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#MyWideOpenSpaces: Jessica Bernhard Harvests Her First Archery Turkey

"Every turkey hunt is exciting in its own way, but nothing beats a first."

This wasn't Jessica Bernhard's first rodeo. She started hunting with her father when she was 15 years old, and got into turkey hunting with her husband, Daniel, back in 2010 when they had just started dating. She shot her first turkey March 6, 2010, while Daniel called for her on a piece of public land in South Florida. It wasn't until 2012 that she tried bowhunting for gobblers, though. She didn't have much luck at first, as she was hunting in areas with a lot of pressure from other hunters.

Jessica, 29, has been living in Port St. Lucie, Florida, for the last four years, but she and Daniel hunt all over the state. In fact, Jessica's arrow would connect with a tom for the first time on Opening Day in the North Zone of the state, near Live Oak.

The Hunt

The 2018 turkey season opened March 17, and for the Bernhard's it got off to a quick start. They had no more than placed their decoys and gotten settled in their blind when they heard a gobble at 6:30 a.m. They spotted the culprit in full strut about 150 yards away. Suddenly, a second bird appeared, and the two gobbled back and forth for about five minutes, until a third bird joined the conversation.

This bird was much closer, maybe 50 yards away, but he disappeared after the one gobble.

Daniel would continue to call to the gobblers way out, but wasn't able to draw them any closer.

"There wasn't much we could do but sit patiently and listen to the two birds," Jessica said. "They were so close, yet so far."

The gobbles stopped around 8:30 a.m., but an hour later, a bearded hen came in to their decoys and began feeding. Daniel started making soft clucks and purrs, occasionally throwing in a loud cut. Although the bearded hen was legal, Jessica was holding out for a big tom, so they just sat and watched her go about her business.

After a quick lunch break, they returned to their blind around 2:30 p.m., where they would experience some early action once again. After getting situated, Daniel made a couple soft clucks and quickly got a response from a hen, and then two gobblers.

"They were coming," Jessica said.

They started approaching the decoys cautiously and Jessica began to feel the situation intensify.

"As they were closing the distance, my nerves began to race, my heart rate began to rise and my breathing began to get uncontrollable," she recalled. "They were coming in from my left so they were actually out of my view until they were all the way to the decoys, so I sat, trying to control my nerves and waited for Daniel to let me know when I could draw back."

Daniel predicted them to come out at about 27 yards, so he suggested Jessica use her 30-yard pin. She picked her spot and nailed it. Her gobbler flapped his wings a couple times and that was it.

Immediately she called her father, though she was practically speechless with excitement. The next phone call recipient was Daniel's father, who was equally as proud.

"Every turkey hunt is exciting int its own way, but nothing beats a first." Jessica said. "My first turkey with my bow, with my husband, is one I'll definitely never forget."


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#MyWideOpenSpaces: Jessica Bernhard Harvests Her First Archery Turkey