Last week, I shared the story of the eventual parting or ways with Hank the HuntVe. Although we have contemplated on keeping Hank since it is a turkey and hog hunting advantage. We are still contemplating on the decision…it is hard to let go of something that has brought you great pleasure and grand memories over the years.

Today, we picked up our new Mule, a Kawasaki Pro-FXT Farm Edition. I saw this Mule at the Louisiana Sportsman Expo last month and it truly spoke to me; even though we were not diligently looking. I just felt it was everything we needed and the bed on it….well, I envisioned stacks of deer feed, seed, a turkey carcass or two, and even sized it up for a trophy buck. The model we looked at was a three-seater and really that was all we need; so I thought.

We stopped by our local dealer, Ward’s Yamaha, and they had the same model, however, this one was a convertible six-seater. I hem-hawed thinking we really didn’t need a six-seater, it is normally just Mister and I the majority of the time; or one of us and another hunter. After looking at how easy the extra seats stowed away and unfolded–how quickly you can convert it and a little coaxing by Mister, I was sold! Now we have options if the need ever arises to have others ride with us.

We have worked diligently over the last few years with what I have affectionately coined our “side-hustle”, Life in Camo Media, LLC, all while both working a full-time job in the same engineering firm. We have focused our income from our side hustle toward our “hunting way of life.” We have been fortunate enough to be blessed with some great leases in several states, to travel the nation turkey and deer hunting, and to have met and shared memories with many people; including manufacturing reps, vendors, and those in media. I don’t say this to brag or boast; far from that. We are grateful for the fruits of our sacrifices, dedication, and more often than not, hard work. I say all this to encourage those that I know are in my shoes–on the brink of a deadline and burning the midnight oil, or having to turn down opportunities for current obligations, or when you look at your planner and you have scheduled more hours of work in a week  than you have so you will end up sacrificing an entire weekend holding down a chair in a coffee shop. Those that feel like giving up.

Stick to your goals, sacrifice some, and work hard and you will reap the bounty of a good harvest. Anyone who knows me well, or follows us on social media, or even those that have followed my writings know that I name just about everything I own, especially those things that bring me joy and are special to me. My friends, I introduce to you EARNIE the Mule….


Yep, EARNIE with an “A”. Why “Earnie” and not “Ernie”? I felt like we truly “earned” this one, the fruits of our labor; especially this past year with being our busiest year. I will remember this and be grateful for sacrifices in the late night and/or early morning hours. I can only pray that Earnie the Mule brings as many grand adventures and memories as Hank the HuntVe has over the years–and more.

As Cletus hauled Earnie the Mule home, I sat in the passenger seat reflecting. With Mister’s purchase of “Earl” the Kubota MZ5200 earlier this year and my upgrading from Hank the HuntVe to “Earnie the Mule”, it struck me and I belted out a “mock” rendition of a famous tune by Mel Tillis:

“I got a mule and he’s got a work horse,
together we’re gonna RIDE, RIDE, RIDE….”

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I am not sure how comical that little jingle is in black and white, but we both got a pretty good laugh over it. Anyways, I wanted to share this story because hard work truly does pay off in time. Never give up on your “goals”–I never say “dreams” because to me dreams are where goals go to die. I have never been a dreamer, only a goal setter. If I fail, then it only means I have a chance to do it again; only better.

img_2887As I type this, Mister is busy, single-handedly building a “CORAL” for the horse and mule. Another thing that I am grateful for, someone to share this passion with that understands and relentlessly lives this life, that understands the hard work. For lack of spare hours, I may not always have a spotless house, have dinner on the table, or even the wash folded, but we are in this together–and that not only makes us a team, it truly makes us happy.


Mister and I attended the QDMA Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana last week and, as usual, took in all the knowledge we could from the seminars, enjoyed seeing friends, and dined on some great Cajun cuisine. The QDMA Convention was intertwined with the Louisiana Sportsman Show being held at the Dome.

Friday we visited the expo before the floor got busy with attendees. We found a few products to field test and a few to take to the field with us this fall, the Chameleon Blind, Texas Wildlife Feeders, and the new Sitka Gear ladies line. It was nice to walk around the expo before it got too busy, however…it also was the perfect environment to have had “too” much time to stop and ponder on a big purchase.

As we walked our first isle and took a turn, there it was, in all its GLORY!! It was like a beacon was shining down on it. It was at that moment that it “spoke” to me. Yep, loud and clear…while every noise in that huge dome went silent, it was like French horns and harps played softly in the back ground as the glimmer on the “Metallic Titanium” danced like fairy dust in the air. I was speechless….only for a moment, of course.

1Right there on the corner, sat a 2017 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX Ranch Edition and I felt like I just had to have it. It was begging to be named, to come live in Alabama, and join the ranks of our adventures. I could have sworn it blinked its LED lights slightly, just enough for me to notice, like Herbie the Love Bug did in the movie. Did it…wait, what, did it just….? It was almost like it cast a spell on me–pleading to take Hank the HuntVe’s place in the shop.

Hank the HuntVe……OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASkreeeeechhhh…. HANK the HUNTVE! Aw man, bittersweet. The memories this cart has shared over the years. The hunts we have shared together with so many riding around on Hank the HuntVe. The wildlife we have snuck up on in Hank. The turkey that we closed the distance on without those wise birds ever knowing we were hunting those woods. Could it be it was time to part ways with Hank the HuntVe…upgrade to more of a workhorse?

101_0467Could it be it was time to part ways with Hank the HuntVe…upgrade to more of a workhorse? This new cart was a WORK HORSE…what a bed it had on it. The salesman told us we could put 1,100 pounds of feed sacks in the bed of it…ELEVEN HUNDRED POUNDS!! It has a sealed stash box! Two cup holders! Still pretty plain from others that sported stereos, speakers, and tons of other features we wouldn’t need for farming and hunting. I sat on the seat…the passenger seat of course…WOW! I could have sworn it already had my butt indentions memorized. I even heard it whisper its name to me…more on that later.

