“Without hunters, there will be no wildlife or habitat. Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.”
—National Wild Turkey Federation
I wake up and try to remember—it is the “off season”. My hubby reminds me almost daily, but my mind swirls with thoughts of hunts that are still to come. It is already March 1, and the deer, duck, and small game seasons are over—just memories for most hunters, whose minds are now on fishing rather than hunting.
Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy the anticipation of a day out on the water, sipping hot coffee from my Thermos, seeing the sunrise over the ocean, and the thrill of hooking up to a strong-willed fish, but my first and truest love is being in the woods.
Somehow, being surrounded by towering trees, dense with climbing vines and filled with earthy smells, brings energy to every cell in my body. Even with the realization that the snakes and the relentless mosquitoes have first dibs on claiming the forest, I will go forth with a lot of respect, with eyes wide open.
If you have been following my blog, looking for my article “Part 2: Two Girls, Two Guns,” I am sure you will understand that our coyote and bobcat hunting will need to take second chair in a couple of weeks because I am gearing up once again to test my wits against one of the most cunning birds in the woods, South Carolina’s official gamebird, the wild turkey!
Turkey hunting opens March 20 on private land and April 1 on public lands in our state. Don’t get me wrong: If a coyote or cat comes my way, it is my intention to take it, but passionate turkey hunters like myself zero in on this season, waking up each day and falling asleep each night with nothing but turkey hunting on our minds.
In South Carolina, three turkey tags are available, and there’s a pretty limited time to fill those tags with the season ending on May 5. That sounds attainable to most people, but the elusive turkeys can leave many disappointed hunters left with tag soup instead of turkey soup.
Turkey hunting is very tightly controlled—no baiting or elevated stands are allowed. Check this link for full details on the rules and regulations in our state: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/regs/turkeyseason.html.In order to be successful, you must scout to know where the turkeys are foraging and where they roost at nightfall. But the real skills are in your ability to sit very still and remain extremely patient. Neither is easy for most of us, especially in this fast-paced world we live in.
Throughout deer season, we are so excited to see the turkeys walk past our stands as if they clearly must know it is not turkey season. And of course, we will see all kinds of deer during turkey season. Nature has a sense of humor, it seems.
As I prepare for this exciting hunting season, I laugh at myself, as I could easily be mistaken for a serial killer with all the apparatus I carry in my trunk to get the blind just right. Yes, you would find a shovel and machete to clear a small area to pitch my ground blind, a good thick rope that I use to surround my blind—this is supposed to deter snakes from crossing—and duct tape, just because I always like having it around because it has so many uses.
I like to start my hunt from a blind before the sun comes up. Then, if I have not called in a turkey in an hour or two, I like to get out and “run and gun.” This method involves setting up, calling to the turkeys, and if nothing happens, moving to another spot and doing it all again, wary of being spotted by these incredible birds that actually see in color and have daytime vision three times as acute as that of humans!
This season is the first year I will be mentoring a new turkey hunter—yep, you guessed it right, my friend and hunting partner Kim Davis. Kim hunts deer and hogs, but has never hunted turkeys. She is very excited about turkey hunting and is eager to find out what all the excitement is about. Next year I am hoping to take my oldest granddaughter, Gibbes, who will turn nine years old, for her first turkey hunt!
As a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, I know that the group’s emphasis is not only on protecting the habitat, it is on preserving the hunt. I am doing my part by taking the pledge to introduce turkey hunting to someone who has never done it before. NWTF reminds us that “without hunters, there will be no wildlife or habitat.” and that’s where they coined the motto: Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.
I am by no means an expert turkey hunter, but over the past five years, I have gained a good bit of experience and have had some good success. My objective this year is to tag three gobblers, knowing full well that is a lofty goal. That success depends not only on skill, but on having the time it takes to be out hunting, especially since I am sharing my time with another hunter. But mentoring another hunter is far more important, and I want to encourage as many hunters as possible to also bring along a new turkey hunter this year. Please take the pledge with me! So with almost three weeks to prepare, I’ll be carrying around my favorite slate and box call so that I can practice my sweet and sultry turkey calling and focus on that thrilling sound that we all dream about: Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble!!