And the Turkey Hunt Continues…

Y’all may recall my post last year when we went on our first turkey hunt ever, down on the ranch my family has in South Texas. We’ve never had turkeys on our place in the past, but in the last few years they’ve arrived and multiplied. I credit the brush, which has gotten so much thicker in the last 10 years, and the fact our corn feeders have been kept full on a regular basis. It’s kind of fun to have these birds around because the are really goofy. They are gangly and loud, and make a lot of funny clucks and squawks, and we see them nearly every time we’re out on a ride so it’s like a guaranteed wildlife spotting.

Last year, on our inaugural turkey hunt, we had them come within about 30 yards of us. It was exciting and my friend Kristin bagged a bird!

That night we ate turkey piccata (recipe here) and it was delish!

Brandon and I had been hoping this past season one of us would get one. We had a special guest with us this time–baby Kyle in the womb. #babysfirsthunt

Last year, we all hunted together. This year we split up, girls in one direction, and boys in another. But even though we split up, the birds managed to skirt around us each time. We figured they sent out a scouting hen to determine our location and she gave us up.

As haphazard as turkeys are–loud, the opposite of stealthy, and seemingly oblivious to predators–they are good at remaining hidden from you if they want to.

But we kept at it. Finally, on our last morning hunting, Kristin and I heard a “BOOM!” come from the direction of the boys. Pretty soon our phones were buzzing, “Turkey down!”

Adam was successful and got a beautiful bird.

Go Adam!

This makes for only two turkeys ever harvested at our ranch…no wonder the birds love living here.

Brandon and I were a little bummed we didn’t get one ourselves, but now we are even more determined. This story is not over yet!

Fortunately, our spirits were lifted when we remembered we had cinnamon rolls back at the house waiting for us.

At least we eat well on our hunts! (Also consumed on this hunt: a deep fried turkey. Yum.)

I hope I have a success story to report to y’all next year. Stay tuned!

A Word for the Beginning Dove Huntress

woman shooting over and under dove hunting

I hope this article gets you in the spirit for dove hunting, with the season right around the corner. For those of you new to the sport, I wanted to share a few tidbits of advice before you head afield!

This is part of my Girl’s’ Guide to Dove Hunting series.

Though I’ve hunted many other game animals, I always come back to my first love: dove hunting. Dove have long been my favorite animals to pursue and I bet you will enjoy it as well.

Advantages of Dove Hunting (over Deer or Turkey Hunting)

Dove Hunting has a lot going for it, hence my love for it!

  • There are more chances to shoot. (ie. you can bag 15 dove in one day, whereas you can only bag a couple deer.)
  • Hitting moving targets (dove) is a lot more fun and challenging than hitting a deer that is standing still.
  • You don’t have to worry about being silent.
  • It’s a social activity–you can do it with other people and make it an evening out.
  • You don’t have to wake up early. (Can I get an amen?)
  • Cleaning a dove is pretty easy.
  • Weather during dove season is much more pleasant than deer season.
  • You don’t have to cover yourself in camo — though natural, neutral colors like brown and olive are recommended.

Disadvantages of Dove Hunting

  • The meat isn’t as plentiful as with deer or turkey. Dove are small little suckers!
  • Dove can be hard to hit. They fly at a steady pace but you have to be good at judging distance.
  • Some evenings you won’t see many dove flying. Weather, your location, and availability of water are a few factors–and who knows, the cosmos and feng shui might also play a role (some nights I have wondered…) But in those cases just try to focus on the pleasant evening.

Dove Hunting Styles

I like to say there are two types of dove hunters: those who like to sit peacefully in one spot, soak in the scenery, and chat with their hunting partners (ME), and those who like to walk around in pursuit of the birds, not stopping until the sun goes down or they get their bag limit. (MY HUSBAND.)

How to Be a Good Hunting Buddy

The best people to hunt with are those who don’t give up, who stay optimistic even when no birds are flying, and who chip in on the cleaning.

Having a good shot around doesn’t hurt, either, but don’t worry about that on your first trip out.

Don’t be Afraid to Shoot at a Lot!

Key word: at. Shoot at.

