This was a good year for hunting NW Kansas for Life in Camo. We were excited to make the draw in this limited non-resident draw unit and even more excited when Richard drew a mule deer tag. Only fifty nonresident mule deer tags were awarded in this unit so he felt that he had won the lottery. We took a trip to the property over the Labor Day weekend to scout ideal stand locations and put up some SpyPoint Wireless Cameras, so we had a pretty good idea of what deer were on the property before we ever left on this trip.

Our first trip was November 3rd through the 12th, which is the time Richard had predicted the rut from research. This year we decided to change-up a few things. We took three Guide Gear 13′ tripods to use instead of taking ladder stands, lock-ons, and climbers. Anyone who has hunted NW Kansas will totally understand our decision for this; finding a straight tree is nearly impossible and when you do find one, having that tree in a spot you need to be hunting is slim to none.

Of course, rut will always bring a myriad of bucks that you haven’t captured on game camera; this is what we found on the first trip. We spent

On Sunday morning, our first hunt, Richard harvested a beautiful 9-point within the first hour of daylight. We actually did have this buck on camera the very next day after we put the cameras up during our September trip. This 9-point weighed 238 pounds on the scale and the taxidermist aged the deer at 6.5 years old by its jawbone. Richard had hoped to hold out for a mule deer but felt he could not pass up on this caliber of whitetail. I surely could not blame him.

Richard’s buck harvested the first morning of our hunt. It weighed 238 pounds and was estimated by his jaw bone to be 6.5 years old.

With Richard filling his tag and being done with his hunting, he had plenty of time to scout and to visit in town with locals. Mojo’s Espresso & Bistro is one of my favorite places for lunch and they make the best Caramel Macchiato I have ever consumed. Richard kept posting photos on his Facebook of his breakfast paninis and steak and cheese sandwiches and of course, I was seeing those as I sat in the stand 10+ hours each day eating tree stand snacks–it was pure torture.

There was more deer traffic at the stand where Richard had killed his buck so I hunted out of that stand. Many of the bucks I saw over the next seven days were more than likely transient bucks and a few that we had game camera pictures of; some of the bucks I saw were phenomenal bucks pushing 160 and better. However, the closest this caliber of buck got to me was 64-yards on the other side of some branches. The bucks were seeking hot does and they had no interest in my buck decoy so I quit putting the decoy up.

Tuesday morning, I actually felt as if I would have an anxiety attack while in the stand. I had bucks in four different directions of varying distances chasing does. I could only explain it to Richard as a bag of popcorn coming apart at the seams in the microwave, I didn’t know which way to look, or set up. The does carried the bucks off into adjacent fields, woods, creek lines and out of sight on pretty much a chaotic run.

Wednesday morning when I reached my stand, the tripod was placed over a half bale of rolled hay, so I laid my crossbow on top of the bale and was tieing it off when I heard a critter of some sort rustling in the tall grass on the other side of the bale. I peeked around and to my surprise it was an adult skunk. I quickly backed up from the bail but now I was in a predicament. Do I hustle up the stand steps or do I back off and give this skunk its time to move on? What if it is about to curl up and take a nap? I didn’t really know what to do but I knew I had about 25 minutes until the sun started to lighten the horizon. Finally, I braved it and I crept up the steps. The skunk eventually moved along and I was able to pull my crossbow up. Whew! That was an intense morning. 

There were a couple really cold mornings that resulted in a lot of deer movement. On one of those mornings, I had ice particles covering my crossbow. I remember thinking how cool that was because we don’t experience this type of weather much in the south. I absolutely loved the cold weather and hunting in it. This was my season wearing Sitka Gear and the new Women’s Whitetail Line offered me a complete system from base layers to a warm, windproof outer layer complete with neck gaiter and toboggan. I was comfortable in the stand from 13 to 72 degrees. Not to mention that the system took less space in my gear bag and it kept me from having to take additional pieces and layers. 

On one of those cold mornings, I watched a solid black domesticated tom cat rolling in the warm sand, dusting itself on the edge of the alfalfa field. I originally thought the black object moving around in the tall grass was another skunk, I was surprised when a huge cat walked out unto the field. It never ceases to amaze me at what I will see in the woods. 

