field test. Instead of a pipe and an over/under shotgun, Alaskan hunters operate in remote areas requiring synthetic shotguns, duck shacks on pilings, 1000 gram Thinsulate chest waders and, in some cases, an orange immersion survival suit.

The logistics of hunting in Alaska, even for locals, often requires travel by small plane or boat over large expanses of salt water. Since Anchorage is the most populated city in Alaska, travel to hunting and fishing areas creates a weekend exodus that, for most, resembles a plains-trains-and-automobiles travel sequence only, instead of planes and trains, Alaskans highways are filled with campers pulling boats and ATV’s.

On the back roads of my home town on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, all-terrain vehicles are a random collection of after-market parts, including lifts, snorkels and gun racks assembled in the vein of the Mad Max trilogy.  Plastic gun racks are Gorilla-glued into the back windows of second generation pick-up trucks; drink holders are duct taped in enough places to host a party; fabricated metal windshield frames and roll bars are standard; and even arbitrary items, such as mouse pads, have been glued to the roof for a canoe rest or to the dash board to act as sticky mats for such objects as binoculars and spare magazines.

The joy of dirt roads, lake-size mud puddles and excellent early and late season duck and goose hunting led a fellow duck hunter to proudly announce, “I finally have a vehicle that can make the trip to the Chickaloon!” The Chickaloon River flats, located on a wildlife refuge, can be accessed by a vehicle-only three-hour tour down a marginally drivable back road, by use of an off road vehicle from the beach at low tide, or by flying in a small plane to one of the three landing strips on the flats. Even by vehicle, a trip to Chickaloon isn’t your drive to the super market, and motorists are advised to have four-wheel drive, spare tires, a come-along, survival gear and a shovel.

Depending on where the local duck and goose hunter ends up, especially if near a river with a salmon run, the presence of brown bears is another consideration unique to Alaska. If hunting a glacial lake, the wind can come up unexpectedly requiring an extra day’s stay on what would otherwise be a day trip. The waterfowler must know the regulations pursuant to the various land ownership, which, unlike most of the lower 48, is largely state, federal or native-owned. Each area has its own rules which can create an overlay of regulations resembling a set of architect’s plans. The area I hunt most is state land within a special management area located within city limits, thus, four sets of rules (counting the federal migratory bird rules). I can walk from a major road way out onto the river flats after work, but I need to hike a half a mile to out-distance the need for a GPS to figure out the exact area open to the use of shotguns.

Once a waterfowler has reached his or her destination on the various mud flats, hunting the tide change is a game of Russian Roulette. One eye must watch the air for birds and the other eye, the horizon.  An incoming tide or fog can easily sneak up on a hunter. Mossy mud valleys can turn into river filled gorges in a matter of minutes, not hours, and, on one unfortunate venture, I chased a pair of ducks across one pond too many only to become lost in a fog so thick that nothing but the ground beneath me was visible. If I’d have had a pound of cocaine on me, the drug dog that was dispatched for my rescue, may have found me. Instead, I ran into a pair of hunters heading in and followed them back to where my hunting partner and several search and rescue vehicles awaited.

A trip to Alaska to hunt waterfowl can be the trip of a lifetime, but, it’s also one in which the usual considerations are just the beginning.  The difference between the lower 48 and Alaska waterfowling can be summed up by the image of a North Dakota farm boy starting the day, not by discussing what areas have been scouted the night before but by scrutinizing the marine weather forecast and consulting the tide book.

 

Hunting Turkeys?

I think I’ll stick to deer hunting. I’m sweating all over, I am sitting in a prison of spider webs and their occupants, and all I’ve seen is hens all day long. I remember thinking that to myself on a hot afternoon during turkey season. Hens had been walking around me all afternoon and I was certain that even if a tom were to walk by, he would hear the sweat drip off of me and run as far away as he could… not that I blame him. But, I was sitting with my father and I was absolutely determined to kill a bigger tom than he had the day prior.

Crunch.

My eyes darted from side to side scanning the woods for anything moving.

Crunch.

Gobble gobble gobble.

I move slowly towards my call and cluck back.

Gobble gobble gobble.

The gobbling was getting closer as the two of us bantered back and forth like flirtatious co-eds. My sweat had decided to attack in full force and I could have sworn I saw ants scurrying around my feet running for the hills in fear of the flood that was coming from my face. But, I was focused on the heated debate that was happening between me and my tom.