“Big shots are little shots who keep shooting.” – Christopher Morley

This is one of my favorite quotes, but it especially is perfect for dove hunting. You will need to take a lot of shots when you are first starting out so you can figure out what birds are in range, which angles you are better at, and so you can get comfortable with your gun. You might just miss a few–or a lot–and that is okay. But if one thing is true, you will NOT get any better by being timid and only taking a few shots. Use an entire box of shotgun shells before taking a rest.

Of course, always stay within your bag limit.

Hunting with the Guys

There are a few things you need to know about dove hunting with guys. Disclaimer — a) this has just been my experience and b) not every guy is like this. Thank you to my husband for not being like this!

They love to brag about how many birds they bagged. Don’t let that intimidate you.

They shoot a lot, so if you want to keep up with them you need to keep shooting.

Nearly every hunter has a set way they like to do things when hunting. “THIS is how you aim your gun,” or “THIS is how you clean a bird” etc. I suggest listening to their advice, because it may be great, but also keep in mind it’s not always the voice of God and you should trust your own training and knowledge too.

 

One Final Word on Being a New Dove Hunter!

You don’t have to grow up in a hunting family or be the world’s most avid dove hunter in order to appreciate a good hunt and be a part of the fun evening. Anyone, young or old, male or female, new hunter or seasoned veteran, can pick up the sport easily and appreciate the beauty of a soaring dove and the hope of good meal.

Happy hunting, ladies!

Here are some other dove hunting posts you might like:

A Wild Doe Chase

This is a story for all my hunters and wildlife enthusiasts! Last week, I wrote about the youth hunt I went on in Central Texas, and today I wanted to share with you the story of what we saw one evening while hunting. It was incredible and will probably go down as one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen while hunting.

I want to preface this story with a little bit about normal deer behavior for those of you who aren’t as familiar. In the peak of the rut (usually around December), bucks tend to forget about silence and stealth, and tear off across the countryside in search of does. When usually they would be scared by the click of my camera, they become so one-track-minded that I could take a phone call right next to them and they wouldn’t even notice. I’ve never seen more than two bucks after the same doe at one time, and I’ve rarely seen more than two or three nice eight points in the field at the same time. And even though I’ve spent many evenings hunting beside ponds, I have never seen a buck swim.

On this particular evening, we parked the car on a dirt road about half a mile from the deer blind in the late afternoon. We began walking down the road and Kathleen, the 10-year-old huntress I was guiding, proclaimed with great confidence, “Well, I just DON’T think we are going to see ANY wildlife tonight!” She was convinced and there would be no changing her mind.

As we walked down the path, the brush opened up to a view of the deer blind. It was perched about 20 feet off the ground.

To the left, there was a large meadow surrounded by forest. Off to our right, there was a patch of brush, a large pond and another expansive meadow. Kathleen continued telling us, loudly, how convinced she was that we would not see any wildlife. If she keeps making so much racket, then we for sure won’t see any wildlife! I thought.

We continued walking, but stopped dead in our tracks when a huge crash in the brush to our right startled us. Kathleen was cut off mid-sentence. We waited for another sound. Silence hung in the air, and we were about to keep walking when the thrashing in the brush started again, and got louder. Seconds later, just ten yards in front of us, a doe sprung out of the woods in a full sprint. Two seconds behind her, a buck catapulted out of the woods hot on her tail. They could have cared less that we were standing mere feet from them or that Kathleen was chit chatting. This buck had one thing on his mind: this doe.

We watched, still frozen, as the chase led into the woods. We decided we should get up to the blind and see from a better vantage point. By the time I climbed up to the top rung of the ladder, I heard another crash, this time it was the recognizable sound of antlers locking together in a buck fight. I gazed out across the meadow, and two different bucks–not the one we had just seen–were duking it out on the other side of the pond.

The moment I opened the window in the deer blind we heard a huge splash. The doe from the earlier chase jumped into the pond and was heading for the opposite bank.

A beautiful eight-point buck–the one that had been chasing her–stood dumbfounded on the bank behind her, as if thinking, How dare she elude me!

Splash! He jumped in after her, taking off across the pond and pulling himself out of the water on the other side just as four more bucks emerged from the woods and joined in the chase. I’m not sure what perfume this doe was wearing, but man, it was attracting these bucks like moths to a light. Big bucks, too–at least two of them were eight or more points with what I would estimate was a  20+ inch spread each. Beautiful.