Mid-day Wednesday, I had a situation that I learned a lot from. It was not that comical in the heat of the moment, but afterwards I couldn’t stop giggling. I shared it on Facebook, but for those that don’t have Facebook, I will share that post here:

“This is my first season ever where I have worn bibs to hunt in. I have to admit that I am loving the Sitka Gear Fanatic Bibs and everything about them. But MY STARS, there is absolutely no grace in getting out of bibs when you really, really, REALLY have to go see a man about a dog. Forty yards before I got to my destination I was losing gloves, 2 pairs…then I struggled getting my jacket off for about ten quick-stepping yards, throwing it down in the weeds, about 10 yards from the spot I became delirious for a moment when my right hand and left hand couldn’t figure out if I wanted to zip down the front zipper of my bibs or pull the straps over my shoulders first. As I started to break a cold sweat, it hit me that I still had to finagle some base layers and a HECS suit to be in the clear. A brief panic came over me when I thought, “GUD LAWD, where’s the toilet paper?” And it dawned on me that the small roll was clenched tightly between my teeth. Meticulously gathering up my bib straps in a panic as not to soil them, I glanced out across the field, and I had to giggle, what was staged in front of me was the perfect scene from a movie where a couple comes into an apartment in a hot fit, stripping shoes and clothes on their way to a flat surface… a high-heeled shoe here, a skirt two steps away, a blouse a couple more feet. As I looked out across the field, I saw a glove here, another one there, a mix-match pair close together, fingers blowing in the wind as if waving at me, my jacket sprawled wildly across the unlevel weeds, and somewhere in all that manic chaos, I even lost my toboggan which was laying 10 feet away from me in a briar bush, but hey….I held onto the toilet paper!! Note to self: Give yourself a little more time the next time this issue comes up and you are wearing bibs! Whew!

img_4347-1Later that afternoon, I noticed movement to the right of me and as I looked up a beautiful mule deer was walking by. My heart sank. This buck would have been an amazing mule deer for Richard to have harvested. All I could do is watch it walk by. I took a few photos and as soon as I took the last one I received a text from Richard asking me if I had seen any more deer since he last checked with me. I text back, “You are going to be sick!” and I sent him the photo. He sent a text back that read, “I am happy with what I got.” I knew he really was hoping for a mule deer and I hate that this buck had not visited him in the place of the whitetail but at least he settled for a beautiful mature buck that I sure would have been happy with.

Thursday afternoon I swapped to another stand we had set up on the alfalfa field where I had seen a lot of traffic. Right before sundown, I saw a massive heavy-racked buck walk around a  fence post onto the edge of the alfalfa field in my direction at about 100-yards. I did not have to pick my Hawke binoculars up to see this buck was massive with tall tines and a wide rack. I have to admit I have never experienced buck fever before. Even after shooting some really good bucks from the stand, I just have never experienced the shakes and heart palpitations. I have always felt that I was missing out on something.

Well, that all changed. When I saw that buck and my “OH SHIT!” factor went on high alert, I immediately felt my heartbeat in my neck as I reached for my crossbow. The buck walked down the edge of the alfalfa field and I felt I was going to relieve my bladder, then I felt sweat beads start to form on my upper lip. The buck turned into the woods that led to a dried creek bank behind me. I grunted at him and he didn’t slow up, he was on a mission. I strained to see if he would turn my direction but he didn’t. As I sat my crossbow down I instantly started shaking uncontrollably. I had to plant my feet on the platform solid and put weight on them to keep my legs from shaking, but it didn’t do anything for my upper body. I only had about 10 minutes of daylight left and I was worried about having to descend the ladder shaking like I was. I managed and I was still shaking when I met up with Richard at the creek crossing. I was out of breath telling him what I had just experienced. He asked me if I was going to be alright.

The last two days that I sat in the stand were extremely slow. I spent a total of 57-hours in the stand on this first trip and I passed up on a few decent bucks. I came to Kansas with a personal goal to harvest a 150+ class buck. The buck would need to be unique for me to harvest one less than what I set out. We didn’t necessarily need the additional meat in the freezer and I have been blessed with a couple good Kansas bucks that I enjoy the memories and mounts on the wall, so this was a personal goal I wanted to stick to. I left Kansas that first trip with a tag in my pocket.

Having personally witnessed the incredible bucks that were in this area, and since I still had a tag, we decided that we would come back during the Thanksgiving holidays.

