A week before our turkey hunt, the weather report wasn’t looking good. This was the only weekend we had to head up to Scottsbluff, Nebraska and predictions were calling for sub-freezing temperatures, snow, and high winds – not exactly prime spring turkey hunting conditions! I tried to manage my expectations, but fears of not having the opportunity to finally harvest my first bird raised their ugly head.
Also see: Advice for the First Time Turkey Hunter
Last year was the first time I was in a turkey blind. My family’s farm in central New Jersey didn’t have turkeys when I was growing up during my early years of hunting. Then, as I got older and moved around after college, my interest and opportunity in hunting and the shooting sports slid to the farthest back burner. As my career moved forward in my late twenties, I started shooting clays again and remembered why I had enjoyed it so much as a child. I didn’t have the chance to dip my toe back into hunting until we were living in Colorado and bought our bird dog about seven years ago. Finally, I was enjoying hunts in the upland bird fields and having a wonderful time with my husband and young daughter. But we didn’t have a place where we could try out a turkey hunt.
Then, last year our friend and colleague in Scottsbluff offered us the opportunity to hunt turkeys on his property, and we jumped at the chance. To say it was a weekend with a steep learning curve for me is a bit of an understatement. While turkeys, pheasants, and grouse are all birds, that’s about where the similarities end when it comes to hunting them. The decoying and calling approach of turkey hunting far more closely emulates a big game hunt, which I still haven’t done. My skills in the upland field did not prepare me for what we encountered that weekend, and I’m not afraid to admit that I missed a couple of birds. It also was a mix of emotions (mostly excitement) when my 11-year-old daughter shot her first turkey that weekend.
This was to be my redemption year. I would be carrying Beretta’s A300 Outlander Turkey Gun, a gun I’d shot and liked at Industry Day at the Range during SHOT Show, and hoped it might give me the edge I needed. But the weather was not cooperating. As the week dragged on, we pondered alternatives before checking the forecast one more time and seeing that while our home south of Denver was going to get a lot of snow that Saturday, the bad weather would be moving out of Scottsbluff by Friday night. Not only was it not going to be snowing and windy, but after a day of hunkering around their roosts in the snow on Friday, these birds were going to be ready for some action. It was show time.
We woke up early to get to the blind before dawn. The morning was cold, and there were several inches of snow holding on the grassy areas. We settled into the blind and were rewarded at first light with gobbles from both the east and the west. Over the next hour, we shared intermittent calls and response with a couple of gobblers before one sounded off in the woods near the river behind us. We started calling, and soon two gobblers appeared in the grass. As we called, the hens and toms still in the cottonwoods sounded off more loudly as the two toms in the grass started moving closer to investigate our hen and jake decoys.
“The one in the back is the bigger bird,” my husband whispered as they crossed the ditch into the field, approaching us at a jog.
I pushed the Outlander’s safety off and moved the short, Xtra Green camo barrel, so it barely protruded from the blind’s window. The toms slowed to a walk trying to figure out why the decoys weren’t interacting with them. My first shot clearly hit and slowed the bird down; my second was a clean miss. But the third shot, as he was moving back to the ditch at 30 yards, had a clear line of sight easily picked up by the TruGlo sights, and the bird dropped immediately.
Later in the day, my daughter shot her second bird – just like with her first turkey last year, she dropped her bird with one shot. Perhaps mom needs to take some pointers from daughter to get past my turkey blind nerves! But I’d finally gotten the monkey off my back and harvested my first turkey, a beautiful Rio Grande, in the panhandle of Nebraska. Undoubtedly, the Beretta Outlander helped in this endeavor; it’s shorter barrel was easy to maneuver in the tight confines of the blind, the TruGlo sights made it easy to acquire the target. The fact that it took me a few shots fell solely on my shoulders, not the gun’s.
We now have our very special Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys in the freezer and, if anything, my passion for turkey hunting has grown even stronger. My daughter and I are both angling for ways to attempt the U.S. grand slam. The opportunity for us to grow together as hunters is undoubtedly a journey we will both enjoy.