The two bucks in the lead were huffing and puffing, their tongues visibly hanging out as the bucks gasped for breath. This doe was holding strong in her lead and if those boys wanted any time with her, they were going to have to earn it.

The chase continued–around the pond, back into the brush, out of the brush and across the meadow, with no buck giving up. Every time the doe emerged from the woods, she had one more buck on her tail, until at one point we counted six.

One of my favorite parts of this whole event were the innocent bystanders.

This heron, wondering what happened to his peaceful little evening by the pond…(you can see a buck swimming right next to her)…

The little buck, watching and taking notes for future doe chases…

Finally after what felt like ages, the chase headed into the woods where, I suppose, it ended.

“So Kathleen,” I asked, “what were you saying about not seeing any wildlife tonight?”

I couldn’t help but smile at the look of pleasant surprise on her face.

When we got back to the lodge that evening, one of the guides who had been out hunting with another girl and her mom recounted a moment when young hunter had asked her, “But can’t the girl deer just say ‘no’?”

How do you answer that? “Well yes, honey, you can always say no. But things happen a little differently out here in the wild…”

So much of what we see in nature is controlled–like at the zoo, on a tv show, or like the tamed deer in our neighborhoods, as just a few examples. Truly wild experiences are not something we often get to see in our day to day, but these wild experiences make us realize there is more than just us in this world–there are creatures out there who possess intelligence and who have value that is completely unique from our value as humans.

Oh what a night! Hope you have an adventuresome wildlife encounter in your future.

 

Tales from an All-Girls Hunt with the Texas Youth Hunting Program

Hello my blog readers! Pardon the long break over Christmas and January, but I am finally writing again. It is hard blogging and working full time!!

This past December I had one of my most memorable hunting experiences ever—as a guide on an all-girls deer hunt with the Texas Youth Hunting Program. TYHP is a nonprofit that provides young people the chance to go on their first hunt. It is really the perfect place for a young novice hunter to learn, so if you know a kid who might enjoy it, please let them know about it. (One parent gets to come so it’s a great chance for you to learn over their shoulder.) And if you’re an adult who has experience hunting and would enjoy passing it on to the next generation, I strongly encourage you to volunteer as a guide.

Visit www.tyhp.org for more information

I was one of five guides, and I guided a girl named Kathleen–who was 10 years old and very high-energy –and this was her first hunt for a whitetail deer. We were paired together randomly, but turned out to be an awesome match and we hit it off. Though Kathleen had been on hunts with her brothers before, this was the first time it was all about her and it would be her first shot.

My job as her guide was to ensure she handled the gun safely, help her choose the best shot, and provide advice and encouragement as needed. It was easy!

You might be asking yourself, “Why is Kathleen wearing a pirate patch in this picture?” Well, she wasn’t trying to be silly…she was trying to close of her dominant left eye, so her right eye could see down the scope of the gun. Though it did fit her personality in a way.

No offense to the gentlemen out there, but the fact this was an all-girls hunt made it a lot more fun! We had a s’mores competition, and I cooked peach cobbler on the dutch oven. And sometimes its just more fun to learn something new and challenging among your own kind.

For the s’mores competition, each girl was given a smorgasbord of ingredients to choose from—peanut butter, chocolate graham cracker, Reese’s, plain graham cracker, chocolate chip cookie, raspberry shortbread cookie, Hershey’s, and Nutella, to name a few.

A panel of judges did the taste testing. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!

That’s Bob, our Huntmaster (aka the guy in charge), Sarah, a guide, and Kara, one of our awesome chefs-de-cuisine.

So many delicious submissions, but Kathleen won because she made her s’more into the shape of a deer. I mean, how can something that creative not win? Her prize: a dutch oven!

The next morning was an early one, but the warm, weather proof blind and the sunrise over the hills made getting out of bed totally worth it. We saw a ton of deer, and the view from the blind was incredible.

Fire on the ranch several years ago had cleared out a bunch of the brush so we could see for miles.

 

The owners imported exotic animals, and those were cool to see amid all the gorgeous whitetails. It was kind of like being in our own personal zoo!

Kathleen didn’t feel comfortable with her gun that morning–so despite a few perfect opportunities for a shot, she returned to the lodge empty handed. But one girl got a deer and a field dressing and skinning/quartering lesson followed, with each girl getting the opportunity to partake.

