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10 Tips For Spring Turkey Hunting
From Cap Guns to Concealed Carry
By Laura Bell
In early 2012 I signed up for a concealed carry course or as it’s sometimes called, a CCW (carrying a concealed weapon) class.
I participated in the Kansas City 2nd Annual “Celebrity Seminar Series” Hunting Expo, which was held February 20th through the 22nd, 2009. Sponsors included Bass Pro Shop, Bushnell, Hodgdon Powder and BowTech. There were about 75 exhibitors at the expo.
Several Midwest outfitters were on hand with hunting opportunities for game such as buffalo, elk, whitetail deer, turkey, upland game and waterfowl. The Expo was held at the Kansas City International Convention Center near the airport, which allowed for more turn out by Big Game Outfitters as well as International Outfitters. North American outfitters in the western mountain states of the US, Alaska, and Canada were there offering big game hunts for elk, antelope, moose, bear and caribou. International outfitters from African were promoting hunts in various regions of Africa, which offers year round hunting opportunities for a variety of game. Other outfitters offered hunts in New Zealand and other European countries.
Other booth exhibitors included Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Kansas Dept. of Wildlife and Parks and the National Rifle Ass'n. I was also happy to see a youth hunting club booth.
Celebrities included several TV personalities and hunting experts. TV personalities included Family Tradition’s show host Haley Heath, who held 3-D demonstrations with her husband. Keith Mark of McMillian River Adventures conducted seminars which promoted hunting primarily moose, in Alaska and the NRA. Jim Mueller of American Outdoorsman TV presented seminars on hunting Alaska. Outdoor writer/celebrity hunter Bob Robb also attended giving seminars on big game hunting in North America. I offered presentations on “Whitetail Deer Hunting Techniques.” Other seminars also included ones for waterfowl and turkey hunting techniques.
On Saturday there was a waterfowl calling contest and nationally known callers John Vaca and Jeff Foiles attended. This was a great opportunity for children, youth, and adults to particpate.
SCI Sables held a luncheon on Saturday and that evening there was a benefit banquet and auction at the convention center. I want to mention that the Sables also provided my lunch at their banquet and passed out small gifts for all of those in attendance. In appreciation for this I also purchased a membership with their club and am also a member of SCI. By the way, a tip that was passed on to me by one of the African outfitters was that you can normally get your best price bargain on an African hunt by bidding on one at an auction.
My 1 hour seminars were a great success. My first seminar on Saturday was attended by Keith Mark of MacMillian Adventures. At the end of the presentation he took time to shake my hand and said what an awesome job I had done and that the information was very impressive. Now I have to admit to all of you though, that being a mother of young children I do not have time to watch the TV very often, so it was not until one of the audience members told me who he was that I even knew. At that point I realized this was quite a compliment for me coming from a TV celebrity.
I was very well received at the Women Hunters booth which I had set up. 80% of the people that walked by my booth would stop, look at my display, talk to me, ask questions and take a brochure on Women Hunters or my business card. I had people that came back to find me because they wanted to talk to me while I had been at lunch or in a seminar. I ran out of Women Hunters brochures by 1:30 and ran out of business cards by 4:00. This was a very positive response.
I also had the opportunity to meet Carol O'Day of the new TV show "The American Huntress" which is due to begin airing in July of 2009. She came to by booth to visit with me, as I had picked up one of her business cards earlier. We talked for about 30 minutes. I found her very personable and hope to be able to do a phone interview and additional article about her and her show in the future.
The photos below were taken at my “Whitetail Deer Hunting” seminar and at the booth that I worked for Women Hunters.
The first wave of unfamiliar vehicles bearing out-of-state tags started rolling in on Thursday at noon. Each one piled high with boots, bows, and the usual conglomeration of hunting gear plus a few non-typical items, such as makeup bags and curling irons. It was the time of the year when women from every corner of the country converge into west Tennessee to attend the Brenda Valentine, Ladies Bowhunting School. The first two weekends of October were selected for the 2002 events. It was the expectation of glorious autumn weather and the anticipation of plenty of whitetail activity that decided the timing for the unique events.
Cindy Hunnicutt with her first bow kill during the Oct. ladies Bow Hunting School.
Kim, Colleen and Cindy having a great time after an afternoon hunt.
With wide strides, I walked to Ben's left side and spontaneously posed with one arm straight up and one arm straight out. Ben did not know what I was doing since we had not rehearsed this at all.
