By Lee Ann McQuillin
December of 2017 our Sportswomen United founder Courtney asked me to go with her on an all girls semi-guided turkey hunt with Xtreme Hunts in Kansas. I was honestly scared to go since I have never been on a semi-guided hunt before with all women. My dad and/or husband have always been with me and we have mostly hunted fully guided hunts. I knew what I was doing when it came to turkey hunting, but lacked the confidence since I had always had someone with me. I knew this was the perfect opportunity to go on a hunt without my “crutches” and with a group of three other women who I trusted and are avid hunters. Our group of hunters included Lauren, Courtney, Krystle, and myself. We also got our good friend Brittany to come take pictures and videos of our hunts since she only lived a couple hours away. I confirmed my hunt, paid my part, packed my bags, and we headed out after work on Wednesday May 2, 2018. You can image how much luggage three women had, but with a little help from the husband, we managed to load everything into my mom’s suburban. Krystle and Brittany were already in Kansas and met up with us on Thursday morning. We could not contain our excitement. We unloaded our luggage, picked our rooms, and got ready to go hunting.
We met downstairs and gathered around the dinner table. Tony put us in groups, showed us where to go on the map, the property lines, and where he had been seeing birds. The first afternoon I got paired up Brittany and I told her “Now you know we won’t kill anything since you have the camera.” We giggled and she said, “You never know.” We grabbed our gear, loaded up on snacks (never forget your snacks), and headed out. With the windows rolled down, music blaring, and wind in our faces we couldn’t be any more excited about our hunt together. When Tony dropped me and Brittany off, I realized I forgot my gun. Yes my GUN! I was so embarrassed. Brittany encouraged me and quickly reminded me that it happens to the best of us. We headed back to the camp, grabbed my gun, and back out we went. We had to walk across a cut corn field that was gumbo mud from rain to get to our spot. Talk about burning calf muscles. I think I made Brittany stop about twenty times to catch my breath. We got to the box stand that Tony wanted us to hunt in, and we quickly decided that we were not going to fight the wasps. Nope!!! We got set up on the ground in front of the box stand and pulled out our snacks. After all, we just had a good workout! We prayed to the turkey gods and were granted nonstop action. We had a big group of hens that hung out close to us and a big ol' Tom that toyed with our emotions, but never come in gun range. He sure did know how to put on a good show for us and let us think we had an opportunity at him. We giggled, gossiped, ate snacks and enjoyed our time together in the great outdoors. That is what hunting is all about, right? The evening came to a close, and we packed up and made the journey back to the truck. We got back to the camp eager to hear all about the other girls hunt and tell our story as well. We all sat down for dinner, told our stories, laughed until tears came out of our eyes, then headed to bed with anticipation of going out the next morning and hearing those thunder chickens gobble.
The next morning Brittany went with Courtney and Krystle to film them, and Lauren and I went by ourselves. I dropped Lauren off at her spot then headed back to the spot I hunted the previous evening. I have always been terrified of the dark. Don’t let me hear a coyote howl near me. No thank you! I quickly walked to my spot and exhaled when I finally arrived. I almost didn’t go out because I was so scared being by myself. Yep, I was just going to sit in my vehicle til it got daylight! I got settled in and enjoyed listening to the woods come alive and watched the sunrise. I saw seven hens feeding back and forth across the field. After a few hours, I decided to get up and go to another spot closer to where I had parked because Tony told me he had seen a Tom there a few days earlier. I found a good little spot, got set up and of course it was snack time. I had not seen anything and had been texting Lauren about what time we should leave. I told her at ten o’clock I would go back to where I was originally sitting to make sure nothing was in that field, and then I would head her way. Ten o’clock came and I was thinking to myself, Hallelujah! It’s time to go and it will be lunch time by the time we got back to camp. I started heading back to my original spot. I walked close to the wooded edge of the field in case I saw a turkey on the other side and could hide quickly. When I got close to the spot, I started creeping up to the field. There was a small strip of woods that separated the two fields, and I was still on the side where we had been walking in. I saw two red heads through the small patch of woods where I had been originally sitting. Literally in the exact spot I was sitting at on the edge of the field that morning! The closest one to me gobbled, and I dropped to the ground. I could hardly catch my breath, and knew I better get it together. I saw a broken tree limb lying across the edge of the woods, and I belly crawled to it. I got set up and prayed they would come my way. I saw the closest one start walking down the tree line toward me. I told myself slow and steady as I got my gun propped up on the limb and turned towards the way he was walking. I thought to myself, this is your moment Lee Ann…. You got this girl’. I got the first gobbler in my scope, and I was ready. At that moment, they both turned and decided to cross in front of me. No way that this is really happening. Walking right in front of me in the wide open? Thank you turkey gods! I slowly turned a little to my right and focused on the one closest to me and put his head in the crosshairs, took a deep breath, and dropped him. Wait what is that behind him? Oh my goodness! I hit both birds! I knew in Kansas you can kill two birds in one day so I wasn't really paying attention to the other one to make sure he was out of the way. I felt that if it happened then it was meant to be, but I wasn’t planning it. I jumped up and started doing my little victory dance. I realized I had no one there to celebrate with me. I got my phone out and just started videoing. My first 2 in 1, first time in Kansas, first time without my dad or husband being anywhere near me, first time truly by myself, and my first all girls hunting trip - what a moment to remember. These animals are truly remarkable and very intelligent. I could not believe it and I gave all the glory to our wonderful God.