Hunter orange is the rule for the weekend–everyone must have it on, and boy, do we look stylish.

Nothing will stoke your appetite like cleaning a deer, so next we headed up to the lodge for some lunch, relaxation, and…drumroll please…dutch oven peach cobbler!

That evening, we went out to a different blind, had an adventure I will tell you about in another post, but Kathleen still did not feel ready to take a deer. So, despite several clear shots on some healthy does, she refused to take a shot.

I was reminded of the adage, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

So, you all will understand my surprise when, the next morning, I came downstairs at the crack of dawn to find a very perky, very-gung ho Kathleen completely decked out in camo and ready to shoot a deer. I think the hunting fairy must have visited her overnight, because she was a different girl than the day before. Hooray! I thought. We had seen so many deer, with so many clear shots, so certainly she would have her opportunity…

So, experienced hunters reading this, what do you think happened? .

If you guessed, “You didn’t see a single deer,” you would be correct! Only bucks came to the feeder and we did not have permission from the landowner to take any bucks.

As y’all know, that is the way it hunting works sometimes. You have a perfect shot, you pass it by thinking something better will come along, and nothing does. While I wish Kathleen had gotten to fulfill her goal of shooting a deer, I’m also glad she got a taste of real life–it makes you appreciate the successful hunts even more.

For me, it was awesome to just sit back and watch for once. We ate incredible food, slept well, and had the perfect weekend! By the end of the trip, one of the dads said, “I’ve been on a lot of hunts, but this is my first girls hunt. I have to say, it’s true, girls have more fun.”

Amen to that!

 


More information about TYHP can be found on www.tyhp.org. Just about any kid can sign up, and the cost is very low and the experience is something you can’t get anywhere else.

Every youth hunt differs, depending on the ranch and time of year, but here are the specifics on this hunt:

  • Time of year: early December
  • Location: Central Texas ranch
  • Accommodations: the landowners’ ranch house
  • Wildlife available to hunt: does and hogs
  • Number of people: 18 (5 hunters, 5 parents, 5 guides, 2 cooks, and the Huntmaster)
  • Food: provided

Feathered Jewelry and Accessories with Kristin Parma

There is little in nature as intricate or as varied as the feathers of our winged friends. After a memorable pheasant or turkey harvest, I save a few – just as soon as I fry up the meat for dinner!

My friend Kristin Parma has found a way that these feathers can be saved and treasured, and not just on a shelf.

She makes hair clips, jewelry, and pins that feature the feathers and ammunition from a hunt.

“I have an innate need to respect the game I seek in the field. My love of birds and bird hunting inspired my passion to make feather jewelry. Every time I construct a piece I am reminded of the journey it took for me to get where I am today, living an outdoor life centered around hunting and conservation.”

How to Order

You can provide your own feathers from a memorable hunt for Kristin to make into custom earrings, hair barrettes, or other accessories. Visit her Cowgirls and Collies Facebook page to contact her or email kristinparma at yahoo dot com.

You all may have read about my turkey hunt with Kristin here, and you may have seen my interview with her about her first deer harvest. If not be sure to check those out! She is a very interesting woman!

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Heritage Game Mounts with Rita Schimpff

This month in my column for Texas Wildlife magazine I featured three talented Texas women who turn trophies into beautiful pieces of art. Today I am featuring Rita Schimpff with Heritage Game Mounts!

{Become a member of Texas Wildlife Association today to read the full column!}


Imagine the taxidermy mounts, tartan fabrics, and oil paintings you might see in a Scottish highlands castle–now, combine that image with Texas’ whitetail deer, bobwhite quail, ducks, and thornbrush. This is the one-of-a-kind artwork Rita Schimpff is known for, and it stands out from traditional taxidermy.

Schimpff’s designs include hand-carved oak leaves and acorns, tartan fabrics milled in Scotland, and hand painted landscapes and wildlife reminiscent of old world hunting scenes. To make it even more personal, your own ranch brands or fabrics can be incorporated.

Here is my interview with the wonderful and talented Rita Schimpff!

How would you describe what you make?

I make elegant antler display panels for exotic and domestic game to be displayed in old world style mountings popular in European Hunting Lodges of the past. My panels are handcrafted here in the USA and designed by me, with deep relief oak leaves and acorns to be used with either the client’s antlers or from my collections of vintage antlers. The panels come in several finishes and can be custom painted. I also paint and represent lines of sporting art and accessories.