"I am a tree", I exclaimed to a classroom full of curious staring eyes who wondered what I was up to. I like visual teaching because of it's effectiveness. A snicker came from the back of the room as I heard someone whisper "she looks like a tree". "Hey, I heard that", I replied doing a mock glour at the sheepish offender, and then smiled over in Ben's direction.
He grinned and knew exactly what I was up to. Although there was a twenty year difference in our ages, we shared a synergy with teaching that I had come to really enjoy. I could read him, and he could read me and we had mutual respect for each other. He snapped his rifle to an offhand shooting position, and proceeded to use the "tree" to steady his shot. He then used one of my "branches" as a rifle rest. We were graphically demonstrating how the most unsteady of shooting positions, the standing or off-hand position, could be secured by using a tree as a brace or rest.
I love the shooting and hunting sports, both firearms and archery. One of my great joys in life is teaching and being a mentor to new shooters and hunters. I really don't have the time to do this teaching, what with working eighty hour work weeks, riding herd on two teenagers, and hunting most weekends. But I simply must make the time, because the future of our sports lies in our teaching our craft to new hunters. It's what we do for love... the love of our sport.
Organizing this class as lead instructor had begun to seem like an impossible task, however. With new security after the 9/11 events, most meeting facilities and public buildings would not allow firearms to be brought in, and a Firearms Safety Class definitely requires the presence of firearms nearly every week, whether for demonstration, cleaning or whatever. It took weeks to find a facility large enough to accommodate a class of 25 students. We had over 50 people on the waiting list, more than usual because many also wanted to be in a class with a female instructor. I finally managed to secure the city's police department training room for our evening classes, to be held over a two month time frame.
I have taught Firearm Safety and Bowhunter Education in various forms for years. However, the Minnesota DNR teaching materials had radically changed this year. I had just attended re-certification classes with our regional training officer and I was very excited about the new curriculum. There were brand new student manuals, instructor manuals, new lesson plans, and especially, new teaching techniques. Learning it all, I felt like a rookie instructor all over again. Methods had evolved from lecture and reading, to hand's-on, demonstration and student participation. Instead of preaching the laws, we drew them out of our audience and posted them on flip charts. We made ample use of white boards, videos, props and overheads. We set up mock fences, and practiced crossing them with guns made out of yardsticks and string. We loaded and unleaded actual firearms with dummy rounds. We had students come to the front of the class to demo shooting positions and gun carries. We used clips from videos instead of wasting half hour segments with video, and had students participate in analyzing hunter ethics instead of preaching hunter ethics. These are much more effective ways for students to learn, but they did require that we instructors completely re-invent the wheel of our class structure. Our instructor team consisted of Ben, me, Kurt, Dan, and our local Conservation Officer, Chad, who came for one hour of our fifth class. Ben is a manager at a local sporting goods chain, and Kurt works for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in their forensics/ballistics unit. Dan is a fireman and active in the gun club where our range day was to be held. We each brought unique and complimentary talents to the table for teaching team... and teamwork is especially important in hunter education.
As with every class, some common themes always impress our students. One, is that only 9% of people hunt, nationally. 11% are against hunting, and the other 80% are the neutrals who could be swayed either way. Hunter ethics issues can sway the 80% to be anti's in a heartbeat. The hunter ethics, or lack of ethics that we focused upon, were poaching, violation of hunting regulations, and respectful treatment of the animals we hunt. Our students rightly determined that these areas seem to be the hot spots for swaying the neutral 80% to be pro or con. They also seem to be the subjects that our students bring up in all of our classes.
(1) Poaching is taking any animal illegally. Examples given by our students were:
(2) Hunting Reg Violations noted by our students as being the most offensive were taking an animal by any unethical or illegal manner. The examples given by this class as being the most offensive violations, were:
(3) Ethical Violations noted by students were many, but these were the top offenders:
Every Firearms Safety class is unique and we instructors learn something new with each one. The final class session is always the most intense and the most exciting because it is exam day. Every student in our class passed this time around, which is not always the case. They will all get to hunt this fall. By request, I plan to personally mentor some students in the future, although they do not know yet that I have decided to do this. I want them to have one hunting season under their belts first.
