Spring turkey hunting can give bleary morning eyes a bright new outlook on the day.
Some of my personality traits have held me back from hunting. For example, I'm not a morning person or a big fan of spiders and bugs. I'm also a little afraid of heights. Most people who knew me a few years ago would not have described me as "outdoorsy."
My husband, Jay, introduced me to bowhunting when we started dating eight years ago. Since then, we have spent countless hours together scouting hunting areas, tuning our bows, shopping in every outdoor store we pass, and doing anything else necessary to prepare for each hunting season.
Living in northwest Ohio means we celebrate two major seasons -- archery deer and spring turkey -- and these take priority over other activities, such as cooking, cleaning, and lawn care.
Last spring was no exception, but one thing would be different -- rather than sleeping-in on Saturday morning and waiting for Jay and his friends to return, I would be hunting.
Jay goes to great lengths to learn all he can about his quarry, and he has spent the past few years learning to call turkeys. Daily practice sessions with his calls have nearly driven me crazy, but I've lived through it, knowing his madness might yield results.
Since shooting my first buck Thanksgiving morning, I had not practiced a lot with my bow, so I needed to get back into bowhunting shape. With encouragement and great coaching from Jay, my strength and accuracy returned in just a few short weeks, and I was feeling ready for the spring turkey challenge.
To prepare me further, we discussed different scenarios -- how a turkey might come into my shooting zone, and what I would need to do (or not do) to pull off the shot. Then, the night before the big hunt, we went out for one final lesson -- shooting out of a ground blind.
To my dismay, my first shot from the Primos Double Bull Blind nearly missed the 3-D turkey target! Taking a deep breath, I tried to contain my frustration and thought about some of the things Jay had taught me, two of which quickly came to mind: I was sitting versus standing, and lighting in the blind was different from outside. As I began to adapt, my last few shots were right on target, and I began to feel incredibly confident and excited about the morning hunt.
The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., and after hitting the snooze button a couple of times, I pulled myself out of bed, while Jay could barely contain his excitement and tried to get me pumped up. It didn't work, and I was happy to catch a few more minutes of sleep on the 45-minute drive to our hunt location.
Feeling the vehicle slow down, I was suddenly bright-eyed and ready to go, and I could feel my heart rate speed up even before we'd parked. This was my first turkey hunt!
And the anticipation grew as we stepped out of the truck and heard a gobbler in the distance. With a knowing glance at each other, we grabbed our gear and began a fast-paced hike to a riverbottom, where we set up our blind and decoys.
At first light, I peeked out of the blind and could hardly believe my eyes -- a hen was already feeding 20 yards in front of the blind. Getting out of bed early was already making more sense.
Soon, another hen started yelping behind our blind, and Jay started conversing with her on his call. Normally, I cannot wait for Jay to stop his racket, but today it was music to my ears, and within minutes, five hens were feeding out in the field.
In the meantime, some gobblers were heating up, and as Jay continued to call, they seemed to be getting closer. Then, for a moment, they sounded farther away, but just as quickly the gobbles sounded closer than ever. Apparently the birds had crossed the river and were heading our way. I prepared to shoot.
Suddenly I saw a tom in full strut coming out of the woods. "There's one to the left," I whispered, careful not to move.
When the tom gobbled, the incredible sound seemed to make everything around me tremble. I got ready, coaching myself to stay calm and steady. The tom strutted toward the decoys, displaying all of his beauty and power.
As he came into shooting range, I moved my eyes to look at Jay, waiting for the nod to draw my bow. When the tom made the fatal mistake of turning slightly away from us, Jay blinked at me, and slowly I drew.
With my sight pin solidly on the broadside tom, I released the string, and the arrow hit perfectly. The tom flopped around for a few moments, and I began to nock another arrow, just in case. But there was no need. The bird was down!
We celebrated our success and took a few minutes to replay the shot and to admire the beautiful bird. The tom weighed 23 pounds and had a 9½-inch beard and 7„8-inch spurs -- one of the biggest birds to be checked in for the year in our area.
One thing I like about hunting is that every hunter seems eager to share and celebrate successful hunts with you. For two to three days after my turkey kill, many people visited, called, and sent congratulatory e-mails. In particular, I enjoyed the responses from my mom and sisters, who are not excited about hunting but are more than willing to share in my excitement.
Starting with this hunt, I have discovered the richness of early morning. The air is fresher then. The early hours bring a peace absent from any other part of the day. The atmosphere is vibrant as the world comes to life. I no longer dread the wee hours, and now I would find it difficult to pass up the chance to hunt spring turkeys.
These days I take every opportunity to share my experiences and the joy bowhunting brings to my life and marriage. Through a lot of persistence and patience, Jay and his friends have helped me evolve from an observer into a true bowhunter. I look forward to my bowhunting future and the joy it will bring -- even bright and early.
The author and her husband are avid bowhunters of all game, big and small. They live in Ottawa, Ohio.
Author's Notes: I hunted with a Martin Cougar SE bow, Carbon Express CX200 arrows, G5 broadheads, and a Primos Double Bull Blind.