The gobbling felt as though it was right behind me but I was not about to move to check it out. I would fight every single fiber of impatience in me and wait for him to show his face.

Gobble gobble gobble.

Then I saw him. Wait a second… I turned to my dad and whispered “Is that??” “Two turkeys, I can’t believe it” he whispered back. I felt like a kid at Christmas who just got two of her toys. TWO! I could take my pick! The two toms strut right out in front of us acting as though they were invincible. I studied the two old birds carefully, obviously assessing which one was bigger. I was out for bragging rights after all. My turkey was in sight. My gun was ready. I was ready.

I heard a faint whisper from my father, “Easy to shoot, hard to kill. Take it girl.”

 

Nick's Lucky 12s - One Memorable Turkey Hunt

There are some turkey hunts that fade after just a few days; they become a blur, a mix of events and moments that become muddled and forgotten after too many days of early rising, long days and aching backs or legs.  April 12, 2008, will not be one of those hunts.  No, for my 12 year old nephew Nick and I and my husband Brian, anytime we talk about April 12th it will certainly cause us each to crank our head to the side in quiet recollection, gazing off for several minutes as vivid images spread shameless smiles across our faces; images of the snow-covered sand country of central Wisconsin in April; snapshots of a wet, black-feathered tom making its way to our decoy and vivid memories of a young boy’s twinkling eyes and eager face as he embarked on his first turkey hunt during the Wisconsin Youth Hunt April 12th and 13th, 2008.

Nick’s hunt actually began back in December; when his mom and dad surprised him Christmas morning with his own Remington youth model 20 gauge.  It proceeded in January as Nick and his dad enrolled and began their hunter’s safety class.  Before graduating just a month later, Nick had called and asked when he could come out and shoot his gun.  By mid January, despite snow and damp, finger-numbing temps, Nick demonstrated his natural talent as a great shot by shattering clays in our woods as we hand-tossed them into the air.  In February and March, we moved forward with patterning his gun, aiming at paper turkey targets and shooting from various positions, again hounded by cold and record-breaking Wisconsin snows.

We soon learned Nick had been awarded a tag for period 1, which ran from April 15th thru the 20th, which also enabled him to hunt the Youth Hunt weekend April 12th and 13th.  Only kids age 12 thru 15 who have passed Hunter’s Safety can hunt that weekend in Wisconsin, and we knew that would be the best bet for Nick to get a jump-start on the season.  Nick and his dad shopped for camo, face masks and shells as turkey season neared while my husband and I planned where to take Nick.  As the hunt neared, forecasts were not favorable and the chance for cold and snow was inevitable.  At least it would teach Nick to hunt despite perfect conditions, we thought.  We warned Nick repeatedly as we drove north that we might be in for a long, hard day’s hunt with minimal gobbling and little turkey movement.  Nick merely responded with “I don’t care; I just can’t wait to be out there hunting!”  We laughed and told him he might not be so enthusiastic after a few hours sitting in the cold, wet snow!

Our alarms sounded off at 4:30am, and we awoke to find Nick bouncing on his bed, exuberant and anxious to hit the woods.  He informed me he woke up at 3:30am and had tossed and turned ever since!  After a light breakfast, we dressed in several warm layers, finishing with our rain gear and rubber boots due to high spring water levels throughout the area as a result of the record winter snowfalls.  The temperature was barely 30 degrees with a fresh inch of wet snow on the partially frozen ground.  We headed to a ridge where we’d spotted a group of toms at dusk the day before, but again warned Nick not to be too optimistic due to the weather.  At 5:15 we exited the car, made sure Nick’s gear was in order and gun safety on, put on our face masks, and began our silent trek east through the woods with Nick in the middle of us.  Minutes later as we neared the ridge and walked slower, a bird suddenly burst out of its roost overhead and flew down, landing not far away.  We all instinctively shrunk to the ground and stayed crouched and motionless for a moment, listening.  I whispered to Nick that we needed to back away quietly and slowly, and we began to retreat.  Just 50 yards away, I quickly motioned for Nick to sit at the base of a large red oak facing south, while I stuck our hen decoy in the ground 15 yards away.  My husband Brian setup 20 yards to our southwest, and I returned to quickly settle in against the tree and sit just off of Nick’s right shoulder.  Nick had asked if I would begin calling…but I told him no, we needed to let the woods settle down after busting the turkey out of its roost, and we needed to listen for other birds first.

