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A First Successful Hunt to Remember

Sarah Eckelkamp

For those of you who were gracious enough to read my introduction blog post last season, you might remember that my first two turkey seasons in Missouri ended with no bird, but by blog ended with, "I'll be back!" And back I am… because I have a competitive spirit and I was bound and determined to learn more about the sport of hunting and have a chance at pulling the trigger myself. Now that my heart has finally stopped thumping out of my chest from the adrenaline of my latest hunt, I can sit down and share the details

My dad, Dennis Brune, owner of ALPS Brands and I headed out for a 14-hour drive from Missouri to South Dakota in pursuit of my first turkey. Due to our heavy involvement in the Save The Lifestyle campaign and Dennis's experience the prior year with his buddy Bob Swanson's daughter Jenna getting her first turkey, Dennis was pretty eager to get me, his inexperienced hunting daughter, out for an opportunity, too. Let me preface by saying that I'm 20 weeks pregnant, which made the style of hunting we were doing a tad more challenging. I don't say this for sympathy or excuses, I say this to encourage anyone considering hunting to give it a shot. Don't let any circumstance hold you back from trying something new, because more than likely, the situation can be altered to your condition (especially if you're along with an experienced mentor, like I was… shout out to Ken Byers and his amazing guidance!)

Sarah and DennisGoing into the hunt, I had a lot of doubts, fears, and questions. Would I be quick enough? Could I get low enough and out of sight with a baby in tow? Would I know when it was time to turn off the safety and pull the trigger? What happens if I miss? Will I let my dad or myself down? Probably all common questions to a beginner, and it was time for me to find the answer to those questions and doubts. During our first evening hunt, we parked the truck after spotting a group, and as Ken said, "it's time to move quick." And we did. So quick we about ran into another flock we hadn't originally seen. "Down, down, down!" he whispered. We got down and quickly backtracked and found a new setup to wait, watch, and get our adrenaline reeled in a bit. Hadn't we just left the truck 5 minutes ago? Things were escalating quickly! No time to question myself now, a tom was struttin' straight my way. "Should I turn my safety off?" I asked Ken. "YES! AND SHOOT!" he replied. I took time to briefly think about the key points my dad had coached me on when target practicing earlier in the week, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger. It was evident by my dad's and Ken's faces that I had smoked my first gobbler and the feeling of victory and satisfaction immediately entered my body. I hope it's a feeling I'll never forget and it's a feeling that I know will keep me coming back for more, in seasons to come.

The next time we went out, we were exiting the truck before sunrise, and heard gobbles from every direction possible. I'll never forget my new guide, Toby's comment of, "now that's what I call surround sound," because it was the best way to describe what we were experiencing. There's something about hearing that early morning "gobble gobble gobble" to get your blood flowing, but hearing that times 20 will really get you hyped. We trekked into a spot that we thought would be good after the birds came down from the roost and in no time, I was back in my hunched shooting position 15 yards away from being face-to-face with another Tom. After some high-fiving and deep breaths, we went to retrieve my bird and Toby couldn't contain his excitement about the length of the spurs. "It's a limb hanger!" he kept repeating. All that lingo that was very foreign to this newbie. I thought he was just trying to make me feel good, but it turns out that a limb hanger is something to be excited about. Of course, without Toby's help of getting me to the right spot at the right time, and calling him in, I wouldn't have been in the position to shoot that bird, so it was truly a team effort. I was officially tagged out and I not only had a successful hunt, but had a fun and memorable hunt with my dad, which was the true goal of the trip. When I got back home to Missouri and saw my excited 5-year-old, the first thing he said when I got out of the truck was, "I like your upside-down turkey the best, Mom!" (the limb hanger). I can't wait to take him out with me someday soon and continue to share in his excitement and make our own memories of time spent outdoors.