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But, as excited as I was about the possibility of getting a new work horse….there was Hank….Hank the HuntVe. So, as I sit here thinking about advertising and parting ways with Hank the HuntVe and as we discuss its history with a new possible buyer, a flood of emotions, memories, and many miles of woods across the nation run through my mind. And, although it is not a done deal and we haven’t signed on the dotted line, my thoughts swirl as I say under my breath, “IT HAS BEEN A FUN RIDE, HANK….”

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picAs I took my faded “lucky” turkey hunting ball cap out of the dryer for the umpteenth time over the last 10 years I noticed faded dates, some completely gone with just a small smudge of an ink stain of what once was. I have to ask myself, “Has it really been ten years?”

The inscriptions on the inside of a ball cap don’t really hold the memories of the hunts, but the dates help me replay each hunt in my mind…remembering every one as if it had occurred only yesterday. March of 2007, I embarked on my first ever turkey hunt harvesting my first turkey. I was immediately hooked. The whole process from roosting the bird the night before, getting up before the crack of dawn, sitting against a young pine as the earth cracked with its haunting chill and the sun took over the sky. I was immediately mesmerized with the whole shenanigans of the Tom’s rituals to be King of his domain, his small piece of woods. How the bird put on a show for the hens when the hens seemed to act as if the Tom didn’t even exist. The whole experience was sealed with the smell of spent shotgun powder and the damp smell of turkey feathers in the morning dew. Yes, I was hooked. An immediate addict!

As I look at the dates that are left visible in my old ball cap, I relive each of the hunts…not only the hunt, but the whole entire experience. The places we stayed, the people we met, and even the hardships we faced. I have been fortunate to harvest several birds every year that I have hunted, except for one season.  However, the season did not end without its special memories in itself.

I have harvested some really nice birds and even a multi-bearded bird but I have never been able to get the right trophy beard and spur combination on a single bird to warrant a full mount. My other turkey related goal is to complete my world slam which I am planning that quest for Spring 2018. I have several grand slams and I am working this season toward a single season slam, warranting this next trip to Florida; our third trip this season.

No where in the worldWith future goals in mind, none of that tarnishes what I have experienced and the memories that I have made over the last ten years as a turkey hunter. As I remember each hunt so vividly,  I am grateful for the graciousness of the “Turkey Gods” and all the mentors, landowners, and guides that I have crossed paths with. I truly feel honored to have shared some time with them in the woods and to have experienced the hunting and calling techniques of each one of them.

I pray that as long as I have the health and the means that I will be able to turkey hunt across the nation absorbing the breathtaking rituals and shenanigans of turkey behavior, the intoxicating smells of a spent shotgun shell,  and the opportunity to “dance with a fist full of feathers.”


17800093_10154288023671906_9047297491616258633_nApril 17, 2017: Our second trip to Florida left me empty handed, but not because I did not have the opportunity. I had a mature tom come into our set up on Sunday morning, I took the shot only to discover I had some faulty shotgun shells. When I unloaded my gun, I turned my shotgun sideways only to empty loose shot, broken up resin filler, and a few pieces of the top crimp. Not only was the spent round faulty, I had two in the magazine that were busted up pretty bad. I took a pretty good blow from the recoil of my shotgun and the results of the shot were oddly wrong.

I have since bought a new box of shells and it did not deter me getting back out in the woods after an Alabama Tom.

I had a goal, one that seemed to have clipped my legs out from under me and left me with the air knocked out of me right from the start. I have to admit, I was having a hard time with it….was there any way of saving it? A way to get back on my feet, feel the grit in my teeth? A way to persevere?

It’s not a pride thing–it is a passion…a sickness almost, but it is mine–I really enjoy turkey hunting. It’s my thing! I would give up all other game hunting if I could have six months out of the year hunting turkey. Honestly, I would spend the other six preparing for turkey hunting.

After much thought and a little research, I threw it out there; yep, another trip. Well, the results–trip number three to Florida is on the calendar for this coming weekend. A fast and furious trip praying for good odds if the Turkey Gods are willing.

img_2400Our hunting clothes are in the wash, the truck is still partially packed from our last trip and from this weekend hunting here at home in Alabama. FIVE STATES in THREE WEEKS, that is what is on the calendar and somewhere in between we will be working our 8-5 job in the concrete jungle for nine of those days with a one hour one way commute. The TO-DO/DUE-LIST has already been started for mid-week and I am looking forward to the adventure and actually all the hard work.

Yep! They say it is a passion, an obsession….I say, “It’s a SICKNESS, an insanity!” It gets under your skin like an alien bot, it wreaks your mind even when you sleep. Every far off sound mimics that of a gobble, even in the city on the busy sidewalks. It’s haunting….and warming, in the same moment….and you are elusive to being in your right mind! Yep, a sickness! An insanity!!


April 16, 2017: Last year, our goal was to be in Mexico this May working on completing my Royal and World turkey slam. A truck that broke down during our archery rut hunt in Missouri in November with a costly DEF system replacement and a roof that started leaking on our home when we returned from that trip had other plans for us. Our original plans left no need to seek a turkey lease in our home state other than a small parcel we hunt south of us. So that small parcel is all we had access to this season on our home turf.

The parcel is a small triangular shaped cow pasture with very little woods that sits adjacent to a HUGE pine plantation. Turkey do frequent that cow pasture so there was a chance of being in the right place at the right time…but chance is 50/50, so that was enough for us to get up every weekend we could and visit the cow pasture with hopes of being on the right side of that 50/50 equation.

img_1959This is our third year hunting this parcel and we have seen a few birds on it. However, just after last season, a portion of the adjacent pine plantation had been clear cut and the rest select cut, thinning out most of the adjacent property.  On our first hunt of this season, we watched nine toms and twenty hens in the cut-over. Every weekend we had the opportunity to hunt this property, we watched some sort of combination of those birds…our only problem, those birds were over the fence on property we did not have permission to hunt. Yep, it was a lot like that famous Eddie Murphy skit, “I’ve got ice cream and you can’t have none!”

