MY FIRST SUCCESSFUL SOLO HUNT... by Maranda Ratcliff
It’s not very often that I say publicly that I am EXTREMELY proud of myself. But May 3, 2017 I had my very first successful solo hunt. This was the very first turkey I’ve ever shot. And if you understood how many hours I put into finding and harvesting this bird, you’d understand.
HERE'S MY STORY
I’d been out probably 10 times prior to this hunt in the season, give or take. I’d had close encounters almost every time. But turkeys are smart, fast, agile, and quiet (when they’re not gobbling). These were public land hunts, and trust me, these turkeys were not tame. The night before my harvest, I found the roosting tree in a new hunting spot that I wasn’t familiar with prior in the season.
This morning I came back before daylight and set up a decoy. Big Boy Tom was in the tree with his back to me and I watched him until he flew out of the tree. He went to the next hillside over. I packed up my decoy and followed him. By this time it was light out. I watched him strut and flip his fan up and down. I listened to him gobble like crazy.
He was all by himself. I couldn’t set up a decoy, but I blew my call a few times and he responded. Slowly he made his way further and further from me until I couldn’t see or hear him anymore. Then I decided to try and follow him. I saw his fan in the distance, but as I got closer, I lost him again. I decided to just quietly glass the area and maybe walk until I found the flock.
At this point, I could hear some hens yelping off and on. At the point where I about gave up for the morning, I walked around a corner and saw a head. I quickly backed up and squatted down. I watched several turkeys walked over the hillside, and this big boy was last in line. I ran back down the trail and over the hillside and watched the hens climb up the other ridge, and then I saw Mr. Tom. I don’t even remember flipping my safety off as I made a 20 yard shot and kill. BIG BIRD DOWN.
At this point, I think I said a few choice words, purely out of excitement. Then the tears came… I DID IT. I did ALL of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love hunting with my boyfriend, dad, and friends. But this time, I planned this hunt. I beat this beautiful animal at his own game.
THANK GOD FOR THE OUTDOORS
I’ve hunted my whole life and shot plenty of animals. But for some reason, when I harvested this turkey, I felt a sense of remorse I’d never experienced before. I felt bad for taking the life of such a beautiful animal. He had no idea I was out in his home hunting him that morning. He had no idea he was breathing his last breaths on May 3, 2017. After I shot this Tom, I remember sitting on my knees holding my chest, breathing hard while a few tears ran down my cheek. I’m sure it was a mixture of adrenaline and remorse, but I remember being so thankful that I was not that bird. I remember thanking God for the experience and the way he weighed this feeling on my heart, because I sometimes forget how lucky I am to live in a country where I am safe and I am protected. The last time I encountered this feeling was a little over a year ago on my mission trip to El Salvador when I listened to story after story about the danger and fear several women and families encountered every single day of their lives. And it made me so grateful to never have experienced that in my life. It’s little moments like this that make hunting such an important part of my life. Little moments like these that remind me about the important things in life – being grateful, thankful, and blessed. Thank God I’m an American. Thank God for the great outdoors.
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing ??????