All was quiet, when suddenly I heard a fly-down, and then another.  Nick turned and whispered to me that he’d heard two birds fly down.  I was impressed.  Shortly after the fly-downs, my husband brushed his box call together a few times, quietly yelping in the early morning.  Instantly, we had one loud gobble and two or three others respond farther east!  Nick’s head whipped around to look at me, eyes wide with excitement as we smiled at each other!  “Yup, we’ve got turkeys, Nick!” I whispered.  He turned to me then, and said “I think there are three gobblers…it sounded to me like three different gobbles.”  Again, I was impressed with his perceptiveness and told him he was right, there were!  Brian called again on his box call, and again we got a loud gobble, obviously closer.  I told Nick to raise his gun up to his knee, and get into a comfortable shooting position.  I reminded him keep his safety on, but be ready and stay still as the turkey came in.  Once Nick was set, I let out a few gentle yelps on my triple V Primos diaphragm call, and we were instantly awarded with several gobbles, closing in fast.  I again told Nick to keep looking for a bird, it could come fast now, but stay calm and don’t shoot until you’re ready.  Just as I peered over Nick’s head I caught a brilliant blue and red moving through the brush….it was just 35 yards away and moving straight to our decoy, not even aware of our presence.  I whispered to Nick, “There’s a bird, there’s a bird!” and Nick frantically replied that he “didn’t see any bird anywhere…where is it-- WHERE is it?!”  As I told him to move his eyes only and follow the barrel of his gun, he located it, and slowly began to raise his gun up as it continued to move closer.  It was just 20 yards now, and had cleared the brush, bursting into full strut as he did.  Nick uttered, barely audible, “Now?”….I responded with “No…wait til his head pops up.”  I saw Nick’s arm shaking like crazy as he followed the bird as it walked another 6-7 yards closer. I wondered for a moment if he might miss due to his shaking.   The gobbler was now between us and the decoy at just 12 yards as it lowered its fan and popped up its head.  “Anytime” I barely uttered into Nick’s ear, and a second later, Nick fired his Remington 20 gauge and sent the bird down, feathers flopping in the wet snow!  Brian and I burst into simultaneous congrats and smiles as we could barely believe Nick had already shot his first turkey and that the tom had strutted right in for a perfect shot.  It took Nick just 30 minutes to shoot his first turkey, on the first day of the 2008 Wisconsin Turkey season!!  Nick, however, sat smiling and stunned at the base of the tree; a bit dumbfounded that he had in fact shot his first turkey so quickly, and a bit unsure of what to do next as it flopped about on the ground.  We told him to go get his turkey and he ran and tried to pick it up…..saying with a broad smile, “this thing is BIG and HEAVY!”  Nick said he wasn’t sure if he should’ve shot it again as it flopped, and we explained to him the flopping around usually happens after being shot, but that you need to run and grab it just to make sure it doesn’t get up and try to run away.

It looked to us like my nephew Nick had the luck of the “12’s” this year…..he was 12 years old, and shot his turkey on April 12th at just 12 yards.  Lucky 12’s it was, and it was a day none of us will ever forget!

 

Terror on Opening Day

Opening day of deer hunting for firearms in Minnesota is a make it or break it day.  Nearly half a million hunters are moving through the woods spooking all the deer or shooting them.  By day two, the deer are hiding and hard to find.   In 2006, my friend Terry, asked me to hunt with him on his 120 acres in Northfield, MN. That is an area that had only a  four day firearms period. We scouted and had the deer movements patterned to perfection.    I built a ground blind alongside some tall bushes next to a swamp that was a favorite deer entrance run, early in the morning.  I always want to get the deer first thing on opener.  At least that had been my history, always getting a deer within the first hour.

In the dark, I sat well-hidden behind the woven limbs and camo burlap, waiting for the dawn action of opener.   Behind me about 20 feet away in the marsh was a large tree with a thick limb that was about 8 ft over my head.  Just as the pure black was turning into grey light, I heard an unfamiliar sound over my head; it was a very deep purring.  With my shotgun gripped tightly, I turned my head upwards toward the sound.  It continued deeper than any known cat that I had heard.  I immediately flashed a recognition knowing that this was a Mountain Lion.  My thoughts went from “How long has he been there...to …does he see me?  Is he ready to pounce?”  Not moving a muscle, I watched the limb for what seemed to be a painful length of time.  I thought , “He was waiting for a deer on this run too; maybe he doesn’t see me or care.  I am surely safe as long as he continues to purr.”

