Editor’s Note: Mary Jane Calvey of Oklahoma City went turkey hunting for the first time this spring. She is 69.
It seemed like a good idea in February when I bid on a turkey hunt at the Leadership Oklahoma auction.
It was something I always wanted to try. The Woodward Industrial Foundation put together a whole package: hotel room, gas card, dinner with the local hosts and an early morning turkey hunt on April 26.
They would take care of everything. All I needed to do was learn how to shoot. I hadn’t fired a shotgun in 50 years.
I borrowed a junior pump-action shotgun from one of my grandson’s friends and made an appointment for a shooting lesson at the H&H Shooting Sports Complex.
I bounced back a foot after my first shot at the paper turkey target. “Just hold the gun closer in between your shoulder and chest and lean forward,” my instructor said.
I hit the target, high and to the left. “Just aim a little below and to the right,” he said.
I hit the target bracket and sent one of the clips flying. “Try again and really hold the gun in close,” was his next piece of advice.
My next shot was only a little closer. “Let me see if I can find a 20 gauge semi-automatic for you to try,” he said.
He left and returned with a longer but lighter 20 gauge semi-automatic the store had for sale. This Benelli fit me much better and I hit the target several times.
By now I was really sore and decided to quit, but returned a few days later for a second lesson. This time the target included a picture of a turkey taped over it and tutoring on where to shoot the bird.
My shotgun instructor explained that you don’t aim at the body of the bird because you then would be eating lead and your shot might only wound the bird.
After several rounds, my shots were true and we were high-fiving. I was as ready as a 69-year-old novice could be for her first turkey hunt.
The night breezes were still blowing when we left the pickup that morning near an oil lease and began walking to our nest, a mix of cedar trees and branches on the crest of a small canyon near Mooreland.
My guide, Ty Hensley, led the way and carried my new shotgun as we silently maneuvered in the dark over uneven ground. That was a good thing because as we stepped over some branches my boot caught on some barbed wired. I fell to my knees and stayed there until they could untangle the unseen hazard.
The morning was still dark as we prepared our blind for the turkey migration. Ty explained that a flock of turkeys were roosting in trees near the bottom of the draw.
I sat and listened and heard some night birds calling, then a train whistle in the distance followed by the moo of a cow somewhere nearby.
We were straining for the sounds of turkeys when a “gobble-gobble” sounded quite near. Ty made sure my 20 gauge was loaded and gestured to me where the turkeys usually scurried out of the gully and into open ground where they foraged most mornings.
I could see just the glimmer of morning light in the distance when we heard the faint sound from a hen and then several more gobbles.
It seemed like forever before Ty spotted shadowy figures against the hillside. I was worried how to distinguish between the prohibited hens and bearded toms, but after a few had passed I could tell by size alone as well as the undecorated heads of the females.
“There, right there, two males going up the hill,” he whispered.
On my knees I leaned forward, trying to keep the cedar branches as cover, raised my shotgun and fired at the lead bird. I thought it was a good shot but the startled turkey struggled into the air and flew off lowly toward the canyon wall.
Several more hens later scuttled in front of us and then my guide whispered that two more gobblers were coming toward us.
It took me a minute to sort them out from the dried grasses on the hillside. They were close. Again, I slowly leaned forward and fired a shot at the nearest bird.
How did I miss at that range? We stayed in the blind as gobbling continued down in the canyon.
By now it was nearly full daylight and Ty searched the hillsides with his binoculars. He spotted several males and one female climbing out of the gully on the other side.
They were too far away and we could only watch as they made their way to safety. We then trudged back toward the truck to go scout another turkey hangout.
It was a spot that had yielded several birds for the Lieutenant Governor’s turkey hunt the week before. We stayed at the edge of the trees and circled around the area. We spotted two tangles of feathers near a coyote den but no live turkeys.
Back in the truck, and further on, we spotted two turkeys fighting in the distance with a third refereeing. It was fascinating to watch until they disappeared over the crest of the hill.
We got out of the truck to stalk them, hoping to surprise them while they were busy fighting, but they surprised us and were nowhere to be seen as we scoured the area.
It was getting warm when we checked in with the others in our hunting party, guide Chris Hensley and Jason Leinen of Oklahoma City. They had seen some birds that morning but weren’t close enough to fire a shot.
We joined forces and headed for a more densely wooded area with less cedar trees for one last attempt. Chris set up a turkey decoy and started working a wooden box call.
We hunkered behind tree trunks and waited as some turkeys began approaching, appearing curious about the decoy. Jason was able to bag a gobbler while my shot only sent the bird flying.
The guides fileted Jason’s bird then brought us back to the hotel for the return trip home. I was tired, hungry and disappointed that I didn’t harvest a turkey, but thrilled to have tried.
Maybe I will try again next year when I am 70. I learned my son has turkeys on his land near Cashion.