If you didn’t grow up in a family that hunts, taking that first step into life as a hunter can feel more like a giant leap forward. More and more women are taking that giant leap than ever before, and if you’d like to join us, March 2021 is the time to do it. That’s because March is the beginning of turkey seasons nationwide, and a turkey hunt is quite possibly the perfect first hunt.
To a seasoned hunter, the above is a bold statement. That’s because seasoned turkey hunters know that Ben Franklin wasn’t just joshin’ when he said the wild turkey should have been America’s official bird. Turkeys may look goofy, but they’re the geniuses of North American game animals. Between their high intelligence and their sharp vision, they can be challenging to hunt indeed … and newbie hunters will love every second of it.
1. “Aww, How Cute”—Nobody
Let’s face it: Many would-be hunters just aren’t sure that they could bring themselves to shoot an animal that’s cute. For the overwhelming majority of us, that fear disappears the moment we squeeze the trigger (and never comes back). The question is how to get a new hunter to the point of squeezing that trigger for the first time. Here’s where the turkey comes into its own: From its naked head, to its rugose wattles, to its beady black eyes, the wild turkey is no-alibi U-G-L-Y.
The reasons why people—especially people who were raised in suburbia—tend to over-identify with mammals are complex. When the game is not only avian but also sporting a face that would stop a clock, that psychological barrier to hunting disappears.
2. Turkeys Taste Good
There’s another psychological barrier that many new hunters must surmount, and that is the question of eating the game. We know that ethical hunters do their very best to use the animal’s meat, but some people erroneously believe that wild game tastes bad. Most Americans just don’t regularly consume enough venison or rabbit to think of it as a regular mealtime protein. Not so with turkeys! Not only do most people eat turkey meat regularly, most people enjoy it.
What’s more, thanks to Thanksgiving, most Americans are very familiar with what a plucked, field-dressed turkey looks like. Anyone who’s prepared one has already long since gotten past that “disgust response” that new hunters sometimes experience when field-dressing a mammal.
3. Turkeys Talk Back
Another reason why turkey hunting is great for new hunters is that, as NRA Women contributor Nikki Boxler recently pointed out, they’re interactive. Hunting big-game mammals like whitetail deer can be … well, a little boring. Not so with turkeys. You’re calling out to them, listening to their responses, and then adjusting. Sometimes you’ll hide at the base of a tree playing Statue in your head-to-toe camo. Sometimes you’ll grab your shotgun and sneak through the terrain after the turkeys. It’s a waiting game, but it’s also a battle of wits (with a remarkably well-armed foe). Turkey hunting is action-packed in a way that big-game hunting often isn’t.
4. All Turkeys Are Trophies
Whitetail deer are, hooves-down, the most popular American game animal … but there are a lot of little rules around what qualifies a buck as a “trophy,” and those rules can be confusing. (Is that a young buck with good genes or an old buck with bad ones?) Being able to field-judge big-game animals is a skill that comes with time.
That all goes out the window with tom turkeys. Sure, people do care whether they got a big bird or not. Sometimes you’ll hear turkey hunters excited about a bird with big spurs or a long beard. The truth, however, is that all turkey hunters know that whatever legal bird comes in is the bird you should shoot. (Emphasis on “legal.” Always check your local game laws before heading afield!) That means, essentially, that all turkeys are trophies.
Even if they have a face only a mother—or an NRA Woman—could love.