Spring of 2017 was the first season I have ever hunted turkeys, and on May 10, 2017 I shot my first tom on my first successful solo hunt. Instead of merely telling you the story of my hunt, I am going to share with you 5 reasons why I think every hunter should experience a successful solo hunt.
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1. You Have an Opportunity to Prove You are a Competent Hunter
I have been lucky enough to hunt with several experienced life-long hunters over the course of my life, and I have learned a lot from them. However, I always felt that I followed them around and THEY put me on the animals I harvested. I had been eager for a long time to prove to myself that I had learned and practiced enough to be successful on my own. When nobody was free to join me on my final spring turkey hunt of 2017, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to prove to myself that I could do it. Not so secretly, I also wanted to prove to my Dad and a few others that I was a competent hunter (they’d never admit to it, but I knew they doubted my success, LOL). So when I went out there by myself that morning, I told myself I better not come home until I had a turkey slung over my shoulder. It wasn’t easy, it didn’t go as planned, but slinging a big tom over my shoulder is exactly what I did that day. And it was one of my proudest and most humbling moments to date. I have to think my old man was pretty proud of me too, because he surprised me with this beautiful mount of my bird.
2. You Must Hone Your Skills and Learn to Trust Your Instincts
As I mentioned before, spring 2017 was my first season hunting turkeys. Turkeys are smart, agile, and sneaky animals. One second you might see them, the next they’ve disappeared out of thin air. But after multiple turkey hunts, getting into lot of birds, watching friends fill their tags, and practicing my turkey calls, I felt I knew enough to go out on my own. I got my Primos Mastering The Art Turkey Call ready and I practiced hard (these diaphragm calls are super easy to use and they come with an awesome tutorial CD). I also spent several hours and evenings in the public land section I intended to hunt, listening for turkeys and finding their roosting trees. The morning I walked in to hunt, I spotted a tom in the top of a tree before daylight. I set up my decoy 30 yards from where I sat, waited until he started gobbling, and then I threw him some clucks. He responded and kept talking for about ten minutes until he decided to fly out of the roosting tree the other direction from where I was sitting. And that’s when practice and instincts really came into play… I knew I could find him if I left my decoy behind and put a stalk on him.
3. You Realize How Wonderfully Made God’s Creation Is
When you are out on your own in the wilderness, you are fully able to focus on the beauty of your surroundings. The day that I shot my first turkey, I really experienced how wonderfully made God’s creation is. When I finally found my tom again, he was strutting around on top of a cliff covered in thick green grass, flipping his fan up and down, and walking around like he owned the place. He had no idea I was there, and when I’d chirp at him, he would routinely gobble back. When he started slowly making his way toward me, I really thought he might end up in my lap. I kept my eyes on him the whole time (he really was hard to miss), but before I knew it, I couldn’t see him anymore. I waited a few minutes to see if he was still coming my way. Nothing. I chirped at him one more time. No response. I couldn’t help but think, “what an amazing bird.” One minute you can’t miss him between the fan flipping and the gobbling… The next, he’s gone, silent, and perfectly camouflaged. That moment alone, watching that bird in his natural element is a memory only I will ever have. Nobody else saw the beauty of what I saw that day, and it will be a memory I will never forget.
4. You Might Have a Spiritual Encounter
After I lost the tom for the second time, I decided to pack things up and look for him again. I walked and glassed every area I thought he might have escaped to. I saw nothing. I walked around a couple hills, glassed the hillsides across meadow, and checked out the watering holes. I still saw nothing. I was pretty bummed and about ready to give up, but I figured I might as well hunt my way back to my rig. Just like clockwork, I turned the corner around the next hill and saw seven tiny turkey heads. I quickly and quietly backed up to a spot where they couldn’t see me and made a game plan. Clearly having been spooked, they began running down through the coulee on the way to the other hillside. There was thick timber between them and myself, and consequently, no shot. I quickly backtracked around the brush and ran down the hillside as the flock of birds started flying towards the other hillside. 10 yards away from where I was standing, and the last bird to fly off… my tom. Instinctually, I pulled my pointer 12 gauge up to my shoulder, flipped my safety off, shot him once right as he was taking off, and again when he landed on the other hillside 50 yards away. I DID IT. I remember opening up my shotgun to eject the shells, hitting my knees, and bawling. I was a mixture of happy, excited, overwhelmed, proud, and humbled. Hunting that beautiful bird all by myself was such an amazing experience and I instantly knew I’d never be able to relive that moment. As I sat there with tears welling down my cheeks, I remember feeling God touch my heart, telling me that I was enough and that my hard work had paid off. I have to think that He was there through the whole hunt… there’s no way I could have gotten quite that lucky if it weren’t the case.
5. You Can Take as Long As You Need to Capture the Photos
I wanted the picture to turn out amazing. Too many of my harvests in the past have been done injustice by poor quality photos, and I knew this hunt and this bird deserved great photos. Thinking ahead, I brought along my cell phone tripod, set it up, got my bird positioned exactly how I wanted him to look, and started a video. I moved myself around a bunch, repositioned myself and the bird multiple times, made sure the sun was hitting us right. I was able to retrieve some awesome still shots from the video. I also took several close up photos of him, got a shot of myself packing him out, and when I was convinced I had some quality photos (about 30 minutes later), I packed everything up, threw my first tom turkey with a thick 9″ beard over my shoulder, and headed home.
I highly recommend this light, compact tripod for all hunting trips. Even if you aren’t alone, you can snap that photo of the whole group! Ravelli Light Weight Aluminum Tripod (APLT3 53″) Includes Universal Smartphone Mount
BEST. DAY. EVER. I have a tough time saying my turkey is the “coolest” animal I’ve ever harvested, but I can honestly say it’s my favorite hunt to date. My wish for all hunters out there is that they get to experience a successful solo hunt as well.
Have you experienced a successful solo hunt? What did it feel like to you? What did you learn?
Until next time,