We put a Spartan GoCam wireless camera out early in the season and were taunted by turkey on “our side of the fence” on several occasions. We came close on one hunt but a hen won the Tom’s attention. This weekend was officially our last weekend to hunt turkey in Alabama because of our upcoming out of state turkey hunting trips. On Saturday, we were able to roost a bird on “our side of the fence.” That kind of made it easy to wake up at 3:30 am Sunday morning. We needed to get in there early while it was extremely dark and get set up with plenty of time to let the woods settle before fly-down.

img_2380Just like someone flipped a switch the Tom’s started gobbling. We were set up right where we needed to be. We had the roosted Tom on our side of the fence, one across the fence in the tree line 300 yards front of us, and another off to the right on an adjoining horse farm, all gobbling at daybreak.  We never heard the roosted Tom fly down but finally he gobbled on the ground behind us.

The sun started to top the trees in front of us. The Tom was gobbling and getting closer. I had my shotgun up, my safety off, and I was turned to the right for my widest shot possibility. I waited as I heard the Tom spit twice as he went into full strut.

I could tell, even with my ESP hearing protection in my ears, that this Tom was close. I watched as a hen walked out in front of me. Then I saw movement to the right of me behind some brush just eight to ten yards away. I was tucked away in some brush and I was shaded somewhat from the sun so I knew I had the perfect advantage. I finally saw the top of the Tom’s head, red waddles, and part of a beard through the thick brush. The bird was at eight yards and all that was left was just TWO MORE STEPS by the bird to clear the brush, for me to move my gun six inches to the right, and make the shot. At least that is what my mind was saying.

The Tom never took the two steps in the direction I needed. The Tom stopped, stood a split second behind the brush looking straight in Mister’s direction, then it turned slowly and crept back the way it walked in…but not before letting out three warning putts!

When I knew the bird was out of view I turned to Mister to shrug my shoulders and immediately I saw what the tom balked at. The sun had rose to the height above the trees and was beaming brightly on Mister. A portion of his face, the frames and the lenses of his glasses were shining in the bright direct sunlight. That is why the bird didn’t spook badly, it just knew something didn’t look right. When I told Mister, he said, “I was afraid of that but there was no way to avoid it at that moment.” In the particular area we set up in it did not leave us much selection for a different arrangement. So, we ended the season without an Alabama turkey harvest but we came as close as one could without one. It was a good hunt and a great memory to end the season with.

welcome-to-floridaThe next two weeks are going to be jam-packed starting with a hunt in Florida where we will leave Friday night for the eight hour drive down to Lakeland, Florida in time to hit the woods before daylight to hunt an Osceola on Saturday morning with guide, Chris Graham. This will be our third weekend that we have been to Florida for an Osceola so I plan to hunt hard to make it happen. Then the following week we have a four day work week, a 20-hour drive for a DIY hunt in Kansas followed by a DIY hunt in Nebraska, then on to Missouri to hunt with Double Deuce Ranch. A lot of preparation, road weary days, headlight-lit highway nights, in-cab dining, tailgate meals, and a ton of great memories are in store.

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog to follow along where I will be sharing our hunting adventures, what we are using in the field, how we plan our DIY hunts, places we visit, and everything in between…the good, the comical, the bad, and the hardships.



March 24-26, 2017: As this Florida Osceola turkey hunt slowly approached on my calendar, the excitement was building up knowing this would be the official kick-off to my quest to complete a turkey grand slam in one season. I was meeting several friends in Dunnellon, Florida and we would spend the next three days hunting Osceola Turkey in 80 degree weather in the sandy, buggy woods of Central Florida with guide, Dave Mehlenbacher. This would be my third time hunting turkey with Dave and up to this trip, our past groups had been 100% with him–we were hoping for a continued record. It would be hard to top our triple in 2011 where within the first hour of our first morning’s hunt, but we were willing to fathom the thought.

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The majestic plantation oaks looked twice as eerie during our morning hikes in. Notice Mister walking on the path to get an idea of the size of these trees.

Our first morning we were out the door at 5:15 a.m. with strict instructions to be ready when we bail out of the truck because we would be parking within earshot of the resident turkey in the area. The walk in was on a dark two rut road because of the tall, eerie majestic plantation oaks that had limbs and branches that spanned over the entire trail. Several of us had to get in close and even hold on to the other to sneak through this section of woods to get to the backside of the property. Mister and two hunters, Raquel and Rebecca, stopped at a front field tucked away in the scrub oaks and heavy ground brush. Dave, myself and two others traveled on to the back portion of the property.

Once we reached our destination, I quickly set up with my back resting against an oak tree. Dave and the other hunter, Keith, were to my left and the decoys were also to my left in a sandy area about 18-20 yards. It was still really dark out and definitely too early for any gobbling. As I rested against the oak, my shins burning from the brisk walk in on sandy soil, I couldn’t help but feel the building excitement deep in my soul as to what the day would hold. We had two hunters, Keith and Rebecca, that were needing an Osceola to complete their turkey grand slam. One other hunter, Raquel, was working on shooting her first Osceola. I was working on my 5th Osceola and the first bird in my quest for a grand slam in one season. I have completed several turkey grand slams but never one in the same season….it was on my bucket list!

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My view during a long afternoon sit.

As the sky began to lighten up, the first gobble rang out. Then a second gobble a few minutes later. All of a sudden there was a strong gobble in the tree line in front of us followed by what sounded like a jake gobble, and it was like someone struck a nerve…chain gobbles came out of those trees for the next few minutes. At one point I wondered if they had time to catch their breath. It was music to my ears, making my hair stand up on the nap of my neck and my stomach felt as if fireflies were playing Quidditch in my gut and lungs.

I had already told Keith that if we had the opportunity at birds, he needed to take the first shot to finish his grand slam and if the opportunity was there for a double, I would follow-up. It was exciting to think that maybe a few of those toms gobbling on the roost would give us that opportunity. The birds eventually pitched down but in the other direction. We heard a single gobble a good distance off to the left of us. We waited as Dave made a few calls at varying times.

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My Pack Mule….er, I mean Sherpa!

