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A Sportsman's Tale: Mom's first turkey – on Mother's Day

From Ryan O'Neill

Last winter my girlfriend Elicia DiPaolo said she wanted to learn to hunt. We spent many days together as I taught her how to handle and safely shoot a shotgun. After completing the hunter’s safety course and getting her outfitted with the proper clothing and gear, she was ready.

Opening day of turkey season came and went. We had some lights-out action chasing birds around the Southern Tier but no chance at a shot. That was going to be our only chance to get her out until this past weekend.

On Mother’s Day, we finally struck up an old nasty hen that was yelping and cutting at every call we made. We continued to work her, hoping she had a gobbler in tow. She came right into the decoys but was all alone. However, with all the calling we were doing, we actually got a gobbler fired up across the road on a property we couldn’t hunt. We decided to sit tight and see if we could get him to come. This bird was three-quarters of a mile away, with a swamp and corn field between us.

My buddy, Jeremy Hicks, and I talked over several different strategies on how we could lure this hot gobbler. After 20 minutes, the gobbler no longer was responding. We got up to move when all the sudden the bird gobbled on his own and he was close, within 100 yards.

We continued to work him with aggressive cutting and yelping and within a short time he showed at about 70 yards. Elicia was breathing so heavy and full of excitement that I had to keep her calm. She said, “When should I shoot?” I said “The second he spots those decoys he’s going to come running, so just hold still.”

The moment came. The bird stood motionless staring at the jake decoy. Boom! She fired and absolutely smashed him. She had just taken her first turkey and he was a gorgeous 2-year-old long beard with three-quarter inch spurs, an 8-inch beard, and weighed about 15 pounds.

Even better she did it on Mother’s Day. What a hunt, and a memory that will last a lifetime. That’s what it’s all about. The memories.

Ryan and Elicia reside in Orchard Park with their two boys, Jamison and Talon. Submissions to A Sportsman’s Tale can be emailed to and should be a maximum of 350 words.

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