By Kelli Jane Barnes

Burke County, North Carolina

As many turkey hunters know, turkey hunting relies a lot on the sense of hearing- turkeys gobbling and using calls to get their attention. Now, some may wonder, how do I do it as someone who can’t hear. Well, it requires two things: patience and determination. 

To give some background, my dad took me deer hunting often growing up, and that’s where I got the “hunting” gene. Turkey hunting was never his luck. After my dad said “I have been trying for 20 years to get a turkey and never got one, so good luck with getting one”, this was the moment when my determination kicked in. 

The first turkey hunt, I sat on the ground watching my uncle, who was also Deaf, calling with his slate, and then waiting for the turkeys to come, was when I fell in love with turkey hunting. I quickly learned that as a Deaf hunter, I had to “gamble” and have a different approach to turkey hunting than other turkey hunters who could hear. By “gambling”, I meant, I had to scout the area, knowing where turkeys would be during specific times of the day, without hearing them. 

On maybe my fourth hunt with no luck the first three, I left my spot a bit early with my uncle and decided to head back to the truck. On my way there, I came up a hill to a field, and when I decided to check out the field, sure enough there was a jake there. I quickly set up on the ground and got my decoy out. By the time I snuck out the decoy for the jake to see, the jake was running towards me. I had my shotgun all ready. Being my first encounter with a turkey, I was super nervous all over, and as soon as I saw the head, my heart was pounding, and I might have not been that focused, and I missed the shot. The dang jake was 14 yards away, which tore me up.

After that hunt, I was more determined than ever to get me a turkey. I came back a few days later for the first time without my uncle and without him calling the turkeys. For several days before that hunt, I had practiced with my uncle by feeling the slate while he called, then trying to copy exactly what it felt like. After a few days, I felt somewhat confident but not 100% confident with my calls. That day, I thought, why not, my younger brother (who never turkey hunted) and I went out and turkey hunted. It was 3 days before the last day of the season. I sat down behind some blueberry bushes for cover, and had set up decoys about 25 yards from me. After being all set up, I started calling, without any idea if I was getting turkeys to come or scaring them away. Sure enough, after about a hour and half, I was getting all comfortable in the turkey chairs, there was another fan beside the decoy, and I thought to myself, “Is it happening???”. I got my shotgun all ready and aimed with better focus than last time, shot at it. Down that turkey went, and I never had felt a huge sense of accomplishment like I did that day. I sure did prove my dad something, and learned a lesson along the way, Deaf hunters sure can hunt, and it is not an excuse to “give up”. Patience and determination goes a long way.