What inspired you to start making this art?

I was inspired by family sporting heirlooms and necessity. Our shoulder mount whitetail did not stand out over the fireplace of our new home.  I had long admired the antique Swiss carvings called Brienzerware, but could not find one large enough or that did not cost an arm and a leg, so I created my own!

(Whit’s note: Brienzerware is old-fashioned forest-themed wood carvings like what you would see on a cuckoo clock or in a Swiss cottage.)

We also have a German Charivari, made of tiny sterling oak leaves and acorns that hunters wore on lederhosen to symbolize a successful hunt. These pieces started the creative process.

I continue to derive inspiration from our collection of sporting memorabilia, as well as the Victorian fascination with flora and fauna and their creative ways of display and taxidermy.

“Antlers are nature’s art & sculpture.”

What is your most popular design?

It is a tie between the Monogram Legacy and Tartan Legacy.  They make statements as wedding gifts, board gifts, a memorable hunt, ranch warming or to honor a first trophy.

I incorporate a beautiful line of tartans that are milled in Scotland by one of my favorite designers and many times people supply or have me find their family tartan.

How long have you been making Heritage Game Mounts?

I started my company in 2010 – but I have studied art since I was 10.  I graduated from TCU with a BFA in Commercial Art and a minor in textile design and printing.  I studied Tromp L’oeil, marble and stone finishes at the Day Studio in San Francisco and all the while continued to paint & draw wildlife.

What has been the most interesting piece you have done?

I painted an upland scene on my largest panel and placed a mounted flushing bobwhite quail lifting off the panel.  A lady wanted it as a surprise for her husband and we decided to incorporate their Brittany spaniels.  The pups are long gone, and held a special place in the family.

What inspired your love of wildlife and the outdoors?

My love of wildlife and outdoor pursuits started very young, I was lucky that both sets of grandparents had beautiful farms near San Antonio. I turned the sheep into pets, rode horses, helped with the cattle and learned to drive standard on an old Ford pickup.  And shot my first deer there when I was 10.

Do you like to hunt and if so, what is your favorite thing to hunt and why?

These days our passion centers around dove, upland game birds and salt and fresh water fly fishing.  I got an IGFA super grand slam on trout last summer with my grandfather’s antique bamboo fly rod and reel.  This January I caught my largest redfish on the fly—22 pounds!

How can people can purchase a Heritage Game Mount?

You can purchase the panels by themselves or with installed antlers ready to hang, through my website https://HeritageGameMounts.com or visit my home by appointment.

Garden & Gun Magazine also carries them in their online Mercantile.

 

Can people send in their own antlers to be custom made, and if so, how do they do that?

Yes, people send or drop off their processed antlers.  Often they bring their own fabrics or Ranch Brands to incorporate in a design.

Do you have shows?

I do a number of private shows in Texas each year, along with Christmas in Cowtown in Ft.Worth, Houston Safari Club and special fundraising events at Joshua Creek Ranch and Houston Gun Club-Targets for Tourette’s.

Where can people find you online?

Thank you Rita for sharing your story with us. I loved learning about the European traditions that inspire you! Keep up the good work.

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A Stunning Way to Display Your Hunting Trophy

This month in my column for Texas Wildlife magazine I featured three talented Texas women who turn trophies into beautiful pieces of art. Today I am sharing the first of them–Annlyn Osborn with Haute Horns! I have no doubt you will be as impressed as I me with her work and want to order your own custom set.

{Become a member of Texas Wildlife Association today to read the full column!}


Sometimes the best ideas come on a whim.  That’s how Haute Horns started for Annlyn Osborn, a South Texan and former Fiesta Duchess who makes intricate beaded and painted trophy artwork for clients across the state. Annlyn grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and throughout her life has kept one foot in the city and one on her family’s ranch, where her love of wildlife has blossomed. One night several years ago, her love of the natural world and her affinity for art fell together as an art project and she has been making custom trophy art ever since.

How would you describe what you make?

I like to think that I breathe new life in to old European mounts by beading them.

What inspired you to start making this art?

I’ve always had an affinity for the arts, and growing up spending time at the ranch cultivated a love for animals, so it fell together one night as an art project.