Last fall I received a photo essay from a now dear friend of mine. At first glance, he and his trophy elk grand slam were center focus, but then I discovered a phrase modestly resting at the edge of the page, summing up how the feat was accomplished: "Blessed by faith, prayer, patience, persistence, and God's abundant love." How true for all of us! That has been food for deep thought that has held my attention ever since I read it. If my friend's accompanying questions were not enough to get me to examine my passion for hunting, his assertion provided a window into the healthy soul of every child of God, and every ethical hunter. And so I go beyond a hunting narration, exploring and sampling the general Christian philosophy shared by the weekend hunter and traveling trophy-seeker, because essentially we as healthy sportsmen and women keep returning and appreciating this privilege for the same reasons. Some of those reasons are never voiced, but it is important we at least search our hearts for them so we can stay dedicated to the future of hunting and not limit our concern to simply our own lifetimes.
My gratefulness to be a hunter began to establish a rightful place in my mind and heart last autumn and spring. Talk about a heart leaping like a deer! I was able to appreciate manifestations of God's unconditional love that fall upon all He has created because I traded in rose-tinted glasses for a magnifying glass. I did not enjoy a Boone & Crockett that year, but what I did enjoy was very special. What we take from hunting varies as we grow and change. I used to use the time to figure out myself and what I am here to do and now find the opportunity to cultivate relationships in the spotlight. It doesn't matter; I mean business in all of it and natural surroundings help me develop awesome plans-of-action.
I present my faith because I know that it is the basis for my appreciation of the outdoor experience and fellowship with other hunters. When I hunt, it may look like I am alone in that stand, but I am not. A fundamental experience of the hunter lies in the strengthening of faith, patience, and persistence by prayer seeking insight and offering thanksgiving for the perpetual and limitless love our Father showers upon us.
The success of a hunt is not always measured by the harvest of the trophy. After all, the actual kill is anticlimactic. The hunter feels remorse and joy that appear to conflict with no origin of convergence. Ah, but as the old saying warns, appearances can be deceiving. Remorse is healthy, normal, and expected upon ending the life of a beautiful animal that only moments before graced the land, majestic and proud. It is important that we strive to eliminate suffering and provide an expedient end for the game that we pursue. Working hand in hand with God to read and know as He does the animal that will provide the family with nourishment is a source of joy that surpasses the mere certitude that a bullet or arrow connecting with vitals. Hopefully to many of the veterans of hunting it becomes clearer that those that get the most out of the sport are the hunters who appreciate every aspect of it. Scouting, marksmanship practice and gun cleaning, frostbitten fingers, pins-and-needles bottoms and feet, bonding with hunting buddies, slick snow and mud spots that showcase graceful slides, choking turkey diaphragm and grunt calls/bugles that sound awful, the "one that got away" miss, the wary trophy bagged, the tales swapped to entertain for hours, these all ebb and flow, familiar to the hunter.
As hunters we know the typical questions that accompany hunting season. What will this hunt bring? Is the game moving and if so, in which direction? What tone should I have in my calls? Should I take this shot or hold off? How do I approach a hunting partner who seems to lack patience or compassion? Answers are not easy because outcomes are not guaranteed. What is guaranteed-with the right attitude-is the harvest of amazing peace and impressive memories. We have to hunt with all we have and keep our faith, just as in every other area of our lives. Our senses completely attuned to our surrounding environment, our minds completely on the task before us, and our hearts completely devoted to performing whatever our hands find to do for God. In Genesis, Nimrod is referred to as a "mighty hunter before the Lord." He developed his talent as a hunter and later contributed to the growth of what would later be Babylon, and to God's plan as well. Not everybody thought the way Nimrod spent his time was noble (just think of the unfortunate contemporary connotation of his name), but he stuck with it and found satisfaction and fulfillment. It is important that we as fellow hunters-especially women-do the same and retain a scaffold of hope to keep hunting moral and meaningful.
Faith. Oftentimes I am in the woods with the only sounds of life being my breathing and the song of a thrush. Minutes become hours and hours become days and I see no game. During these times I am able to get a lot of thinking time in, time to scrutinize issues and gain insight from my Father. I believe God works for the good of those who love Him, so waiting for game just makes me uncontrollably excited. I know God is my most knowledgeable partner and offers his wisdom to me unselfishly if I seek it, and when my heart says it is right, I know He will guide my shot to its mark if I do my part.
Prayer. I pray about all these little questions that inevitably surface. To me the wilderness is a separate entity from the community in which I live. The outright unreasonable and unforgiving demands of society can corrode inner spirituality. The natural kingdom calls for a more liberated state of mind. Ever had a mandatory meeting that exceeded office hours, or anxieties that funneled over to deny you of a relaxing hunt? As responsible people, we must deal forthrightly with our issues, but that doesn't mean we must let them detract from the outlet that recharges us. Hand worries over to God, pray for insight, and let your focus then turn to connecting with nature and using all your senses to ready yourself for the imminent appearance of game. A solution just might come as well. Turn the ringer off your cell phone and keep it for an emergency. Enjoy your surroundings and make an effort to keep your hunting experiences uninterrupted and pure. That bull moose will give you an adrenaline rush that will be fast-paced, so gather your breaths while you can!