Compliments of Wyoming Fish and Game Compliments of Wyoming Fish and Game
Compliments of Wyoming Fish and Game Compliments of Wyoming Fish and Game
I turned my neck to survey where I expected a deer to come.  That motion of turning my stiff neck caused an involuntary cough.  The game was up.  The purring stopped.  I quickly grabbed for my flashlight in my coveralls and stood up.  The light shined on the yellow piercing eyes of a large mountain lion.  I put the shotgun bead on him giving me the decision in a matter of seconds whether I should shoot him.  If I shoot and he draws his head back, he will surely jump on me.  If I don’t shoot now…well, something is going to happen fast whatever it is.    The mountain lion backed down the tree while popping his eyes around the tree glaring at me as he slid.  I just couldn’t see enough of him to shoot, but I knew that when he landed at the bottom of the tree, he might jump on me.   I took only two steps backward with my shotgun aimed at him and he was gone.

Then, he was in the swamp where I couldn’t see him at all, but I assumed he could see me.  So I backed out of the blind and moved into the middle of the field. It was barely light, not light enough to walk to the truck without being ambushed.  Mountain lions prefer ambushing prey from behind, while hidden in grasses or bushes. With the open field to my back and the swamp in front of me, I waited until the sun was fully up and I was sure I could make it to the truck. No deer were around anyway.

While I waited, I thought about Terry who was in a tree-stand on the other side of a large hill.  He would be safer up in the tree-stand, than I was on the ground.   When the sun was up, I walked a long ways through the open field distancing myself from any tall grasses or swamp where I might be ambushed.

It seemed like an eternity before I arrived at the truck.  Now I had to drive over to Terry and warn him about the mountain lion.  As I drove the truck across the land toward his position, I saw him backing out of the woods and walking quickly to my truck.  He opened the truck door and he said “You won’t believe what I saw!”   I quickly said, “I saw a mountain lion.”   And he said “So did I.”  He described to me that right after dawn, (probably after the lion climbed out  of the tree) he suddenly saw the lion in some bushes below his tree-stand and it peered up at him.  Twice it appeared to leave and then the lion’s head peered back from under the bushes up at him.  Terry said he was afraid to come down out of the stand until he was sure it was gone.   When it heard my truck coming, the lion ran away.

I said, “Well, that blew opening day for deer.  No deer will be coming into this area with the mountain lion moving around.”   The next day, we came in after it was light and sat in tree-stands.  We didn’t see any signs of the lion moving around.  But I did see a deer walk into some tall grasses and lay down about 1 pm.  I climbed down out of the tree-stand and walked in a circle to avoid detection.   Then I entered the grasses where I saw the deer at the closest entrance spot.  That buck jumped straight up the air and I shot once and he was down.

The Dept of Natural Resources informed us that more and more mountain lions were coming into Minnesota from the Black Hills of Wyoming where they were overpopulated.  This past winter (2009), a police squad car cam took movies of a large mountain lion walking through some residential yards of Minneapolis.    Reports of sightings have continued to increase all over the state.
Minnesota Dept of Natural Resources
Jake Schubitzke 2007.
Floodwood, Minnesota trail cam.
Minnesota Dept of Natural Resources. 2009 Near Minnesota River. 2009. Star Tribune.

 

The Trip Down that Red Dirt Road

My Wal-mart size three kids shoes
I was getting ready to go on my first turkey hunt of the season, today, May 12th  2010, and could not be have been more anxious to get off this airtight plane, and land in Atlanta. This was not just an ordinary hunt though; it was a hunt that was going to be filmed for television.  Wesley, Ryan and Chris came to pick me up from the airport on that Wednesday morning.  Funny thing is, my bright pink suitcase was catching a connector flight to West Palm Beach, Florida. Luckily, the only real necessity I didn’t have in my carry on were my La Crosse Alpha Burley hunting boots. I thought to myself, “hope my boots are the only things that get away this week.” This was certainly going to be an adventurous and spontaneous trip.  Several months earlier I was contacted by Wesley. One of his staffers Ryan Weaver had been following my stories on www.womenhunters.com. He in turn showed Wesley who called to ask if I would be interested in participating in a shoot of a potential show he was working on.  That was a silly question; what self-respecting hunter wouldn’t want to take advantage of this amazing opportunity! As I said before no luggage sooo . . . first stop was to Wal-Mart where I had to get the necessities I needed for the weekend. After driving an hour south of Atlanta we arrived at Camp Pioneer in La Grange. How beautiful it was! A new hunting lodge, with turkeys, and deer mounts galore, with what seemed like endless acres of woods with turkey lurking within. I wanted to be able to target practice before heading out on the hunt, so Ryan set up some turkey targets as I readied my Benelli.  As Wesley looked on, I took a few shots, and knew I was ready for the weekend. Within the hour, we were all rested, and piled into Wesley’s van.  Within minutes we were driving through what I call God’s country; the land flourished with acres of fertile land where cows, donkeys, deer, turkey, rabbits, coyote and many more critters call home.

