A Successful Turkey Hunt—Where I Killed Nothing

Assistant Online Editor Sarah Smith Barnum recently returned from a spring turkey hunt in Kentucky sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and the National Wild Turkey Federation. She didn't tag out, but she's not too broken up about it. Find out why here.

After sitting in a blind to no avail for over an hour, Brenda Valentine and I took to the stalk. At the top of a hill on a dirt path next to a cornfield it took seconds for our eyes to see gobblers, and our bellies to hit the ground.

Connie and Butch McElwain of Whitetail Creek Outfitters in Cadiz, Ky., had said that it was too early for snakes, but Tammy Sapp of Bass Pro Shops outfitted us with RedHead's Bone-Dry Bayou Zip Waterproof Snake Boots just in case. With my pants tightly tucked into the comfy boots and tick spray on all my gear, I felt better about being a part of the terrain.

Brenda and I scrambled into the woods. Trying to move with the wind and keep our footsteps simultaneousMelanie Swearingen of NWTF and her Kentucky gobbler., we made our way quietly to the next setup. I rested my gun on a small tree limb and stood, unmoving, for over an hour watching four beautiful gobblers strut like there was no tomorrow (sadly, for me, they would have a tomorrow after all). It was one of the longest hours of my life. Geared up with my moisture-wicking SHE Outdoor Pullover Hoodie, I braved the Kentucky heat. The handy thumbholes on the hoodie pulled up over my RedHead Strut Zone Touch Tip gloves kept my hands concealed and safe from the local creepy crawlies.

Of course, as turkeys are wont to do, the gobblers did the opposite of what we hoped and moved further down the cornfield. The corn stalks and distance made it impossible to take a shot—that, and the fact that the birds never came out of full strut. Not once.

Resolving to come back and try again, we tracked the gobblers for nearly four hours before giving up for the morning. After lunch we set up in an area where we thought the tom's would pass on their way to roost. We sat and sat, and sat some more until it was quitting time. They stood us up.

I should have been deflated and discouraged, but actually felt just the opposite. I am disappointed that I didn't tag out, but as the saying goes, "If I killed something every time it would be called killing, not hunting." I'm one to look on the bright side. And this hunt had a very bright side. I spent quality time with the "First Lady of Hunting," who explained each move we made and why we were making it. I learned a ton more about turkeys and turkey hunting. I met Harold Knight and Dave Hale of Knight & Hale Game Calls. I learned how to use a straw as a turkey call. I ate hush puppies for the first time—about ten of them, to be precise. During some of our downtime in the woods, Brenda and I wrote the "12 Days of Turkey Season" song, and sang it to the group. And best of all I made great new friends, and witnessed three deserving hunters, including two first-timers, get their gobblers! It's not always about the killing.

Lisa Densmore and Kristine Houtman with their first turkeys.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Densmore/www.LisaDensmore.com

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4 Responses to A Successful Turkey Hunt—Where I Killed Nothing

Harold Lee wrote:
April 24, 2014

As you said not all hunts have to end with a kill. As long as you had fun then it was successful. There is always next year.

K.J. Houtman wrote:
April 21, 2014

What a great story! Thanks for the props on my first Tom. :-) - Kristine

connie mcelwain wrote:
April 21, 2014

Sara did a great job. I could not beliebe she had never tasted hushpuppies! What a great group of ladies.

Brenda Valentine wrote:
April 21, 2014

I can't recall having more fun belly crawling through the briars or being so close to so many fine Longbeards without getting one. Your upbeat attitude contributed to the wonderful event.