Patience. Let your faith endure, because our Creator's timing may not always perfectly agree with our schedules. If the bear does not cross your path when you would like, or the caribou does not take one step to open a shooting lane to its shoulder, do not despair or get too anxious and hyperventilate. Take another example from me. I thought of my past uneventful afternoons hunting and wondered if I should just write that afternoon off because a final exam in Calculus was awaiting me the following morning. I heard a voice telling me to go, and against my will I went. It took me a while to let go of my stressors and settle into my "huntress mode," and after two hours of waiting I impatiently doubted my decision. I ended up taking my best buck that evening. After pictures and cleaning, I looked over my Calc. problems with a clear mind, and miraculously aced the test the next day. Not all of my tales have fairytale endings like this; I say this as a reminder that better things than you can imagine may be in store for you if you only trust in Him.
Persistence. Is that call sounding like an old dead tom instead of a seductive hen? Don't just stop calling - practice. Do you need courage when a hunt turns out less than picture perfect? Pray for courage. Or maybe your persistence has helped you harvest game. If so, offer thanksgiving. Be creative and flexible in your hunting strategies, and be persistent in supporting this pastime of which we are fond. Keep hunting fun. Get others involved! Continue to believe and remember that half-hearted faith is no faith at all.
God's abundant love. The most obvious manifestation in nature of His care for us is highly coveted by hunters...the animals! Take your faith, go in prayer, and become captivated by God's grandeur. At the risk of sounding too poetic, it is easy for hunters to become intoxicated by beauty in its most elemental forms right before us. We have the opportunity to receive knowledge and peace of mind, and even the very provisions we need for the hunt. The Lord has His own way of doing things, surpassing our wildest dreams, so instead of testing Him, faithful hunters rest in Him.
Sometimes God can give a surprise that the human mind would never dream of conjuring up. Last winter I was hunting an area bookended by our creek and a tangle of briars and other thick stuff, just waiting for that buck to make himself known to me. Well, I got an uninvited visitor in my stand. A grey squirrel had climbed through the top rafter and we noticed each other at the same time. I think we were equally dumbstruck and scared out of our minds, for I had my rifle on him in a second. I was surely not planning on blasting him away because to the best of my knowledge South Carolinian squirrels are not attack-rodents. It was just a reflex because in my mind I could see Mr. Squirrel doing a rabid belly flop onto my face! The rest of that evening was spent thankful that I didn't create an extra stenciled opening for my gun, and chuckling to myself at one of the many comical moments I have experienced afield.
This gift of love we should share, for only then will its meaning truly take root in our hearts and begin to bloom. Do you have a young person around who might like to accompany you on a trip in the field one afternoon? Maybe the person is not a child. I took a classmate of mine out in the turkey blind this spring and she had the time of her life. We both did. A tom was strutting out of range, but we had enough excitement to last for days. We got funny looks when we left to have lunch afterwards at a café, surrounded by men with their coffee mugs, but the friendship we developed as women hunters did not evaporate with the steam from their coffee.
I have done a lot of reflecting this year. Putting into practice what I believe, regardless of the consequences, allows me to share my passion for hunting with the positive light it deserves. The strength in gentility possible when we become involved in the lives of new hunters is transforming to them and to us. I am so blessed to share our sport with especially those who sit quietly intrigued; young or young-at-heart: they have the future of our shared love for and dedication to the outdoors in their hands. I can truly and oh-so-thankfully say that my entire life is "blessed by faith, prayer, patience, persistence, and God's abundant love."
I heard a very interesting statistic while attending the ATA Show (Archery Trade Association) in Indiana, Indianapolis this past January and must admit that I am very disturbed by it. I heard in a conference that the average age of a bowhunter is now 46.5 years old.
My husband Jim and I have worked for the past ten years to bring more women and children into archery, bowhunting, shooting sports, and the outdoors. We have dedicated our lives toward educating others about the outdoors. Jim and I both feel that shooting sports and the outdoors has a place for everyone and we have to get more people to become outdoor and shooting enthusiast. In 2003, we taught over 8000 people in 105 of our Archery Programs and Outdoor Classroom events. Our daughter is a huge part of these programs, she is fourteen years old and has been helping us in our school and camp programs for years. She is the youngest instructor the North Carolina Wildlife Commission has even recognized in their Becoming an Outdoors Woman program. She has been shooting a bow since she was four and has been going on hunting trips with us for the same amount of years. She loves helping others catch the outdoor bug, so to speak, and is a great mentor to young people.