We were well into the first hour and a half of our first hunt when I heard a hen putt somewhere behind and to the left of me. I strained to hear movement…nothing. Within a few minutes I saw something very dark and round to the extreme left of me. A TOM!! And he was coming in HOT! The bird stopped for a moment, pecked at the ground, reassessed the decoy scene, went into strut, and marched right into our set up blown up like an overstuffed pinata. I knew at this point that the bird was directly in front of Keith, but he had yet to shoot. The bird walked over to the decoy, bumped into it and the next thing I knew he was on top of the decoy knocking it to the ground, and pecking at the decoy’s head.

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Congratulations, Keith, on your Turkey Grand Slam!

I was thinking to myself, “shoot, shoot, shoot!” Then I thought, “Maybe Keith sees another bird coming into the set-up down the trail that I can’t see.” I heard my heart start pumping as I readied my shotgun. The live tom was doing all he could do to beat the decoy up and he paused for a moment when the shot rang out pelting his noggin with turkey shot and laying him out in the sand. Keith rushed out to retrieve the bird as Dave rushed out to upright the downed decoy. Well, the decoy needed a little work and wasn’t going to just easily get poked back into the sand. I dug my Buck Knife Bantam out of my turkey vest and handed it to Dave to work on the repairs. Dave was able to temporarily fix “Old Scar Face” and he ran out and stuck him up in the sand.

We sat on this spot another 45 mins to an hour but nothing else came into it. That was and exciting hunt and I was ecstatic for Keith in completing his Turkey Grand Slam. The other hunters had not seen a bird all morning.

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A good thing about hunting Florida…FRESH Seafood!

After a quick trip into town for lunch at The Blue Gator, we returned to the woods in search of toms. We all used strategy to get us to where we heard birds gobbling in the morning thinking we may have a chance at them coming back to the roost. No such luck! With all the chain gobbling that took place that morning, we estimated at least six other tom’s in that area, but we didn’t hear a single gobble.

On Saturday and Sunday we didn’t hear a single gobble and we hunted all day both days with a short lunch break. Keith had a failed archery opportunity at another tom that came running into the Deception Outdoors Decoy setup. With turkey hunting, it isn’t over until the sun starts to set so we held out until the last minute and made our retreat back to the trucks.

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And…Mister use to get onto me for being on my iPhone!!

I won’t lie, I was kind of bummed. Something that I set out to do was knocked down on the first turkey hunting trip. Was I giving in too easily? Was there still a chance? Would I have the time to come back this season and hunt again? All of this was running through my head on my walk back to the truck and on our drive home. After discussing it with Mister and bringing up the idea to Rebecca, much pondering and schedule changing, and the heart of gold of an awesome guide, WE ARE HEADED BACK TO FLORIDA! WoooHooo! The weekend of April 8 & 9th we will be back in those woods working hard toward achieving Rebecca’s first grand slam and for me, pulling off a grand slam off in one season. Wish us luck!!


I NEED SOME HELP…many that follow my blog or follow Life in Camo on Facebook know that I name the birds I usually chase locally in Alabama every season. El Jefe is the only one that I have not ended the chapter on so far and I am going into my third season chasing him. Circumstances have kept him safe…a metal one with barbs and some hardwoods with double painted stripes to be more specific–but I know one day he won’t be able to stand it and he will venture out of his safety zone. Our game cameras have proven that he has!

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This year El Jefe is running with two other mature birds which I call the group the Three Amigos: El Jefe (the Boss), El Diablo (the Devil), and Papi Chulo (the MacDaddy). Over the past two weeks a lone tom that we have seen briefly in the past has shown up on game camera. I busted this bird pre-season the first year we scouted this property. Last season, he skirted us, unbeknownst to us he was roosted quietly in a tree within close proximity, flying down late, and using the terrace to sneak around us. He is a tight-lipped, sub-dominant tom so we can’t just come in and locate him and hunt him. I like a challenge and this bird is going to give me that.

img_1962I NEED HELP NAMING THIS BIRD!! I need to name this bird for my blog this season. I am offering a small prize for the winner of the name chosen. This prize package includes a really unique turkey call.

If you have a name, post it as a comment to this blog entry or in a response to my Facebook post. If I choose the name you posted, I will send you a prize package worth up to $100. I will give away this prize package on Sunday, March 26, 2017.

Follow along to see how this season unfolds. Good luck to all the turkey hunters this spring. “Hunt hard, harvest ethically and may your vest be full of feathers….Nancy Jo.”

 


If my memory serves me right, this will be my thirteenth year attending the NWTF Annual Convention and Expo in Nashville, Tennessee. I was attending this event several years before I ever became a hunter or even had a clue that I would ever give in and say “yes” to going hunting that first time. I attended several expos tirelessly following Mister around like a puppy at his feet, down every single isle, stopping at nearly every single booth, perusing stuff that I had absolutely no inkling of what it was, let alone what it was used for. As hard as I tried, I did my best to be engaged in conversations, the words being said could have very well been a discussion on how to build a race car engine because I didn’t have a clue or remote idea of what a turkey hunt even entailed.

I did enjoy people watching, perusing the few booths with non-hunting items, listening to the sounds coming out of some booths that people could make with a wooden stick and something that looked similar to a hockey puck trimmed in wood. I have to admit, I never got bored but I was definitely a “duck out of water.”

Fast forward 13 years, here I am, giddy as a child headed to the state fair on our drive to Nashville, Tennessee. It’s often ironic how life plays out. I remember my first turkey hunt like it was yesterday. I remember the cool, damp morning and how I felt the coolness rise from the ground at that exact moment that the sun cracked the horizon. I remember the way the fine hairs stood at end on the nap of my neck the very first time I heard that Tom rattle off a gobble from the hardwoods. And, I distinctively remember instantly having to pee, feeling a wee-bit lightheaded as my heart beat increasingly got louder in my ears the minute that Tom strutted out of the woods into the hay field. WHAT A SIGHT!! How could something that lives in the woods, robed in feathers and topped with a rather ugly mug be so irradescently beautiful with the most brilliant red, the warmest blue and the brightest white I have ever laid eyes on.

