I survived my first hunting trip!
Trip seems a little over adventurous of a term. This wasn’t a big epic back packing trip into the mystical, mountain backcountry. I spent a couple days hanging out in a field about 45 minutes from the house I grew up in. I maybe was harboring delusions of grandeur about what my first hunt about be like. It wasn’t nearly as glamorous as I had imagined, nor was it the smashing success that I had hoped for.
The Engineer used some connections and lined up permission to hunt some private farm land. We arrived out at the farm around noon on Saturday and initially set up on the North edge of his hay field next to several fallen turkey feathers…..everything was seeming very promising. After receiving a real time location tip off on the turkeys from the farmer, The Engineer and I decided to pack up and move to the southeast corner of the farm’s property. We were using a small blind we borrowed from The Engineer’s Dad, and we had a couple turkey decoys from one of his hunting friends, so moving camp was a little bit of work, but overall not that bad.
It’s maybe about 1:30, perfectly nice, slightly warm fall day…..and disaster struck. The Engineer wanted me to practice drawing my bow in the blind so I could make sure I had enough room to move without bumping the blind. Everything was fine until I tried to release my bow. Before you jump to conclusions….I didn’t dry fire my bow. I didn’t have an arrow nocked, but it is possible to just slowing release a draw back. That’s the effect I was striving to have. What ended up happening was that my string popped off the bottom cam of my bow. So now……we are sitting in a field, calling for turkeys, and I don’t have a bow that would be good for anything except maybe throwing at a turkey in the hopes of knocking one unconscious.
So for the second time in maybe….an hour…..The Engineer and I were forced to pack everything back up and schlep it back up out of the pasture to the truck. Bows can’t be restrung without a press to release the tension, so we had to drive into town and head to the sporting goods store. I haven’t always had the best experiences at the shop in town, mostly because I think they thought I was just a stupid girl buying a bow she wasn’t going to use. I was surprised at their willingness to get my bow back in shape and help me get back out into the field. They didn’t even charge me, and in the time it took me to walk back out to the truck to get my wallet they had it all put back together! After a couple practice shots at the range to make sure everything was still tuned in the way it was supposed to be, The Engineer and I headed back out to the farm.
We once again hauled everything out, for the third time that day, and set up underneath the same tree. We could hear turkeys, they would answer back almost every time we would call, however we never saw any. So, there we sat. The Engineer scrolled through his phone while I fidgeted around like a small child, until almost dark. At this point I was a bit cold and wanted to actually do some moving around. I convinced The Engineer that maybe we had missed the turkeys crossing back over in the North tree line……so we went on a bit of a hike back towards our initial set-up location. Still no sign of the elusive flock we were told resided on the property, but it was nice to move around a little bit and warm up. The 30 minute shooting window after sundown closed, and we packed up and headed back to Momma Jules house.
The part of hunting I have always dreaded and used as a perpetual reason to not participate in hunting adventures….is that premium hunting always seems to occur at the absolute earliest possible butt crack of dawn. I am really not at all a morning bunny, but apparently the prospect of shooting my first turkey is all it takes to get me out of bed and dressed at 5:30 in the morning when it’s 23 degrees outside! On the dark drive back to the farm we decided that we would try the North tree line we had originally set up on the day before. Of course you have to get there early, so there we sat, mostly frozen, almost half an hour before shooting time…..which is already half an hour before sunrise!
We sat in the blind and called turkeys and watched the cows and calves meander around the pasture till about 10 with still no sign of a turkey in sight. Even though I didn’t end up with a turkey, I will say that listening to them all do their morning round up calls shortly after the sun came up was the high point of the weekend. To hear the change from silence to everything around you getting up and start moving around is something you just don’t really get to hear and appreciate when you live in town. From a purely hunting perspective, it was proof that the flock was indeed close, and hopefully they were hopping down out of roosting trees near us!
I had already stolen a pack of hot hands from The Engineer’s hunting bag, and we were both getting hungrier than peanut butter crackers and jerky was going to fix. Before we headed back to town for lunch and a thawing, we thought maybe we would walk the tree line and see if we could find out exactly where the turkeys were hanging out. This was our last day to hunt, and a day only lasts so long after all…..crunch time was looming!!
We did eventually find the turkeys……across the county road from the field we had permission to hunt. We found them because we……probably mostly me…..were making too much noise as we neared where the tree line we were walking met the road. The line of trees extended across the road to a cut corn field. I’m sure the flock was hanging out over there because the eating prospects were easier. No need to contend with the cattle herd, and cut field means corn on the ground for easy snacking. Not that this does me any good, I needed them to move North across the road onto the land we had permission to hunt. We were operating under the assumption that if our farmer knew the owner of the field South of him and if it would have been okay for us to follow the flock over there……he would have told us the first day when he said he saw the flock. Since he didn’t, we were forced to assume that was a no-go zone. We packed up and headed back to town for some food and heat, and hoped that something would happen to drive the flock back north across the road.