Where do you get inspiration for different designs?

A lot of my designs come from historical art and tribal patterns. I’m a sucker for a symmetrical motif.

What is your most popular design/medium?

Its a toss up between Swarovski TM crystals and seed beads. The crystals can sometimes provide a more stunning display, but the small beads showcase my attention to detail.

What has been the most interesting piece you have done?

Its so hard to pick a favorite, but I recently finished my biggest piece ever, a commissioned Swarovski TM longhorn.

What inspired your love of wildlife and the outdoors?

I hail from a long line of hunters who instilled a love for animals and conservation in my mind. Then, in 2010 I embarked on an eye opening Outward Bound journey that had a powerful impact on how I perceive nature.

Do you like to hunt and if so, what is your favorite thing to hunt and why?

I’ve been very fortunate that my family and I have been able to go on several African safaris that brought us all closer together, but the hunt that stands out in my mind the most was this past October. I took my first bull elk with my dad by my side, after looking for the right one for three years, on my family’s place in New Mexico. Never has a hunt been so rewarding. (Not to mention all the elk steaks.)

Can people send in their own antlers to be custom made, and if so, how do they do that?

Yes, I love taking commissions where the client wants to add a personal touch to a trophy or family heirloom.

Annlyn’s designs add color and flair to any trophy, small or large. I can’t wait to have a trophy worthy of Annlyn’s work!

How to Order

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How to Tell Your Friends Why You Hunt

When someone finds out I hunt, the first question I am usually asked is, “You hunt?! But you wear make up!” The second question I get asked is, “What do you tell people who are against hunting?”

I know that if someone brings the debate up, deep down we are just two people who love wildlife and are trying to protect it. I would take someone with that attitude over someone who doesn’t care about nature any day! Thankfully, arguments against hunting are often rooted in simple misconceptions which can be easily dispelled.

It helps to know what hunting opponents often say:

  • Guns are dangerous and hunters are careless with them, endangering people and wildlife.
  • All animals are legal to be hunted.
  • Hunters leave what they kill in the field to waste.
  • Innocent animals are killed by mistake.
  • Animals get wounded and die slow, painful deaths.
  • Hunters will kill too many animals and they will become endangered.
  • Hunters only care about putting antlers on a wall—they don’t care that a life was taken.

Our Perspective

Here are some ideas that can help you respond…

  • All hunters are required by law to take hunter education, where they learn about shot placement and how to prevent animals from being wounded. Here they also learn gun safety practices, bag limits and hunting seasons, and other rules which keep people and animals safe afield.

  • We eat what we kill. In fact, it is illegal in Texas to shoot a game animal and leave it lying in the field. Just see the wild game recipes on my blog as well as my friend Noel’s My Wild Kitchen blog as proof that we don’t let it go to waste!

Venison Ossobuco with saffron rice

  • Not every animal is legal to shoot. In fact, many are illegal to shoot, and you will receive heavy fines and penalties for killing animals not on the list of approved game animals. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department counts wildlife each year and determines how many we should be allowed to hunt so numbers are sustained. We are also restricted as to when we can hunt them. For example, most game animals can’t be hunted during the season they are giving birth and rearing young. All of these rules keep us from overdrawing our resources.

  • The government even has its own police force, known as game wardens, to implement game laws. North America’s wildlife have rebounded over the last century after the establishment of game laws and enforcement.

 

  • We only shoot what we have a clear shot on and can properly identify, so animals are not mistakenly shot. This is the expectation and standard within our hunting culture. It isn’t “cool” in the hunting world to take the wrong animal—it is actually embarrassing! As a result, accidental deaths of non game animals are far less common than one may think.

  • We care and have utmost respect for any animal’s life taken from the field. Electing to hunt comes with a sense of responsibility—ultimately you are making a choice about the land for better or worse. Hunters are afield more than the average person and would be the first people affected if a wildlife resource was depleted. Therefore, we pay an extra tax on our ammunition and sporting goods to fund protection and improvement of wildlife habitat nationwide—on top of improving wildlife habitat on our own land and financially supporting charities which study and protect wildlife, like Texas Wildlife Association, Wildlife Habitat Federation, Borderlands Research Institute, and many others. Real projects like the Pronghorn antelope conservation efforts in Texas are funded through dollars raised by hunters.