Advertisements

Teresa McCullough, the owner of Lady Bowhunters on Facebook, shares her experience from this past September’s ladies hunt. Teresa and I have spent all six of the annual hunts at Double Deuce Ranch in Powersville, Missouri owned by the Helbing Family. We have shared some really great times, as well as some lows. Teresa is always encouraging the ladies who join us at the ranch to make the hunt their own and enjoy themselves. Here is Teresa’s

Ladies, if you ever have a chance to hunt at the Double Deuce Ranch, DO IT! This is an annual all ladies bow hunt. This place is absolutely AMAZING! It’s a five-star lodge with comfortable accommodations and delicious meals served family style. The Helbing family make you feel like friends from the moment you arrive. The deer are plentiful and land is breathtaking! The properties have several lakes to fish in on your downtime. We always have a fish fry with the fish that we catch on the ponds. One of the favorites is pizza night at their home that is decorated in African Safari; it’s simply beautiful!

I’ve been hunting at the ranch for six years now and I will never miss a chance of going back. I love this place and often tell people if I run away, you can find me there. Upon arrival at the Double Deuce Ranch, you will be greeted by the Helbing family, who will help you unpack your vehicle and will set you up in a room at the lodge. You can shoot your bows at the range to make sure everything is sighted in for your hunt. They take the time to show each hunter around and to show us our stands and the layout of the land and lakes. Again, it’s beautiful!

FB_IMG_1505713604226

As we all arrive and get to know each other we sit down for a home-cooked meal. The next morning, we begin our hunt. My first morning started out to be a good one. I walked to my stand that first morning in the dark, with all ten flashlights in my pack. Yes, I’m a bit chicken of the dark; but this year felt different. I wasn’t as scared. Now, mind you, I’ve been bow hunting for over 35 years and I still hate the pitch dark, but I am getting better.

As I made my way to my stand, climbed it, and got all set up waiting for first light, I began thinking back at all my hunts here. It sure put a smile on my face. As the sun peeked out, I began ranging my shots. The typical this tree, that leaf…I do this all morning because I forget my yardages. Does anyone else do this? As I sat there I saw deer legs through the trees. I watched them make their way to the food plot. I noticed three deer, one being a fawn, which now left me figuring which doe went with the fawn. As I ranged them again, and again, they made their way closer. By this time I had the big doe at forty yards, and I thought to myself, “that is close enough.” As I settled in and placed the pin on her, I squeezed my release and I let an arrow fly. She ran less than forty yards and dropped in the CRP. I knew she was down and the other two deer assured me she was where I last saw her.

I text Ben and told him I shot a doe. Ben asked, “was it a good hit?” I replied, “yes!” He said he would be there at 9:00. I got my crossbow ready to shoot again, just in case a buck stepped out, but a buck never did. Shortly, I saw the guys coming and as I sat in my stand I explained to Ben and Mike where the doe was the last I saw her. I climbed down to help in the retrieval. They found my arrow right where she stood. The arrow wasn’t covered in blood, in fact, there was very little blood, but from my past shots with a crossbow, it was the same. We began to look for blood and found a lot on the ground. We walked about five more yards and there she was. It is always nice to get your first deer of the season!

2017-09-15 10.37.52_mix03

I have been hunting over 35 years, always shooting a compound bow, but when Missouri made crossbow legal last year I decided to buy one. At first, I hated it, because I could not pull it back to cock it, my groupings were awful. After getting a new scope, custom blots and a crank to cock it, I am much more comfortable with it now. A love for hunting doesn’t mean that you or I have to shoot a compound, a recurve, a long bow, a crossbow, or a gun. It is your choice of the weapon you choose. That is not what makes us a hunter, it is YOU! All the time spent on practice, food plots, hanging stands, the list goes on. So ladies, don’t get discouraged, we all miss and sometimes wound an animal. That’s not what we want, but it happens. Get back out there and keep at it. Never let anyone say you can’t do something because YOU CAN! We are all hunters and proud!


Next year’s hunt is already on the calendar, the dates are September 13-19, 2018, the hunt is $1,100 and includes lodging, meals, and all the pond fishing your heart desires. The license is $225 and includes a buck, a doe, and two turkeys. A 50% deposit is all it takes to hold your spot. There are eight women signed up for this hunt with a few spots available. If you are interested or need additional information, please contact Nancy Jo Adams at turkeygypsy@gmail.com. Come join us for an amazing hunt and a lifetime of memories.


I have had the opportunity to share hunting camp several times with Christy Turner. We share memories of two hog hunts in Mississippi at Bubba Ledbetter’s hunting camp; the first annual and second annual ladies hog hunt.  We shared turkey hunting camp in Oklahoma hosted by Carlee Smith. Tommie Lee Clanton hosted a deer hunt in Mississippi that I snuck in on; what great memories we have. This hunt was not any different. Here is Christy’s story.