We set up for a final time on the edge of the tree line, as close to the road as you’d probably want to be. To get to this spot, we parked the truck on a little access path between the farmer’s pasture land and the neighboring corn field. We then hiked in, past were we had set up the night before and climbed up out of the creek bed and crossed into the farmer’s cut hay field. It’s important to note that the path we took was clear….on the way in.
The decoys were set up in full view of the flock…..who still hadn’t motivated to cross the road. We hoped that calling and being able to see the decoys would be enough to pull them across. We had been researching and googling all weekend that fall turkeys are notoriously hard to move because they are set up in family flocks and not breeding, but all we could do was try. It was about 2pm when we got back out, so we had about 3.5 hours to try and persuade them across…..even if we just got one stupid one…..that would have been enough!
It became apparent around 4:45 or 5 that we were not going to get a turkey. Especially if they were roosting in the trees on the South side of the road. By this time they would slowly be waddling back towards the safety of their roosts before night fall. Around this time we started to hear some crunching from the pasture behind us, but we obviously knew there were cows wandering around so we didn’t think too terribly much of it.
Feeling a bit sad and defeated, we packed up the gear for the last time. Our inventory becomes important so I’ll give you a quick recap of what we are hauling back to the truck.
- The blind
- My bow
- Two camping chairs
- Bag with the two decoys
Nothing that either of us was carrying was heavy……just a bit cumbersome and a tad hard to wrangle. We both also had backpacks on, and I had the slight added struggle of trying to not bang my bow around too much on the various trees and brush we were trudging through. We were slowly making our way back down to the creek bed when we ran into a sort of wall of evergreen trees. They weren’t tall, but they were a bit dense and while we could have been pushed through, we decided to go around. We headed left to skirt the heavier brush when we had to stop short because The Engineer saw cows. I’m not sure if he saw exactly what they were, or if he just heard them….but in any case we turned around. We headed back up the hill a bit and back South towards the road. We weren’t on any beaten cattle trails, but I sorta just picked a path and went. We ended up between two much taller evergreen trees that you could sorta duck underneath because the lowest branches were about shoulder height.
This seemed like a good way down the hill, until I got the bottom near the creek, stood up and turned to come up almost face to face with a bull who was not at all happy to see me near his creek!! Now I grew up with grandparents who raised cattle, so it’s not that I’m totally unfamiliar with their behavior, but we also weren’t allowed to be around and in the pastures and such when the bulls were out. We turned south and sorta jogged off behind a fallen tree and looked back to see him loping and bucking in our direction. He wasn’t really running…..he certainly would have been able to out run us, but he could have started at anytime. I got a swift push to the shoulder and two words from The Engineer…..”Go, run!” So we ran back up the hill….crashing through the thick trees and bushes…..hauling all our stuff! We then had to jump back across the barbed wire fence which essentially put us 20 yards south of where we had been set up hunting! It’s moments like that I’m glad I work out. It’s nice to be able to count on your body when you need it, although again my hill sprints have nothing on charging bull pace had he actually been interested in following us.
So there we stand…….a bit out of breath…..basically on the highway. I’m sure we were a sight trudging down the side of the road like hitchhikers. The distance to the truck was probably shorter this way, and definitely easier to travel, but it’s probably not great form to be looking like total delinquents on the side of a country road as the sun is setting and it’s getting dark. We had just sort of started to regroup and trudge when a badger comes scurrying across the road and stops at probably 15 yards from us and turns to face us. Having not packed in his hand gun, our only “badger defense” was my bow, so The Engineer took the decoys from me and had me nock an arrow. The badger didn’t end up causing us any trouble, but he would occasionally turn to look at us while we all walked in the same direction. Trudging the country road with an arrow nocked on your bow probably doesn’t look great either, but ya know……..ya gotta do what you gotta do!
By the time we turned down the field access road and were headed back North to where we had left the truck, it was clear that we had ended up taking the only acceptable path out of the field. I’m honestly not sure why we didn’t just walk the road back to begin with, but I’m sure The Engineer had his reasons…..I mostly just did what I was told. The whole herd……mommas, calves, and a few more bulls…….had moved South into the corner of the field we had hunted the night before. Even if we had managed to get across the creek without being chased out by the bull we would have climbed up out of the creek bed to face the whole herd. Getting out of that situation would have been much harder, and it probably would have called for more evasive maneuvers than just running back up a hill.
So I guess all is well that ends well, and even though I didn’t get a turkey to cook for Thanksgiving next week, I’m glad we took the weekend and tried to fill the tag. The Engineer was a bit sad I didn’t get to shoot any arrows all weekend except at the range and suggested I should have shot the badger. Technically, they are nuisance animals and therefore can be shot on my license. I don’t really have a use of a badger and would have only shot the animal if it had messed with us. Badgers are known to be a bit feisty and are not afraid of taking on something much bigger than themselves. The Engineer does have a coworker who really wants a taxidermy badger…..for whatever reason, but I’m fine having not shot anything.
It’s called hunting not shooting after all, and to expect to go shooting your very first weekend out hunting is a stroke of luck that mother nature doesn’t allow everyone to have. Probably, having my first hunting trip be an exercise in actually hunting and not shooting was helpful, after all…..if I wanted to just fling arrows all day I could have just headed to the archery range.