I could go on and on about those first few hunts…some would bore you, some might disappoint you, and some would even make you laugh, but there is no doubt, I was HOOKED! I found my obsession fueled with passion! An obsession packed with determination, perseverance and a deep embedded firery passion that makes even a fruitless hunt a savored memory.

I have been real fortunate in my short 10 years of hunting turkey to have hunted a variety of states for a variety of species. EVERY single hunt has its own story! Every hunt has taught me something and found a special place in my memory reserved for everything TURKEY.

This spring should be PHENOMENAL! We will be hunting in Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and possibly Tennessee. I started this blog on my quest for a grand slam in 2009, and although I have tucked a few grand slams away in my hunting journal, I have never pulled a grand slam off in a single season. That is my goal this spring. No doubt it will take numerous hours of traveling, many really early mornings, a lot of scouting and walking–some on new land we have never set foot on–not to mention a thump of patience and a pocket full of luck. As a bonus, I get to share this experience with Mister….every mile, every step….as a team, him behind the call and me behind the shotgun, every success and every failure, we share alike. I will also get to make and share memories with hunting friends along the way, some of which I hope will share their experience as guest posts here.

The NWTF Annual Convention and Expo was the gateway to my addiction and it starts off the countdown every year for something that stays on my mind year-round, OPENING DAY! Wishing a “pocket full of luck” to all those who share in our hunting adventures through our blog, Shenanigans From the Field and don’t forget to subscribe by entering your email in the box in the upper left hand column to follow along this spring.

Hunt hard, harvest ethically and may your turkey vest be full of feathers. ~Nancy Jo


Our trip started off with a low tire when we left home this morning. Cletus had evidentially picked up a bolt on a job site the previous day and we were not going to be able to make the one-hour commute into work without adding some air until we could get Cletus by Don Duncan’s All-American Tire. Nathan Woodring quickly assessed the situation, located and removed the bolt, patched the Cooper S/T Maxx-Armor-Tek3 tire, put it back on Cletus in record time. It was a relief that Mister found the bolt and the computer on Cletus told us we had an issue before we started out on this trip.

I can’t say that the workday crept…it was 3:30 p.m. when I finally was able to take a minute to evaluate the amount of work I had left to do versus the amount of time I had left in the “concrete jungle.” The last 1.5 hours flew by! As Cletus’ diesel motor turned over and started purring, we found ourselves strategically placing the last few items we had left to load in the cab of the truck. Snacks directly behind the console, bag of ice in the cooler behind my seat, a roll of paper towels behind the driver seat headrest, my computer bad at my feet…it all becomes second nature when you have shared over 450,000 miles on the road hunting together over the last 10 years.

The fancy box in the dash where the crazy lady lives!

I plugged in our destination into the square box mounted in the dash, Big T Motel in Tarkio, Missouri, and the “crazy lady that lives in that box” politely told us that we would reach our destination 14 hours from the current time. We were on our way!

One of our favorite authors, James Patterson.

 

 

 
I have spent many hours in the passenger seat typing, editing, uploading photos and even paying bills, shopping on Amazon. Some time in this 14 hour stretch, I have some typing for a women’s boot article that needed to be completed. But first, i was responsible for the entertainment of the evening. I put an audiobook on, James Patterson’s 11th Hour, and cranked up the sound and we were settled in for the long haul.

 

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One of our favorite snacks on the road; Club Crackers, squeeze cheese, & Wisconsin Beef snack sticks. 

After a stop for fuel at the Love’s truck stop, it was time for a snack. We have eaten many meals in the cab or on the tailgate of our truck–I have to admit, we have shared some of our favorite meals together there. Tonight, captain wafers, cheddar can cheese and jerky snack sticks. Okay, maybe not the healthiest of all snacks but surely much better than some of the alternatives while on the road.

Catching up with friends on social media is probing that this unseasonably warm weather is putting a damper on deer movement. We can only pray that we made the right decisions on the dates we picked and have chosen some good ground to hunt. This is what makes Do-it-Yourself hunts exciting; you never know what will unfold on the trip. As we made our way through Nashville, I can feel my shift at the wheel coming up in a few hours so I better catch me a nap. If you are hunting this weekend/week, good luck to you, safe travels and remember to ALWAYS wear a safety harness.


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Researching on Google Earth, land maps and other mapping apps.

We were really disappointed that we didn’t make the Kansas draw in our favorite unit for this fall. It didn’t take but half a day of sulking about it for us to come up with PLAN B. We got the calendar down off the wall, pulled up Google Earth on the computer, and the Missouri Department of Conservation website and started brainstorming. There was a long weekend coming up and if we were going to hunt unknown area and if we were planning for success, it had to be scouted.

Narrowing down our search to the northwest counties of Missouri, Mister researched, gathered information about each area from social media, maps and from MDC personnel–the research was done and now it was time to gather our maps and data and hit the road over Labor Day weekend and do some scouting.

 

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Confined to the cab of the truck…but I am on the mend.

Unfortunately, I was not much help to Mister with the scouting. I was on the mend from a torn ligature from the bottom my hamstring that attached just below the front of my knee on my right leg. I had a brace; which quickly was no help after extended walking because my muscle fatigued and I felt I was having to do struggle harder just to climb the sloping hills of the first 5,000-acre property that we looked at. After a few stops and a couple leg brace adjustments, I told Mister that I felt I was doing my leg more harm than good since it was just recently starting to feel much better–either from rest and icing or from the flood of anti-inflammatory medicine I was taking. The fact that I was less than a week from leaving for the 5th Annual Double Deuce Ranch Ladies Archery Hunt also played a major factor in my decision to sit out on the rest of the scouting. Being confined to Cletus was the perfect opportunity for me to do a little research on local hotels/motels, laundromats, grocery stores, and gas stations; and make a few calls.

 

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Checking Google Maps, paper maps and after scouting the first hunting area. 

