Ballet dancer, shopaholic...turkey hunter? Yep, that's Audrey for you, proudly posing here with her 18-pound gobbler.
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Photo Courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation
NWTF Helps Give Youth A Shot At The Outdoors
Courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation
Audrey Sullivan, 7
In most ways Audrey Sullivan of Mulberry, Fla., is your typical 7-year-old first-grader. She enjoys ballet dancing, competitive swimming, shopping for clothes, playing music and hugging on animals. And in the spring she loves to hunt wild turkeys with her dad, William Sullivan.
“I’ve had Audrey and her brother in the woods as much as I can since they were born,” Sullivan said. “She loves the woods and riding in the old hunting truck as much as possible.”
That would be the family’s 1980 International Scout II, which William Sullivan drove to the woods on a private ranch in Thonotosassa, Fla., this past March. It was be Audrey’s first chance to hunt a wild turkey with her H&R NWTF youth model .410 shotgun.
While Florida adopted a hunting mentorship program in 2006, it is rather limited. Newcomers to hunting can hunt for a single year with a licensed, adult mentor, and then must attend a hunter education course to qualify for a license. William Sullivan says Audrey plans to take the course this year.
William, the NWTF’s Florida State Chapter president, and Audrey found some turkeys almost immediately after their arrival and built a blind out of palmetto fronds in an oak hammock just 75 yards from the birds’ roost trees. They were ready for the following morning’s sunrise hunt.
“She went to bed at 9 p.m. and was already awake when I went in to wake her up at 4 a.m.,” recalls William. It didn’t take long for the young blonde to don Realtree Advantage Timber coveralls, a long-sleeved T-shirt, hunting boots and a camouflage hat. Of all things, Audrey even got to wear makeup that morning.
“I didn’t want her to use a facemask because sometimes on a child they can get in the way at a critical moment and ruin the hunt,” William said. “Instead, we used camo makeup by H.S. Strut.”
When the pair arrived at their hunting spot, it was a cool 65 degrees and calm. They made the short walk to the blind, set out decoys, lit a ThermaCell mosquito and bug repellant unit, and waited for daylight.
“After a little while I used a Palmer Hoot Tube to get the gobblers going,” William recalls. “The hens started tree yelping and the woods were alive with the sounds of turkeys. I did some light calling, imitating the hens around us, and before too long there were two longbeards on the ground 40 yards in front of us. Unfortunately, that was as close as they would come.” Forty yards isn’t close enough for a shot with a .410 shotgun. Audrey held off.
By 8:30 a.m. the daughter/father team drove the Scout to an area the landowner had suggested they try if a mid-morning hunt was needed. The wind had started to pick up and there wasn’t much cover for a good setup, so they used a pop-up blind near the intersection of three dirt roads. They put their decoys in front of them and to the east.
William stroked an Ol’ Mama Hen box call and got an immediate response from at least 100 yards away to the north.
“In no time flat we had three hens in our decoys, but no gobblers!” he said. “As I was watching the hens and doing some soft calling, Audrey just happened to look out the back window and whispered, ‘Gobblers!’ They had circled behind us and were looking at the blind.
Audrey and William carefully repositioned her shotgun on its shooting sticks. She took aim and cocked the hammer in anticipation of the shot.
“I made sure she was lined up on the bird she wanted and told her to shoot when she was ready,” added William. “She pulled the trigger and with a bang the dominant bird hit the ground. She squealed like she was at a Hannah Montana concert and ran to her bird.”
Audrey marveled at the bird’s colors in the sunlight. Her gobbler weighed 18 pounds, had 1 1/4-inch spurs and a 9 1/2-inch beard. Not bad for her first turkey.
“Some of my best memories as a child are of me hunting with my father and spending time in the woods with my family,” William said. “I’ve always wanted to pass my passion for outdoors to my children and feel I am blessed to be able to able to get them involved at an early age. Ironically, my best memories as an adult are the times I spent hunting with my kids and spending time in the woods with my family.”
For more information on hunting safety data and the Youth Hunting Report, log on to www.familiesafield.org, or call NWTF Headquarters at 800-THE-NWTF.