Dear Diary…

It all started Wednesday morning, right after I had dropped my kids off at school. I made a mad dash home trying to do a hundred things at once so I could get on the road. I was sweeping floors, washing dishes, putting up clean laundry, bought extra toilet paper, bread, milk, cereal, dog food, and cat food. There! The husband, kids, and pets should have the essentials for the week that I will be gone. Finally, over packing the truck with all the hunting gear I own. I cranked the engine, plug the address into the GPS, and in eight hundred and four miles I should reach my destination. I turned the air-conditioning on full blast as I start down my driveway; because now I am a hot mess. Henderson County Texas was in the mid 90’s already before noon. I’m ready to travel north, and to hunt a Monster Missouri Buck!

My cell phones GPS got me all the way to Powervilles Missouri and informed me I had arrived at my destination, 140th street. I knew I must have a little further to go down 140th. I took a left on what looked like a hidden driveway. I wasn’t sure if I was pulling up to someone’s house or driving down a caliche road. Since I didn’t pull up to a residence, I just followed the road around corners, up and down hills, across bridges and railroad tracks. At the top of one of the hills to the left was a black pipe entrance that read, “Double Deuce Ranch come as guests and leave as friends.” I finally made it!” I pulled down the long driveway with rolling pastures and fields on either side.

I was greeted as soon as I stepped out of the truck by Ben and his brother Jacob. Then by their father and owner Mike. They were super friendly and polite and insisted on grabbing all those bags I packed and had me follow them into the lodge. Inside was Mike’s wife, Karen, and the other six ladies that I would be sharing camp with. We all introduced ourselves and gave each other hugs. This was the beginning of our lifelong memories being made on our new adventure together.

lodge-1.jpg
My alarm clock went off that next morning, and I jumped straight up as if it were Christmas morning and I was five years old. Everyone was already in the kitchen sipping coffee, and we were all ready to head out for our first hunt. The excitement and positive energy in the room were contagious and so refreshing to absorb. Ben dropped me off at the gate that leads down to the tree stand I would be sitting in. I didn’t even need to turn on my flashlight I could see the freshly mowed path with the moonlight. I walked straight to my stand and climbed up and got all situated. I had taken my binoculars and rangefinder out of my backpack and had them sitting on the seat next to me. The sun was just starting to come up, but it was still too dark for my rangefinder to pick up any distance or for me to even read the range.

 

As I looked up from my rangefinder, a buck appeared looking right at me. I was straining so hard in the darkness to make out if he was a mature and legal buck. As I was squinting and straining my eyes, he began to walk straight to me! I was frozen in place as he walked all the way to the bottom of my ladder trainbridge (2)stand and looked right up at me! I was able to go, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and possibly a nine pointer and definitely a legal buck to shoot. As I sat there still frozen in place, he walked maybe ten yards away and turned broadside. Oh my gosh, could this get any better for the most perfect shot ever.

My mind was running a hundred miles an hour. What should I do? This was a nice buck, my very first hunt in Missouri; I had the whole week left to hunt. Don’t pass up a buck on the first hunt that you would shoot on the last, ran through my mind. I decided to make a decision, and I did not shoot. I just sat there staring back at him and thinking how amazing this hunt was already. It seemed like 15 minutes of us staring at each other motionless, he turned his head and walked off into the woods. I could finally move and take a deep breath. I text Ben telling him how excited I was, and that I had just seen a great buck. The sun finally appeared big and bright, and I had several doe and fawns walk in front of me. It was a great first hunt at the Double Deuce!

filmbuckEach time I went out to a stand, there was a lot of action going on. I had seen a monster buck through my binoculars, but he ranged in at a hundred and fifty-seven yards. I did not doubt in my mind he was a shooter buck! My heart started pounding, even though he was that far away. I was hoping and praying he would make an entrance and walk past me in the bottom of the creek that I was hunting. He never did, but the image of him plays over and over in my mind. I passed up several nice eight pointers within twenty yards of me because I was hopeful to see that monster buck again. I kept thinking to myself, I can shoot a nice eight pointer back in Texas. This was Missouri I was hunting, and I wanted a monster Missouri buck!

My last evening hunt, that phrase came back to me; Don’t pass up a deer on the first morning that you would shoot on your last hunt. Maybe I should have shot that nice eight on the first morning hunt. But you know if I would have that monster buck would have walked out in front of me at twenty yards and stood for fifteen minutes broadside, and I would have probably cried. Nothing had come out in front of me, and I could hear several Turkey going to roost for the evening. I thought man, my last hunt and I’m not even going to see a deer; I had so much action all week.