My phone started blowing up from the girls and Tony because they had heard my shot. I had not responded to them yet because… you know dancing, videoing myself, and just really living in that moment. Then I remembered Lauren. I texted her, told her what happened, and that I would come get her so she could help me carry out my two birds. I mean a girl needs help carrying out two bird’s right? I walked all the way back to the truck only to get a text from Tony saying the coyotes will get the birds if I leave them. I was thinking to myself, “There is no way I can carry two birds at one time. I am already worn out from walking back and forth across that gumbo mud field. What am I going to do? Make two trips?” I loaded up all my gear in the truck and headed back out to get my two birds. I told myself/ “You got this. Just put one over each shoulder and focus.” I made about three stops and when I finally made it back to the truck, I just collapsed on the ground. Talk about an emotional feeling. I had just killed two birds with one shot and carried both of them out by myself - quite an accomplishment for myself. I literally laid on the side of the road till I could catch my breath and get the birds loaded up. Thankfully no one drove by because they would have either had a good laugh or called 911.
I got the birds loaded up, strapped down, and then headed over to get Lauren to start the celebration. Dancing, singing, and taking tons of pictures were a must. We couldn’t wait for the other girls and Tony to get back to camp. Once they arrived, the main celebratory dance happened, the story telling began, and tons of videos and pictures were taken. It was such a great felling having all of these women there supporting me and truly happy for me with no jealousy, just love and excitement.
The rest of my hunts were spent being Lauren’s “guide” or more like a tag along. We climbed over barbed wire fences, crawled through poison ivy, belly crawled across a field, got ticks on us, ate tons of snacks, and giggled til our bellies hurt. We never could get that big ol Tom to get in gun range for Lauren. We tried everything and the closest he got was 80 yards. I knew I was not comfortable shooting at 80 yards, but I let Lauren make that decision for herself and she felt the same way. We felt defeated. I knew Lauren had missed a bird the year before and I really wanted to witness her redeem herself. This is why I have a love/hate relationship with these birds - you think you have them figured out and then they just laugh at you. We both took home lessons from our trip as well as good friendship. Courtney, Krystle, and Tony hunted together and then separately but ultimately had about the same luck as me and Lauren. They had a couple big Toms hung up on the property fence line only about 20 yards away, talk about heart breaking. There was a lot of hard work, determination, tons of laughter and memories, but left just short of a turkey harvest.
We were all packed up Sunday morning ready to get home to our husbands with a sad feeling since our trip was over. We had such a good time together and it was a learning experience for all. Tony was a fantastic guide and made us feel welcomed. He explained everything and made us feel comfortable. Never once did he doubt our hunting abilities. He had his hands full with five crazy girls, but he sure loved being surrounded by women with their own personality, style, determination, respect, and a passion for the outdoors like no other. I highly recommend this outfitter. Ms. Marty was our cook and made sure our bellies were always full. She left us with a note that I wanted to share as well.
“Good Morning ladies & Tony,
It has been a pleasure to have you in camp. Hope the beauty of nature has treated you with excitement and pictures in your minds you will remember. If your bounty of birds be short – always remember the other wonderful experiences of being together has enriched you with. Be safe in your travels, hunt with passion, and live life to its fullest.