We started this trip with five areas of interest and we narrowed it down to three. Ultimately, we were really impressed with two of the three areas. I was extremely excited about one that we stopped at…I actually saw the largest deer tracks I have ever personally witnessed. I have seen hog tracks this large but the track was actually almost as large as my entire hand and just as wide. Not just one set of tracks, this buck had laid down a trail in that particular area. The area was nestled between a soybean field and a corn field. Granted, the movement of these deer will change anywhere from slightly to drastically after the crops were harvested and the rut kicked in–but I knew what area I wanted to be in.

 

 

 

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Some of our most memorable meals have been in the cab of the truck or on the tailgate.

We stopped at the town closest to the areas we had chosen to hunt and stayed at the only motel in town, the Big T Motel. The motel being older and limited to less than a dozen rooms, I made sure to book our room in advance for our hunting trip. I did the research, found a not so local processor for several reasons. First, with limited time, it only makes sense to have someone else do the labor so that we could be back out in the field hunting and doing some photography and filming. Secondly, because earlier this year Alabama enacted a ban on the import of deer carcasses from states where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed. If we were planning on mounting a buck if we were successful, the deer needed to be completely capped out and the skull plate with antlers only. Unless European mounting and then it needed to be completely cleaned. That was going to take the expertise of someone else leaving us more time to scout, hunt, and film. Everything we needed was right there within easy access: lodging, fuel, grocery store, and a few restaurants.

The scouting was done, the motel booked and we were on our drive home with a plan in place. Next, the washing, drying, and packing begins…

 

 

 


Guest post by Rebecca Gicewicz

IMG_7584My Nebraska hunt with The Roost was a fantastic adventure with great friends. The hunting was physical, involving covering lots of ground and enjoying the unique scenery. The style of hunting was new to me as I am a fledgling turkey hunter. I did my best to keep up with our 6 foot 6-inch guide and his long, swift legs. My companions were good at coaching me a bit to keep me on track and improve my odds of harvesting.

On our second day of hunting our other two hunting companions were tagged out and it was up to Nancy Jo and I to close the deal. It was my turn to step into the batters box and we saw at least two toms in a field along the Middle Loup River. When we got into position the guide frantically whispered that TWO LONG BEARDS were coming in hot. Nancy Jo looked at me asked, “Do you want to try for a double.” I didn’t need time to contemplate that question, the answer was, “Let’s do this!”

MirriamsIn an instant, the gobblers were in view and Nancy Jo asked me if I was ready? I said, “YES!” Nancy Jo fired and I shot a second later. Her aim was true and mine not so much. I had a follow-up shot opportunity, but it was strike number two. There would not be a strike three as my gun jammed. Too much crawling through the dirt, I suspect.

So my hunting buddy harvested herself a beautiful Merriam’s turkey! I was happy for her but felt like I had let the guide, the cameraman, and my hunting partner down. I wanted that double! So with mixed emotions of celebration for my friend and frustration at myself I took a few minutes to regain my perspective and composure. Once all those emotions were sorted out I was ready to be up to bat again!

We went to a new spot and called in a few jakes who were ready to brawl. It was awesome to see their displays! Our next spot was a cut corn field that had four toms and two jakes. The stalk was on! Nancy Jo stayed at the truck while, guide Dustin aka Dirt, cameraman Richard aka Mister and hunter Rebecca aka Slugger went creepin’. We set up and the turkeys weren’t visible. Dirt called and finally a few gobbles cut loose and he whispered,  “Here they come.” My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking but I was ready for the fast pitch. The red heads crested over the berm and they were running into the decoy.

Two were Rios and one was a Merriam’s and Dirt desperately whispered, “The middle one, the middle one!” At about 20-yards, there was enough separation between the trio for a clear shot and I hit it out of the park. Woohoo!

Rebecca-Merriams

The other two turkey never skipped a beat they were looking to beat up on the tom that dared to encroach on their territory. They finally eased off and I was able to check out my bird. I was thrilled to be able to take in the beauty of that Merriam’s Tom. The intricacies of the feathers, the iridescence of its coloring. Being able to convert my swing and a miss into a single felt good!


As all of us converged upon the lodge of Misty Morning Outfitters in Alden, Kansas, we were chomping at the bit to get in the fields hunting some birds. When we were sitting around the fire pit the first evening, we found out we would be hunting by a method none of us had ever experienced….FANNING aka REAPING, a term the Turkey Reapers had coined for this style of hunting through their hunting tactics. I was excited about the challenge, however I was also somewhat nervous. My Beretta Xtreme was set up to be effective for extended range shots, not rushed close range shots.

Our first morning started off a traditional turkey hunt with locating a bird that our guide had roosted the evening prior. Mister stepped out of the truck and let out a owl hoot and the silent, moisture thick air was cut with a hard gobble in return. We all scrambled! Troy, our guide, was gathering up decoys from the back of his truck and was headed about 80 yards into the field just off the road to set up decoys. Mister grabbed his backpack, video camera, tripod and chair as Rebecca and I loaded our shotguns, slung on our turkey vests and followed in right behind Mister. We quickly found us some trees to nest up against.

Troy and the gobbler rallied back in forth for the next hour, but the tom never did commit to coming into the field in front of us. The tom stayed on the property behind us at about 80-100 yards…property we did not have permission to hunt. We finally called the hunt in this spot, pulled up the decoys, gathered our gear and headed back to the truck. As we drove by the field that was behind us, we had the opportunity to see this tom and his hens. This would not be the last time one of the Ladies in Camo hunters would tangle with this bird; read Rebecca Gicewicz’s guest post to see how she saw this bird up close and personal.

After riding around for several hours we did spot some toms in a field and tried our skill at “Reaping” but because there were four of us, one fan and a lot of cow pasture to cover, we were not successful. I did get a taste of what to expect for the rest of the hunt: staying low, single file, crawling, kneeling, peeking and waiting.