8pointbuck.jpg
Then all of a sudden through the window of the trees I see two, yes two monster bucks walk out of the tree line. My heart is already pounding before I even get my binoculars up. I can just tell they are shooter bucks without a doubt! My face mask was getting in the way, and I thought I just need to range them instead of taking my time to look at them through the binoculars. Seventy-six yards, the biggest of the two is in front at a steady walk up the hill. The second one stopped to graze for a few minutes. I was getting all prepared, hoping they would make their way to me or even come in behind me, I was ready. Finally, the second buck walked up the hill out of my view, and neither of them made their way to me.

I got down from my stand as it had gotten dark while I was waiting on those bucks to turn and make their way to me. I guess they kept going straight. My knees felt weak, and my heart was still full of excitement of just seeing those monster bucks. Ben picked me up and I learned that Rebecca shot a good eight pointer! We were on our way to pick her and her buck up! Rebecca made a perfect shot, and it was an easy recovery of her deer. I was so happy to be there to share in her success and excitement.

selfieMy last night in the Double Deuce lodge made me sad that I was going to have to leave in the morning. Mike, Karen, Ben, Jacob and the staff were so amazing. I felt so thankful that I got to meet this wonderful family. Everyone was so kind and hardworking. They were so respectful to us ladies and made sure we were well taken care of. I think I gained ten pounds from the delicious homemade food we ate all week. I am so grateful that Nancy Jo told me about this opportunity, it has been several years since I shared hunting camp with her and it was so nice to visit with her and catch up. Meeting the other ladies in camp, I know I have made lifelong friends. Getting to know each of the ladies on this hunt was very profound. I feel like God gave me this opportunity to meet some really amazing people and each one of them have truly inspired me. This wasn’t just a deer hunt; this was a rejuvenating, inspiring, blessed week that I will have with me for the rest of my life.

With a very grateful and full heart,
Christy Turner

 


 

 

img_6567-2

A beautiful double rainbow over Double Deuce Ranch.

My favorite hunt of the year has come and gone…but not without a rollercoaster of highs and lows. It started off with my gear bag ending up in Chicago, Illinois. As I was the last passenger at the luggage carousel in the Kansas City Airport watching one lone burgundy suitcase circle around for its eleventh time, I got a sinking feeling. I was fortunate of grabbing my Americase off of the carousel on its first pass; it safely held my Ten Point Crossbow. Raquel and Kim were going to be landing in the next few minutes in another terminal and I needed to let them know that I would be a little late getting to the rental car counters since I had to go to the Baggage Claim Office.

I took my iPhone out and it was off, definitely fully charged, but had no power. I could not get it to come on so I plugged it into my SnowLizard charger…NOTHING! I sat at a bench for a few minutes just to see if the iPhone would miraculously turn on. As I sat there, I thought to myself, “What a way to start a hunting trip.” As I sat there trying not to panic, I thought to myself, “I have my crossbow, my backpack that I have with me held my boots, my rangefinder, my binoculars, and my Ozonics. All I would need is pants and a shirt if it came to that.” I finally decided that my iPhone was not going to come on.

That is when I thought about my iPad, but without a iPhone hotspot, I had no internet service. I NEVER use public WiFi in places like airports and hotels; I just DON’T do it for good reason. I had to do the dreadful and sign on to free airport Wifi so I figured I would do it as quickly as possible. I sent a brief message to both ladies letting them know what I was dealing with, that I would be a few minutes longer, and for them to go ahead and meet me at the rental car area. I was successful in getting that message to them and I quickly disconnected from the dreadful, unsecured free Wifi. To make a long story short, the claim office was able to locate my bag, get it re-routed and it was promised to be delivered to me in Powersville later that evening. It was delivered as promised and what a relief when I finally had it in my hands.

After a delicious dinner and visiting with everyone back at the lodge I retreated to my room to prepare my backpack and gear for the next morning; our first morning of hunting. I was going to my favorite piece of ground and I was hunting a stand in the hardwoods. Last year I had a raccoon visit me in my stand with her baby in tow. She nearly came to the top step of the ladder before I got her attention and she slowly backed down; scolding me for taking her seat. This year, she left me TWO big piles of raccoon scat on the tree stand seat.