 

  • In poor parts of the world like Africa, without better options, people can be forced to make a living by poaching ivory or overgrazing cattle on land that was once vibrant wildlife habitat. On the other hand, when hunting becomes profitable, good wildlife populations mean good business and they are given an option to conserve. Many African countries don’t have their own game wardens, so protection of wildlife is left in the hands of land owners.

 

  • Last but not least, venison and wild game is grass fed, free range, organic, and farm to table. Also, fun fact, today we have more deer in North America than in any time in our continent’s history.

Are there many more points in this argument? Sure. But this is what I say, because it responds to the criticism I hear most often. Having this chat with inquisitive friends is nothing to be afraid of—I’ve found that people just want to understand, not argue. And trust me, there is no way to change people who just want to argue so don’t waste your time!

May the force be with you ladies!

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What to Wear Turkey Hunting

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Turkey Hunting. Find out all you need to know, from what gun to use to how to pick a hunting spot.

A Girl’s Guide on Whit’s Wilderness wouldn’t be complete without a post about what to wear! I’m a huge believer that you don’t have to sacrifice style just because you’re going hunting, and am sharing my favorite clothing and gear below.

Happy hunting, ladies!

A few things to know…

  • Turkeys have impeccable eyesight so unless you’re sitting in a pop up blind, you’ll need to be decked out in full camo.
  • Wear bug spray and tuck your pants into your boots to avoid chigger bites
  • Comfort is key, you will be sitting for long hours!

Camo Top

I recommend this Wild Rose Apparel camo top for turkey hunting in Texas. The fabric is so light and breezy, you won’t feel like you’re wearing anything.

Photo credit: @wildroseapparel

The pattern is made of roses, and looks so feminine in person.

Where to buy: 

Pants

I have two recommendations here: one is camo and the other is olive green. If you read this blog, you will hear me talk about prAna a LOT!

I have both of these, and I LOVE the prAna pants. They are incredibly comfortable and stretchy, but with enough structure to make them flattering. I like the Prois pants as well, though they are not as great for tucking into boots. They have a slight flare at the ankle and are best suited for hunting in colder weather.

You will want pants that tuck into your boots to keep the chiggers out!

Prana Meme Pants
Prois Pro-edition pants

 

Snake boots

Ordinary cowboy boots would be fine, but ideally if you’re tromping around in brush you should be in snake boots. That said, don’t let not having snake boots keep you from hunting! Just watch for snakes.

These Chippewa boots are really comfortable. I have a wide foot so had to order the men’s to be comfortable, so note they are a little narrow!

Bug Spray

I can’t emphasize this enough, wear bug spray. If you’re sitting on the ground for a while, the creepy crawly critters will make their way into your pants!

Face Paint

I like to do an upside-down antler design.

Hunting Bag

Baseball Hat

I also like to wear a baseball cap for extra camoflage, and think this one is super cute!! Texas Camo Hat from TexasHumor.com

I hope you feel super equipped for your next turkey hunting adventure! Be sure to check out my other posts on the topic of turkey hunting:

 

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Turkey Hunting Basics You Need to Know

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Turkey Hunting. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series! PS. Thanks to Kristin with Anxious Hunter blog for consulting on this post and for teaching me so much!

I never thought turkey hunting would be my cup of tea. Decking myself out in face paint and camo and sitting under a tree just didn’t seem appealing. But like with most things, once I tried it, I found out why others rave about it. Now, I would say it’s one of my favorite animals to hunt–it’s challenging, it tastes great, and it forces me to slow down from my normal fast paced life and sit still for a moment in nature. (Kumbaya.)

I hope this informal guide helps you feel capable of going turkey hunting for the first time. Happy hunting, ladies!

When to Go

I definitely recommend hunting in the Spring season. (There is a Fall season as well.) The wildflowers are out, the weather is cool, and the males are strutting around with their feathers on display for females. Season” defines when it is legal to shoot turkeys, and in Texas the two seasons usually run November – January and April – May. For specific date, look at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department rule book online or pick one up when you get your license.

How Many You Can Take

Also known as the “bag limit”, this refers to how many animals you are allowed to shoot. The annual bag limit in Texas is typically 4 gobblers (males) or bearded hens (female with a long beard hanging down) and one of those can be an eastern turkey. However, bag limits can change from year to year and county to county, so always be sure to check in the rule book I mentioned above before going afield.