Unlike any turkey hunting I have ever experienced, Reaping is an intense and aggressive hunt. A lead person holds a full strut tom decoy that has been altered with a handle and stake so that the person can easily hold the decoy in front of them as they crouch their head below the full tail fan and peek through the fan. The crawling, crouching, long shuffles to cover the distance to where the toms will see your lifelike decoy and take an interest is exhausting at times. Add to that, we were hunting in hilly terrain that I was not accustom to. The excitement and rush make all the effort worth every minute of the challenge–I was hooked.

After lunch, our group was split up and I was hunting with Matt as my guide and Mister behind the camera. We rode around for several hours glassing birds but most were in areas we did not have access too. We finally found a tom in an alfalfa field and we strategically closed the ground on him to get within 80 yards of him. I was on the edge of the field on a downward slope and Matt was behind the decoy working the tom closer to us. The tom had a hen with him and came within 70 yards of us but lost interest and walked back to the hen. We backed out once the bird was out of sight and decided we would come back later in the afternoon and see if this tom circled back through there. He didn’t, so we decided this would be the perfect spot for a morning hunt.

We returned to that field the next morning but never heard or saw a bird. After sitting in that spot until 8:30 a.m. we called the hunt and rode around a while seeking other birds. Several hours passed and we were on our drive back to the lodge when we saw a tom and several jakes in a small cutover ag field. Matt wheeled into the long driveway and spoke with the farmer who granted us permission to hunt the birds on his property that was on both sides of the road. We drove half the distance of the driveway and attempted a stalk on these birds by taking advantage of three short silos. Once we got to the silos, Matt crawled out on his knees just after telling me to stay tight to the silo, be ready and when he said shoot step out and be prepared to acquire my target and shoot. As he crawled out, the adrenaline I was feeling sneaking up the drive had my heartbeat blaring loudly in my ears. I heard Matt say, “They are coming. They are coming. Be ready!” I clicked my safety off. I didn’t know if two or all were coming, nor did I know if the Tom was in tow…phew, it was an intense moment as I played my role over in my head…step out, acquire target quickly and shoot!

As luck would have it, only two jakes came into the trickery of the bobbing and spinning decoy and didn’t even come straight to the decoy. They cut to the left and decided to come from behind the silos into the tom. Matt whispered to me that they were circling around so I quickly turned and repositioned myself for the shot in that direction. I caught a glimpse of one bird and it was a jake. The second bird came in and bumped the first so I had a pretty good idea that this was also a jake. We were able to back out from those birds and get back to the truck without spooking them.

The hens, jakes and one tom headed across the road and we were strategizing how to get into that pasture in front of them. We drove up the road to a higher advantage point where we were able to glass the birds and find out where they were going. Mister stayed at the truck as Matt and I went over the fence, into the pasture after this tom. Matt was carrying the reaping decoy and we were able to quickly get to the vicinity of the birds and we were lucky to have several cedars and some trees to use to our advantage. As I looked back toward the vehicle, I watched as Mister was scanning the pasture above us. I saw him look in my direction through the binoculars and when he saw that I was looking back at him, he made a sign for us to go back down low and around a little pond, he was seeing birds there, no doubt.

We had two jakes come into Matt’s calling and they didn’t commit when they saw the decoy…I had no plans on shooting a jake so we let them walk back into the woods without further pursuing. We heard a good mature tom gobble up above the pond so we quickly got up and took off in that direction. We were in a bottom and Matt made some yelps and on the terrace above another good mature gobble shook the air. We quickly climbed the hill, Matt with the decoy and fan in front of him and me glued directly behind him as if we were one unit, we were able to get to the top of the terrace when Matt saw the tom.

IMG_5932Being a turkey hunter, I have to be honest and tell you staying directly behind the decoy person, not being able to look around and size up the tom for myself was the hardest thing to do. I tried a few times and Matt caught me, growling under his breath, “BE STILL!” I did get a peek at the bird as it turned to walk in another direction and I saw beard…long beard. I could not tell if it were five inches or 10 inches but at this point I committed myself to take a shot at this bird.

Matt asked, “You ready?” I kneeled on my knees with my butt on my heels, clicked my safety off, shouldered my gun with the barrel pointed at the ground and said, “Yes!” I could only imagine this is what a bull rider feels like when the gate man asks that question…I had NO CLUE what was about to unfold, but I knew that this performance was up to me. Matt ducked and rolled to the left as I shot up onto my knees, quickly acquired where that tom was and I placed the bead midway down his neck and squeezed off my gun, expecting to follow up with a second shot. The first flipped the bird and he didn’t flop. I said, “GOT HIM!” as I stood up. Matt finally unfolded from his half fetal position on the ground and got up and said, “Oh yeah! Awesome!”

What a rush! I can’t tell you what part of that moment made it more exciting, not seeing the bird until the fan was moved, having to quickly acquire my target and shoot or the fact that we were slipping around in the wide open in stealth mode behind this decoy completely fooling the keen eyesight of this tom. My second Rio Grande was in the bag! I danced in the Land of Oz and I was now one bird away from my second Grand Slam.


Guest Post by Rebecca Gicewicz

IMG_6670I am here in Alden, Kansas enjoying hunting camp with old and new friends. Part of my mission for this trip was to do my best to harvest a Rio Grande. Our first morning in the woods was spent with Nancy Jo, Mister and our guide, Troy; which is truly a treat as I am usually in the woods alone. I don’t mind the solitude but sharing the experience with friends was really a special element I was looking forward to. That morning came and went with just a few gobbles from turkey in the distance, but no shot opportunities. No problem, it is hunting after all.
Our plan for the afternoon was to use a different strategy by splitting the group up. I was kind of bummed but I just rolled with it. This turkey hunting gig is all new to me so I thought, :Let’s do this.” The afternoon involved driving on country roads past known areas and unknown land. Lo and behold, there was a nice Tom strutting near a creek but we didn’t have permission to hunt that particular land. Troy had a plan; a few clicks on a smart phone app gave the property owners information. So off we went on a mission. A few knocks on the door revealed that no one was home, but the show must go on. Undaunted, we went on with our turkey quest.