After getting settled in, I had such a peaceful morning as the sun started to rise. The first deer that came by were two spotted fawns. Nearly an hour passed before two mature does, two fawns, and two yearlings came to my stand, seeking acorns and eating tender browse. The fawns frolicked as the other deer fed. Finally, one of the does notice something didn’t look the same in the tree and she came closer to investigate. I was wearing my HECs suit and had my Ozonics on so I made sure not to make eye contact or move. She finally went back to feeding after circling the entire tree base. After of those deer moved out I had two other deer come through at varying times, one that actually bedded downwind of my stand in the high weeds. At 10:30 a.m. I decided to come down and I did so without disturbing the deer bedded just 30 yards away. Eleven deer my first morning, maybe my luck was changing.

img_3101-2After spending time at the lodge with everyone and eating a hearty brunch. I decided I would head back to my stand at 4:00 p.m., so I had plenty of time for a quick nap beforehand. When I woke up, I could hear a few people downstairs getting ready to head back out. I grabbed a bottle of water for my backpack and I was off to my stand. This afternoon I was going to sit in a stand on a newly placed greenfield. It had been several years since I sat in this stand, but I was anxious to see how well the deer used the new green field next to a huge Ag field planted in corn. I was not in the stand an hour when the first deer visited the field; a young 4-point. About thirty minutes later, a doe and fawn came to the field, followed by another doe ten minutes behind.  About 45 minutes before sunset, I had a young 4-point and a small 8-point come to the field. These two bucks were feeling their youth and started tussling in the field, sparring. I took a few minutes to video them. I put my camera up and decided I needed to sit still and really pay attention to the last bit of daylight.

img_3755-1-e1506069532288.pngIt was a good thing that I did, as I was staring at the wall of corn in front of me when I spotted movement on the trail to the right of me. A nice 8-point with good mass was walking up the trail and he stopped to eat clover just 15-yards from me. He was a nice buck, but this buck just didn’t give me that “OH SHIT FACTOR” so I decided to slip my iPhone out of the top pocket of my backpack at my knee and get a picture and video of him. As soon as I had a little clip of him and a few photos, I sent one of the still photos to Mister. I was holding my iPhone above my backpack pocket until I confirmed that the text was sent and Mister had received it.

As I was sliding the iPhone down into my backpack, I heard breathing under me. At first, it took me a second to realize what it was because I have never heard a deer breathing like that while in the stand 15-feet in the air. Then movement caught my eye, focused on the object, and immediately I thought to myself, “OH SHIT!” I instinctively placed my hand on my crossbow and moved it over in front of me as quiet as I could. That buck walked directly under and straight out in front of me. There was one limb hanging down and he was standing behind it. That gave me plenty of time to put my crossbow where I needed it, and switch the safety off. I shouldered my crossbow and got the scope situated properly. The buck stepped out from behind the branch as he turned to the left. When he cleared the branch and was standing textbook broadside, he saw the blob in the tree, the same blob that all of the deer had stopped at momentarily before going right back to doing what they were doing. When he glanced up, I could instantly tell he had a wide rack and he was definitely several inches outside of his ears. I focused back on the spot I needed to place the shot at, and I slowly pulled the trigger.

The sound of the impact seemed perfect, the buck and kick-out only provided visual proof that the shot hit the mark. I felt I did everything right and didn’t rush the shot. I watched the buck as he ran across the green field and went into the woods, I mentally marked the spot. There was a sound similar to a buck crashing into a heap just inside the leafy, briar thick woods. The 8-point I took a picture of and had text to Mister was standing just off the green field, looking into the woods where the buck I shot had entered. I quickly picked up my iPhone and called Mister:

Mister: “Hello.”

Me (whispering): “Did you get my text?”

Mister: “The one of the buck that you said didn’t give you the Oh Shit Factor?”

Me: “Yeah. BUT…..THE ONE I JUST SHOT DID!!”

Mister: “No way!”

Me: “Yep! He is a nice one with a split G2 and I believe a little junk. It happened pretty quick.”

Mister: “Did you get a good shot on him?”

Me: “I did everything right, heard the impact, he bucked up and ran off. I marked the spot where he went in the woods and I am pretty sure I heard him crash. I have a buck and doe on the green field that are still staring in that direction.”

Mister: “Good! I am excited for you.”

Me: “I have to text Ben.”

Mister: “Keep me updated.”

Me: “Hopefully I will be sending you a photo shortly.”

