#MyWideOpenSpaces: 19-Year-Old Huntress Harvests Her First Gobbler

Hard work always pays off.

Autumn Gilbert isn't one of those who finds luck her first time in the woods. She's the other kind—the one that usually has a better understanding of how to hunt, a deeper appreciation for the nature of a fair chase and more respect for the work required to harvest an animal. That's right, she's the kind of huntress who had to put in the time.

Gilbert, 19, grew up in the small town of Springville, New York, where her stepfather introduced her to the outdoors. It wasn't until she was 15, however, that her boyfriend took her turkey hunting for the first time. After a couple hunts, despite coming up empty-handed, she was hooked. She wasn't going to stop until she had a gobbler to her name.

Four years would pass before that could happen, but not once did her determination falter.

Luck struck when she and her stepfather made their way down to northeastern Kentucky for a hunt. One of her cousins owned land in the area, so he offered to let them take their chances there.

The Hunt

It was slightly chilly when the hunt began at 5:30 a.m. A gobbler roosted no more than 40 feet from Gilbert and her cousin, but a shot never presented itself, as he ultimately took flight in the opposite direction.

The two then moved from field to field, trying different spots until one showed promise. Then, after calling and waiting it out for roughly 45 minutes, they started packing up to move once again. As they were about to stand up, however, they spotted a gobbler in full strut about 150 yards away.

Her cousin quickly, but stealthily, ran to a previous setup to grab a decoy.

"Then we started crawling," Gilbert said. " We had to stop and start again every time the turkey would turn to us. He didn't come any closer, due to the fact he had a hen nearby and he didn't want to leave her. We eventually snuck so close with the tom decoy, we could see the anger coming out of him."

She was just about to shoot when he ducked behind a stump. Gilbert thought he'd seen her and that he was about to bolt, but then he took one step to the left.

That was all she needed.

After four years of hard work, she dropped her first turkey from only 5 yards away!

Congrats on a great bird, Autumn!