Arriving at our spot,  we were all anxious with that pre-hunt buzz only made stronger by the sight of numerous turkey on our way to the blinds. Wesley, Chris and I went into one blind, and Ryan who is the show’s videographer, set up in full camo next to our blind. It was mid afternoon; many minutes went by and the turkey we had passed on the way in had vanished without a trace. Turkeys get spooked easily, so we hoped if we returned to the same spot the following morning, they would return to their feeding grounds. Meanwhile inside the blind, Wes and I cracked jokes (quietly of course), and just soaked up the fresh Georgia air while we waited for a possible turkey to wander in our view.  We spotted a few hens and a tom grazing at the top of a hill a few hundred yards away, but none came within range. It was great to see movement out in the field though. When I looked through the blind, all my eyes could see were red dirt roads, fields of seeds, gardens, woods and blue skies. It sure was nice to be back out in God’s country. I began thinking how much of a blessing it was just to be given the opportunity to meet great new people, who love to do what I love, and who also are filming the hunt.  In fifty years, I can look back and see when I was 21 years old, I was filming a turkey hunt for cable television, with three professionals, who are dedicated outdoorsmen, and have the utmost respect for women hunters and nature.

Wesley Jones and I am target practicing as he watches
Ryan’s red Ford truck, I liked to call the “Turkey Taxi”, (most know it’s better to use a red light if you need light in the morning, because it’s harder for turkeys to see the red) was ready and waiting as the second day came.  Wesley had prior appointments, so Shayne, the Camp Pioneer’s Director and avid hunter, Ryan and I hopped in the “Turkey Taxi,” in the early morning and set out. We decided to set up outside the blind across the road and hunt what I call “Runnin and Gunnin” style. Decked out head to toe in camo, including my three-dollar pair of size 3 kids’ camo shoes, which I found at Walmart. Every time I looked down at them it gave me a good laugh. They were a bit more uncomfortable and goofy looking than my nice Alpha Burley’s. I set up against a tree a few yards in from an open field. Not too long into the morning, we heard the morning gobbles from a few toms in the woods. What a heart pounding, adrenaline rush that kind of sound gives me! There is nothing better than hearing that gobble, knowing he could be coming your way any minute. I like to think about the various pitches of a turkey’s gobble. When a jake, the “teen turkey,” tends to gobble he sounds like a 12 year-old boy just reaching adolescence, his gobble crackles and sounds all discombobulated. It always makes me have a silent laugh when I hear a jake. The tom’s sound is rough and tough, for the most part, with a deeper tone. The grandfather toms begin to sound rougher and a tad cracklier, like the young ones. It’s very unique how every animal has its own aging sound. In the distance we heard a tom getting closer and closer, and I was closer and closer to having my heart beat out of my chest! Shayne was a tree behind me calling him in, and Ryan had the camera on the field, wishing and waiting. The tom came from the left, and he was about to start coming in just 100 yards shy of us, when he just decided he didn’t want to keep moving. Nothing seemed to spook him; we were all dead still and silent, with my Benelli was in position, but he turned away and slowly walked back in the woods. It was a little shocking knowing that he was moving in closer and closer to us, and didn’t even hustle back to the woods, just turned around and strutted away.

Wesley, Ryan and I are walking down the red dirt road...
Later that afternoon, and the three of us were out again; this time to a different spot. We trekked down the red dirt road, to a new field, and Shayne went up in the tree stand; Ryan stayed on the ground with me and we each went to a tree. No sign of turkey here, but a bird that sounded like a flute, and a few others gave us some good entertainment as we sat in the afternoon sun.