The 8-point was still standing there looking into the woods and remained there until I had all my gear gathered up and I was coming down the ladder. He finally ran off in the opposite direction with the doe following him. I felt pretty confident the buck was just inside the woods based on the actions of that 8-point buck and what I heard from the stand. When I had spoken to Ben, one of the guides, I told him to take his time because he was busy going around picking up the ladies to take them back to the lodge. About 30 minutes later, I saw headlights from the side-by-side. Ben, Jacob, and Caleb all jumped out of the cart as it rolled to a stop. I showed them the photo of the buck that I ha text to Mister and Jacob asked, “The buck you shot was bigger than this one?” I said, “Yes, and he had at least one split G2 and the other G2 is odd as well but I didn’t get a good look at it. I did, however, get a good look at him when he looked up at me before placing the shot and he is well outside his ears, but he does not have as much mass as this 8-point.” Ben and Jacob looked at each other and I think it was Ben that said, “We don’t have one like that on camera.” I showed them where the buck went into the woods. We started walking the green field and Caleb found the first blood. Within seconds we were on the trail.

We walked along the edge of the creek with me stopping and standing at the last blood to mark it for the guys. We found everything from droplets, to puddles, to piles of gooey thick blood with a matter in it. It wasn’t but 15-minutes when we came to the area where the buck crossed the creek; ironically in the steepest area he could, passing up several really easy spots to cross. Ben marked the crossing by hanging his ball cap on a tree limb. As we were standing there, they were shining their flashlights across the creek when one of them stopped on something that looked like weeds moving. I quickly realized it was the tips of the buck’s antlers. The buck was laying down and you could tell by the movement of the tips of his antlers that it was struggling to breathe with short breaths. At one point, it turned its head back as if licking its side.

“This is where we all realized
I had
made one huge mistake!” 

This is where we all realized I had made one huge mistake! We were standing 20-yards across the creek from a buck that seemed to be on its last air, bedded down, broadside to us, and my crossbow was sitting on the ground back at the side-by-side. With my mind thinking that the buck had crashed and would be expired just inside the woods, I didn’t even think about recocking my crossbow and carrying it in just in case we found the buck still alive, which was now the case. Ben told Jacob that we needed to go retrieve the crossbow quickly. We were about 150-yards from where my crossbow was at. As we got to it, Jacob got a text from Ben telling us to hurry because the buck was moving. When we returned, Jacob and Ben were on the move after the buck and they told Caleb and me to stay put.

They trailed the buck along the creek and tree line until the blood splatter ran thin and they reached the property line. They marked the spot and returned to us. We had one big issue working against us. This adjoining property was leased by out of state hunters and we could not search for the buck on that property until all the hunters were off the property. Being opening weekend, this would be Monday morning. In all fairness, this was bad for me but understandable. It was not fair to tromp all over the property that out of state hunters spent good money to hunt and especially on opening weekend. So now all there was to do was wait, and a long wait it was.

“A beautiful wide 12-point with split G2s and a kicker off of its right brow tine.”

img_3123-2Jacob checked the game camera that was on the green field since the buck ran right out in front of it after the shot. The camera did not get a photo of the buck crossing the green field but there was a photo from two nights earlier of the buck, up close and personal. It was definitely the buck because Ben had noticed it had a kicker off of its right brow tine. A beautiful wide 12 point with split G2s and a kicker off of its right brow tine. All I could do for two solid days was pray we found him on Monday morning and wait patiently. Whew, that was the LONGEST two days ever!

I went out one afternoon to turkey hunt and I stayed at the lodge the rest of the hunt, one afternoon I got to help make grizzly bear poppers for the group made from the grizzly bear Mike Helbing had shot in Alaska the week prior. These grizzly poppers were delicious!

 

img_3120-2

Mike Helbing’s beautiful Grizzly Bear harvested in Alaska.

 

As Murphy’s Law would have it, it rained twice during the weekend. Mid-morning we went out and walked the property, sticking close to the woods and creek line; we found NOTHING. Monday afternoon, it rained, but Mike got an inkling that maybe the buck made it through the adjacent property and could easily be on another small 80-acre parcel so we headed out again. We walked, and walked but found no sight of the buck or even a buzzard for that matter.

“I was heartbroken, defeated,
all of the air was knocked out of me.”

I was heartbroken, defeated, all of the air was knocked out of me. Not only was I feeling this way because it was a shame that we could not retrieve a buck of that caliber, but I was sad that I had inflicted pain on an animal that if it did not perish, it would suffer until it either perished or healed. That is a horrible feeling and leaves you numb. I really felt I did everything right. I felt the shot was good and the buck responded how so many before had that are now hanging on my wall at home. I was confused and numb, emotionally exhausted but I couldn’t wallow in my low point. I just couldn’t, I had other hunters at this hunt and I needed to suck it up, put on a good face and enjoy what was left of the 6th Annual Ladies Hunt at Double Deuce Ranch.

