For a few seconds Irona Cliver was bouncing her head and shoulders back and forth like she was grooving to a favored tune.
Later, for more than a few seconds, no part of Irona was moving, including her lungs.
“Irona, you need to start breathing, just don’t move your head around,” I told her through a soft giggle. The Marine veteran later admitted the excitement of watching three turkeys come to calls and decoys had frozen her for a while.
We met in October at the Kansas Salutes the Troops event at Flint Oak. It’s an annual Wounded Warriors type of event that honors American military personnel who served well, but were somehow injured along the way. Her out-going personality probably made the 33 year-old Wichita businesswoman the most popular vet at the event. About five days after I handed her a business card at the event, and told her to contact me if she ever wanted to go hunting she did.
Back in December four of us hosted Irona at Ed Markel’s ranch in Elk County. Wow, what a hunt and what an amazing welcome locals put on for us. She got a nice 10-pointer, her first buck, and we all gained a great friend we instantly began to admire.
During that hunt on a cold, snowy day, Irona and I watched a flock of about 35 turkeys work through a big foodplot. I mentioned the birds were fun to hunt in the spring. In a split-second the woman who knowns nothing about shyness hit me with something like, “Ok, so when are we going?”
It took a while to get our schedules to mesh, with her running a successful business selling motorcycle-based clothing and accessories and heading off to win awards at shooting events for veterans. Last Thursday, we finally got things to jell.
Ed again volunteered his properties, which are all managed for wildlife. Justin “Boomer” Bremer, Ed’s wildlife biologist, had scouted the areas well. As Boomer predicted, turkeys came to one of their food plots at about 8 a.m. that morning.
They were three jakes, and with only a very windy day to hunt we’d agreed that Irona shouldn’t be picky.
When I first called her attention to the coming birds she zipped, dipped and raised her head from one of the shooting blind’s windows to another. She took it literally when I hissed, “You have to hold still.” She used my three-inch magnum 12 gauge to drop a bird at about 25 yards. She probably would have taken another of the surviving pair, but they never got far enough apart of insure a shot would just kill one.
Good thing, in the long run.
No, she didn’t fill her second permit but she came very close at several of Ed’s other properties. Actually twice she could have just stepped from the truck and killed a big longbeard, but that’s turkey shooting and not turkey hunting.
As we were packing up to head in at about 5 p.m., Irona was all smiles and high fives.
“It was a lot of fun and we got to see so much wildlife today, every place we went. It was just amazing,” she said, her blue eyes shining with excitement. “We got to see a lot of deer, and turkeys about every place we went, and just a lot of really neat things.”
She’s right, had she shot a second jake in the early morning we might not have gotten to hunt the other properties, and see the things she mentioned as well as yellow warblers, scissortails, eastern and western kingbirds, watch and listen to rooster pheasants cackling and drumming a few yards away.
One bird for the kitchen, a mindful of great memories for all involved and a very happy veteran.