Why am I telling you this? Is it for a pat on the back and a "Way to Go"? No, it’s a challenge to each and every one of you that reads this article. We live in a society that is computerized and commercialized, our children are products of the computer generation. They would much rather sit and play video games or chat with their friends on the computer than be active outside. While doing our programs in schools and camps, we always ask what their hobbies are their answers are "Playing X-Box," "Playing games on my computer," and "Chatting in my chat room with all my friends." I don’t know about you, but to us it’s like pouring salt on an open wound to hear them say those words.
What happened to the kids that couldn’t wait to get home and go fishing or on an evening hunt? What happened to kids that wanted to spend time in the woods squirrel or rabbit hunting? What happened to the kids that thought a great day was spent with their best bird dog and their Grandpa hunting quail or grouse? What happened to the kids that care about the environment and want to see forest and wet lands protected? It seems we are raising a generation of children that are all more interested in going to the mall to hang out or getting that new video game.
I want to challenge you to help kids get interested in the outdoors and shooting sports or fishing than in a computer screen or an X-Box. You don’t have to teach 8000 people in a year. We started out just by teaching a few kids at a time. If you have kids do you spend time with them in the woods or are you to busy? Do you go to the woods alone and tell your kids that this is your time to be alone? It’s not easy getting others involved, you will meet plenty of resistance. Jim and I have people tell us all the time that we waste our time teaching kids and women. True, we don’t have time to hunt as much as we want or to shoot tournaments like we use to, but we are NOT WASTING OUR TIME.
I do not ever remember my Dad telling me that I was wasting his time when I ask him to take me fishing or early season scouting. I don’t ever remember hearing him tell Mom that he sure wished he had done something else besides take my brother and me to the woods. I am sure that my Dad had a lot better things to do than teaching us gun safety and how to shoot. Neither do I remember my Dad telling me I was too young to go or that I couldn’t go because I was a girl. As a matter of fact, he seemed to really have a great time and enjoy his time with us in the woods and on the trout stream. He seemed to find joy in watching our eyes light up when he pointed out tracks and ask us what they were and we could identify them. Still to this day, I have never heard him say that he wasted his time or that his hunt was ruined because he had to drag two kids to the woods that made more noise than a D-9 Cat.
We have to help kids get involved in the outdoors; it’s just that simple. We all love to hunt and be in the woods, but why do we love it so much? Because one day a very long time ago someone let us tag along with them, they spent the time to teach us the importance of the outdoors and wildlife. They knew that no matter where our lives would take us when we grew up we would carry the love of the outdoors with us. Every day we spent in the woods when we were young would just deepen its roots in our hearts and minds. We have never forgot the way they woods smelled or the way the sun felt on our face as it crept from behind the mountain.
I am sure you can tell me about the first time you harvested a deer, turkey, squirrel, or bird. You can tell me in vivid detail everything that happened that day and tell me in a way that makes me feel that I am right there with you every step of the way. So why are we depriving a young person of this same feeling by not spending a little of our time and giving them the chance to experience the same thing? Why?
Is it because we are afraid we might not know the answers to all their questions? Do you think that you will be ridiculed by your friends or co-workers for teaching kids to hunt or fish? Are we a society that is willing to let others take our hunting and fishing rights away? Not to mention every piece of prime hunting property is being bulldozed under for the new Mall or Shopping Center? Do you think that you cannot make a difference, that you are only one person?
We felt the same way, but we have made a difference in the lives of a few. We teach a lot of children, not all are ready to go out and hunt, fish or give up the mall but there will always be a few that fall in love with it. That’s why we do it!
I heard this quote a while back and it really struck me deep:
You only conserve what you love
You only love what you know
And you only know what you are taught
We are all teachers and have the responsibility to teach others what we have learned in our journeys. This is the way knowledge of all things is passed down from generation to generation. What do we want to leave our kids with? A great sense of pushing buttons while growing bigger backsides or of helping others and preserving what we have been blessed with. There is a great big world out there and our kids have the right to know the same feeling we get every time we step in the woods. My challenge is simple, help one person get involved in the outdoors on any level and watch them share what you taught them with someone else. You will find that it’s time well spent and before you know it you will be the one with the Challenge.
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