IMG_8638We drove and drove, but as fate would have it nothing came together. The final act of this show was to go back to the morning spot where all four of us had started of and try to catch the birds as they circled around to roost. The decoys were set up and I sat back against my tree from the morning hunt. I was missing my other two companions and kept wondering how their hunt was panning out. As an hour or two ticked by, Troy called and there was intermittent distant gobbling but it didn’t sound as if it was closing the distance. The sun was beginning to set and I started to think of what our morning plan might be.

IMG_3816That is when I saw something red and black about 100 yards to my left; it was a Tom! The tom was running up the edge of the field towards my position. I frantically whispered to my guide “to my left, one is closing in.” My guide was not able to see and just kept saying hold still, don’t move, and let him come. That is what I did. The tom slowed up at about 50-yards and of course he was standing in my one and only blind spot. I thought, “Oh no, he is suspicious, has turned and gone into the woods.”

That was not the case at all! The tom continued to move into range and I could now see him but didn’t have a clear shot. Troy gave me the “Shoot when your are ready” command but I had to wait for a clear and ethical shot. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the tom moved into a shooting lane. I clicked my safety off, lined him up in my Ghost Sight and squeezed the trigger. Down went the bird and Troy shouted, “Good Shot!”

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There were two other mature toms behind my downed bird. They kept closing the distance but I only had one tag; no double for me. Finally, they moved off into the woods and we got up to check out my harvest. I was anxious to see him up close. We looked at his spur on one side and it was a rounded nub; I have to admit I was disappointed. So, I focused on his fan, which was beautiful. I finally got brave enough to look at the other spur and when we did I was ecstatic. There was my unicorn; a stout, sharpened, 1-5/8” spur. I thought, “It’s ok that the tom only has one spur. He only needed that one.” I was super stoked! That is how I found my unicorn in the Land of Oz.


FullSizeRenderFor me, this hasn’t been a very successful turkey season. With spending the least amount of time ever spent spring turkey hunting in the woods, my lack of success was to be expected. As I scroll through social media and see all the successful harvests at each of the outfitters that we are traveling more than 15 hours to hunt with, I have high hopes that my luck will change at the two Ladies in Camo turkey hunts we are about to spend the next seven days hunting. Six ladies from four different states are converging upon Misty Morning Outfitters in Kansas to hunt Rio Grand turkey, and four are traveling on to The Roost in Nebraska to hunt Merriam’s turkey.

 

Rebecca

Rebecca’s 1st turkey harvest! Photo Credit: Rebecca Gicewicz

 

Rebecca, from Florida, is traveling with us…asleep in the back seat of Cletus as I type this entry. Kim and Marla are traveling together from Illinois. Sherry and Connie are traveling together from Michigan. None of us “NEW” to turkey hunting, however, this is Connie’s first guided outfitter hunt; this will be Rebecca’s 2nd and 3rd bird and species as she recently harvested her first turkey, an Eastern in Alabama; and Kim and Marla were just in the woods turkey hunting this past weekend.

 

I have been fortunate enough to have hunted some place at a point in time with each of these women, except Connie. I am looking forward to gaining a new hunting friend. It has been nearly eight years since I have hunted with Sherry, who attended my very first hunt I organized. It has been nearly four years since I have hunted with Marla and just last September that I hunted with Rebecca and Kim. I feel blessed to be able to call these ladies friends.

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Kim’s opening day harvest! Photo Credit: Kim Hessing

My plan is to share as much of this hunt with all of my blog followers and subscribers, as well as my social media friends and followers. I will post some contributed blog entries and photos from the ladies attending this hunt if they wish to contribute. Look for stories of our travels, our good times at the lodge, photos and tales from the hunt, and of course, all the shenanigans. Check out the Ladies in Camo and Life in Camo Facebook page, search the hashtags #LICMMO16 and #LICTheRoost16 in social media to keep up with posts from the Ladies in Camo Kansas and Nebraska turkey hunts.

 

2015 Wilcox CountyAs we are rolling through north central Oklahoma, crossing over into Kansas, with just two more hours of travel, my mind is already on the turkey hunt…wishing these ladies the best of luck in the coming days.

I hope we ALL have the opportunity to “dance with a fist full of feathers!”


A question was addressed on a Facebook page for a writer’s website that I follow. The question was “As a writer, what is the best advice you ever received?”

My answer…
“Actually, this is not advice that was given to me, it is what I sat down and asked myself before I ever wrote and published my first product review; elements I use for every evaluation and field test.
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The Syren by Fabarm, a division of Caesar Guerini

I asked myself, as a consumer and a hunter who depends on my gear with some critical in saving my life in the field what is important to me, to others, to the industry as a whole. As a product review writer for the outdoor industry, I think the best advice for me was that I need to approach every product WITHOUT personal preference and to be unbiased to the product and brand.

What works for me, may not work for the next person. In all situations and for all hunters, is this product practical in the field, is it quality and is the price comparable to the products demand, use, and quality?”

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Houndstooth Game Calls

As hunters and consumers, we are all looking for quality products within our own personal budget, that appeal to each of us and are practical for the products intended purpose in the field. I use every product that I write about and I bring readers the technical information about that product, not necessarily my personal opinion, but my unbiased opinion of that product and how it performed in the field.

I often get asked, “How do you handle products you do not like?” This is simple, I return the item to the manufacturer or vendor with a brief explanation as to why I could not publish a positive review on the product or why it failed in the field during my use. I will not put a bad review in publication; if it is a product I cannot spread good news about, I return it with an explanation that allows the manufacturer to respond or to use my opinions as valuable product design information, which is appreciated by the many manufacturers and/or vendors and it allows me to stay in good standing with that company for future assignments.

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Heat Packs by ThermaCell

My ultimate goal is to get as much positive exposure on the Internet and through social media of a product for a company from my field testing and personal use of their product in the field.

The bottom line, I treat all of those that I deal with in a professional and/or business capacity in a manner that I would like to be treated if the tables were turned.

Much gratitude is felt for all the companies that I have worked with in the past and those I am working with this year in getting product exposure for your product; I appreciate your trust in my ability and your confidence in my promise to provide a service. 
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