Day three arrived, and I was sad it was my last day.  I had only one more chance to harvest a turkey.  My flight was scheduled for around 4:00 out of Atlanta’s airport.  Shayne, Ryan and I met up early, and headed out to a new spot. It was a small dirt road, surrounded by woods, and we heard gobbles in the area. We walked for a few minutes, decided where we wanted to set up then picked a spot on the edge of the one lane road about five or so feet in. There was a bit of a hill going down, about thirty yards to the left of us, and we heard “gobble, gobble, gobble!” Shayne, Ryan and I all glanced at each other with excitement, and I thought to myself,  “This is it, he’s only 75 or so yards away and coming closer!” I steadied my gun, perched it on my knee and hoped he would move up the hill. A few more gobbles, and I looked up slowly, and prayed to The Man above. The cameras red record light was on with, the tom getting closer. We were still as statues. He was still out of sight, and at any moment, he could walk up that hill into perfect range. A few more minutes went by. Silence. Then more silence. We heard a gobble, but he was headed the other way.  Hens, or the field a few hundred yards away, must have caught his eye; he didn’t want to respond to our hen call anymore. Shayne, Ryan and I said it must have been that he was already henned up. That morning we didn’t have much luck, but we also came here knowing that it was the last weekend of the season, and turkeys are spooked, clever and not wanting to grace us with their presence.

Lunch at famous Varsity Restaurant
No, a hunter does not go out hoping to come back without a harvest, but a good ethical hunter knows, that it’s a possibility; that’s why it’s called hunting. Some may go a whole season and not harvest a turkey. Some even go years. The beauty in it all is that I was not disappointed or let down, but I was appreciative that I have been able to come out here and hunt on land which is pristine and beautiful. Half the fun, half the adrenaline is about hearing nature wake up. Watching animals cross your path just inches away from you, and soaking in the fresh, non-polluted air is what it’s all about. Wesley Jones, Shayne Goddard, Ryan Weaver have made this trip unforgettable. Later in the day, Ryan and I drove to Atlanta, to meet up with Wesley and his family for lunch at the famous Varsity Restaurant. The hustle and bustle was so different than the serene and calm La Grange, Georgia, but it was necessary: I had to catch my flight back home to Ft. Pierce, Florida.

Wesley, Ryan and I have developed a lifetime friendship; they are two great guys who are so positive. This whole experience was such a great one, one that I will cherish forever.


When Wesley Jones was a young boy, he fell out of a tree house, and was paralyzed. It was a very traumatic experience for him and his family, but God saved his life, and he is stronger than ever. He has always been an outdoorsman, and didn’t let a wheelchair get in the way of doing what he loved to do. He loves hunting, and has earned his Turkey Grand Slam; has hunted numerous other animals such as deer and hog; and has started his own television show on the GAC (Great American Country Channel) called Unlimited Outdoors with Wesley Jones. He is a very accomplished man, and still so young witha full career ahead of him. He is certainly a hoot!  He is such a great person, full of energy, and is a person everyone would be lucky to meet. Special thanks to Ryan Weaver, our cameraman, who had read some of my turkey hunting stories. He called up his good friend, Wesley, and now here I am writing a story about my amazing hunting trip with Wesley and Ryan. We filmed at Camp Pioneer, which is currently home to twelve boys who didn’t receive the love they needed and now are in a better home at Camp Pioneer.  The Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes motto is “Protecting Our Youth, Preserving Our Future” and it sure has had a great impact on these children. These boys have gardens, sports, fishing and many more outdoor hobbies available to them. They have a church to share their faith, a gymnasium to show their athleticism, and hundreds of acres of land to go out and enjoy. They learn to plant gardens, help with the property; go fishing for catfish in the pond and much more. In support of Camp Pioneer, the Goddard’s have built a lodge for visitors and hunters that come. It is a new house with all the amenities you could need to enjoy your stay. There are deer hunts available for purchase in support for Camp Pioneer, which you may sign up for on their website or in person.

Georgia Sheriffs’ Camp Pioneer

P. O. Box 2907
LaGrange, GA 30241
706-845-9771
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Reggie Jones, Wesley’s brother wrote a book called “ Triumph over Tragedy.” It’s a book everyone should read. It is available online for purchase at http://www.unlimitedoutdoors.net .

The trip down that red dirt road was one I’ll never forget.

 

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