We had an amazing time, as usual, and there were several deer shot and processed and packed up for their trip home, including a really nice buck. I am so proud and happy for these ladies that harvested and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing camp with them. Most are returning next year for the 7th annual hunt–it’s a tradition now for many of us ladies.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I can only learn from this experience, lay it down, and look forward to the next hunt which is already nearly booked. This was my first buck shot that I didn’t retrieve, as if that isn’t hard enough; it had to be a beautiful wide rack 12-point with split G2s and some other character–that is a hard pill to swallow. Maybe if he didn’t perish, they will see him again on game camera and put my mind at ease.

My double G2s at Double Deuce Ranch….a full hand of deuces, I guess that is only a winning hand in poker. Sigh!


Labor Day Weekend, a weekend where most people are headed to the beaches for the last HOORAH, or planning backyard barbecues; NOT US! I am pretty sure our Labor Day feast will be consumed sitting on the tailgate of Cletus, swinging our muddy boots back and forth, while popping another Pringle potato chip in my mouth all the while awkwardly balancing a ham and cheese sandwich on my knee. We will share taking in the view of a Kansas Ag field off in the distance. This is the life!

We were excited to both get drawn for the Kansas Whitetail Lottery; Mister even got lucky enough to draw a coveted Mule Deer Tag. The day the results were released our room was booked at the hotel and Mister started combing the maps, marking waypoints, researching land topography, creek meanderings, funnels, pinch points, everything important for stand placement.

Fall-WIHA_gallery
Northwest Kansas, one of our favorite places to hunt. This will be our 8th DIY hunt in this little tucked away town where we have grown quite fond of many locals that were born and raised there. A 1,268-mile one-way trip that takes 20.5 hours of straight through driving, a trip that would make most folks squirm in thought but one that builds excitement every state we pass through as we get closer to our destination. It is similar to scratching off a lottery ticket, you never

img_2999A lot of hard work goes into a do-it-yourself hunt and the hunt starts long before the engine ever started on Cletus. This D-I-Y hunt is only 75% the work since we have established land to hunt and are familiar with the area. There is still plenty work to do. We have one farm that we will place some SpyPoint Cameras on that will make scouting from home possible from many miles away. The Spypoint Link-Evo and Link-S use the same cellular coverage as our cell phones and we had pretty good reception when we turkey hunted this property this past spring; so we are hoping for good cellular coverage.

 

There are other properties we plan to scout and glass some in the late afternoons. I want to revisit a spot on public land that I hunted two years ago because I really liked the area; a stand we placed tucked away on the end of an Ag field where deer crossed between the two fields separated by an abandoned railroad track.

img_2995So much land to cover and just one three-day weekend to get it done in. We started this journey at 2:30 p.m. today and will arrive at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. We are one state down and have four more to pass through before we cross the state line into Kansas. A quick stop at the motel to unload Cletus, change into some field clothes, spray down, grab the backpacks, binoculars, cameras, cables, locks, and a few bottles of water and we will lace up our boots and hit the ground scouting.

Wishing everyone a fantastic Labor Day.


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….”

img_2885

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.

hank-clyde

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….”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 


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.

img_2083

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!

img_2105

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.

img_2069

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.

img_2122

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.

Blue Gator

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.

img_2121

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!

img_1959

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.

 

img_0355

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.


14138175_10153716922681906_5760863937682802685_o

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.

 

14222207_10153719774126906_8125560716705435112_n

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.

 

14238243_1153531578003493_2278358010133335206_n

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.

 

 

 

14183735_1154323321257652_525412619389367456_n

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…

 

 

 

Follow Life in Camo – Shenanigans From the Field on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,770 other followers

Categories

Click below for previous month’s entries:

Thank you for visiting my blog.

To find out more about me, click on the "About Me" tab in the menu bar below the blog heading above.

Proud Voting Member of:

Proud Member of:

Follow on Instagram

I figured the new snow was deserving of a homemade hot chocolate with real milk, Hershey Chocolate, canned Whip Cream, and a few marshmallows! Meetu thinks it might be something for him. Let the sugar coma begin. #Meetu It's chronic.... #LifeinCamo doesn't hunt without @ozonicshunting! #OzonicsHunting Good Morning & Happy Black Friday to all those brave enough to go shopping today! It's a brisk 40 degrees here in Kansas and the wind is supposed to pick up and get pretty brutal, but I will be hanging tough like a Black Friday Shopper! #SitkaGear #LifeinCamo Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!! #lifeincamo
%d bloggers like this: