Kate Desmond had never even thought about going hunting prior to winning a drawing for a free turkey hunt at NRA’s inaugural Great American Hunting and Outdoor Show in January. Attending the event as a volunteer, Desmond took a chance and bought six raffle tickets for a hunting trip to Knowlton’s Laguna Vista Ranch in Pearsall, Texas, which was being sponsored by NRA’s Women On Target® Hunting Programs.
As luck would have it, Washington Redskins great and NRA Board Member Dave Butz was on hand for the drawing, and he pulled Desmond’s name from a pool of approximately 100 entries.
“I think I did a little dance actually after my name was picked because I was so excited,” Desmond said.
Now, after taking her very first gobbler, Desmond says she’s hooked on hunting for life.
“It was just the most incredible experience I think I’ve ever had, to be honest with you,” said Desmond, a property manager from Westminster, Md. “It really was. I’m still fired up.”
Prior to her hunt, Desmond was mentored by Ann Marie Foster, NRA Women On Target Hunting Programs coordinator, on what to expect from her first hunt. Desmond was already familiar with firearms and had shot sporting clays before, but she had never considered giving hunting a try.
“I’ve shot before and I have my own gun, but I’ve always just done sporting clays,” she said. “I’ve never hunted and never even thought of hunting before this.”
The hunt was scheduled for Friday to Sunday, April 9-11, so Desmond and Foster set out for San Antonio with hopes of getting Desmond her first turkey while the birds were still gobbling. She didn’t know it then, but one of the best turkey callers in the business, Brad Cantrell of the Primos Hunting Calls Pro Staff, would be her guide and caller for the hunt.
“I never knew you could get such a thrill out of hearing a turkey gobble!” she said.
They had a tom on the hook on Friday but he got hung up and wouldn’t cross a fence line. Saturday, however, was a different story. They didn’t hear a gobble that morning—something the guides said is unusual for the ranch—but the activity picked up in the afternoon.
At 3 p.m. they set up, and an hour later a gobbler sounded off and began working their way.
“It’s a little nerve-racking up until when you hear him and he’s right there and he’s drumming,” Desmond said. “What was really awesome was that he came in full-strut. I never knew about the drumming that turkeys do when they’re coming in. I never knew any of that. I learned so much in just the last three days. My heart was pounding along with the drum.”
After allowing the tom to come within 12 yards, Desmond took him with one shot from her Remington 1187 20 gauge.
“The adrenaline rush that I got was amazing,” she said. “I could not get up at first because I was like, ‘I did it! I did it!’ I just had my hands on my head saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I did it!’ The excitement of it all was just overwhelming.”
Desmond’s Rio Grande gobbler had an 11-inch beard and weighed 25 pounds, making it the largest tom taken on Laguna Vista Ranch this year, and possibly the largest ever taken there. Cantrell told Desmond he believed it would have made the record books, except for the fact it was missing a spur. The spur that remained measured 1-1/4 inches.
To top off the hunt, Foster took a gobbler of her own the very next day from the exact same spot that Desmond took her bird. Foster killed her turkey at 10 a.m., just an hour before they had to leave for the airport.
“It’s so exciting to be able to share something that I’m passionate about with a new hunter,” said Foster. “It was so much fun teaching her about hunting and being with her on her first hunt, and it was just icing on the cake to get a bird of my own. Kate’s experience really embodies what this program is all about, and it’s great to be able to call her a friend.”
Desmond and Foster already have plans to hunt Easterns in Maryland together this May, and Desmond has set her sights on completing the wild turkey Grand Slam.
“That’s my goal,” she said.
Desmond was absolutely thrilled with her hunt, from the friendliness of the ranch staff, to the beautiful scenery, to the first-rate accommodations.
“We connected with the guides, and even though I’d never hunted, I think that was important,” she said. “They made us feel really comfortable and supported us. We couldn’t have done it without those guys.”
Her experience was so positive that she already wants to get other women involved in hunting.
“Just get out there and give it a shot,” she said. “It was just an amazing experience. I’ve been home for two days and I’m still fired up over it. I would never have gone if I hadn’t won that trip. I know I wouldn’t have. But now that I’ve experienced it, I can assure you I will keep on with it.
“I think now that I’ve gotten a taste of it, I’m hooked. My feeling is it wasn’t only my first hunt, it was an adventure.”
To learn more about NRA’s Women On Target Hunting Programs and to see a schedule of future hunting excursions, visit www.nrahq.org/women/hunting/index.asp.