What Kind of Gun to Use

I recommend 12 or 20 gauge shotgun. Some people hunt turkeys with rifles but a shotgun will preserve as much meat as possible. Shotgun shells are packed with small bb’s that disperse when you pull the trigger, whereas rifles shoot bullets that are much more impactful on a single point. If you shoot it with bb’s, you will only be picking a few bb’s out of the meat versus having half the meat blown up by the rifle. And, you have larger chance of hitting it in the head because of the dispersed bb’s, versus the single point of a bullet. It’s like drawing a dot with spray paint versus a marker. Comprende?

How to Get a Hunting License

Get your hunting license and take Hunter Education course (required in Texas) in August or September, before the season starts. See post linked above for how to purchase a hunting license.

Where to Shoot the Turkey

Aim for the head.

Time of Day to Hunt

As a rule of thumb, animals are more active in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, and you want to be outside when they are active so that you see them. Turkeys are no different. Choose your hunting location the night before, and get there before the sun has risen. You want it to be dark when you arrive in the morning so you have time to get in position before the turkeys come. In the evenings, head out around 4:30. I enjoy hunting in the morning because the birds are more lively and curious at that time, and in the evenings they are not as easy to attract. But that has just been my experience so far.

How to Attract a Turkey

With decoys and calls!

  • Calls: The idea is to replicate the sound of a turkeys clucking and gobbling. (Which are very comical sounds! Check it out on YouTube.) A male turkey, also known as a tom, is going to be motivated by two things: mating or territory. The sound of female turkeys is attractive to him, and the sound of another gobbler is going to make him very curious about who is around. Complete set here.
  • Decoys: These are lightweight, plastic turkeys that you set out about 30 yards from where you are sitting. I watched a big tom strut around our decoys trying to prove his worth to the hens, and it was a lot of fun to watch.

Terminology to Know

Tom – Adult male turkey

Hen – female turkey

Jake – young male turkey

Gobbler – a male turkey of any age, either a tom or a jake

How Far Away to Shoot

If you are using a 12 gauge shotgun, you’ll want to shoot within 40 yards. This is one of the things that makes turkey hunting challenging and therefore a lot of fun–you have to call the turkey in to within 40 yards, and to do so you have to be very quiet and camouflaged. An easy way to measure distance is to set your decoys 30 paces (1 pace is about a yard) from where you’ll be sitting, and that will give you a good guideline. Don’t shoot anything farther than 10 yards from your decoys.

Scout the Evening Before

The evening before you go hunting, go outside and find out where the turkeys are roosting and what their patterns are–if any, because you’ll want to hunt in that area. Typically they like to roost in tall, old trees near water. You can use a predator call (like a coyote, which you can buy here on Amazon) to get them to gobble and tell you where they are. Or you can use your turkey call and they will gobble back if they hear you.

How to Pick Where to Hunt

Set up either under where they are roosting or just a short ways away (around 200 yards) so you can draw them in with your calls and decoys.

The idea is to blend into the landscape, so find a tree and sit with your back to it. You don’t want to be sticking out like a sore thumb! Even better if you can find a tree with some foliage to camouflage you. Make sure your line of sight for where you plan to shoot is clear, and there aren’t any branches or brush in the way of your shot. Not that you can always predict which way a turkey is coming, but in general try not to have brush blocking anywhere you may want to shoot.

BTW, what is a beard and why does it matter?

This was one of those questions I was too scared to ask when I was still learning about turkey hunting! Just as deer trophies are measured by the size of their antlers, turkeys are measured by the length of their beard. Why? I don’t know. The beard grows out of their chest and is a clump of black course hair that hangs down about four or so inches, or more depending on how old the turkey is.

People also measure turkey’s spurs, which are the little hooked talon you see kind of like a thumb in this picture. The longer the spur, the older the turkey.

Tag Your Bird

Once you shoot a game animal in Texas, it is imperative that you tag it with the tags that come with your hunting license. As you can see in the above picture, this turkey was tagged using a zip tie. Duct tape also works great. You will get fined if a Game Warden encounters you with wild game and no tag!

Good luck out there, y’all! Fellow turkey hunters feel free to chime in with good advice.

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