Amazing Gracie

From a first-hunt gobbler, to outdoors die-hard.

Tim Zech | March 3, 2024

Gracie with a buck known as “Swampy,” taken during the 2022 season in Oconee County.

I want to share an amazing story about my niece Gracie.

Gracie grew up in a family that hunted, but she never really had the opportunity or interest to go until she was in college. At the age of 20, Gracie did something that would change her life.

Gracie always heard about the deer, turkey and dove hunts of her grandfather, father, and uncles… but she wanted to try these adventures for herself.  So, she decided to do just that. This is a journey that started as small, novel idea that has turned out to be a great passion.

I am fortunate to live in the country with a house conveniently located within an hour of both sides of my wife’s side of the family and my side of family. Our home is usually the host for our family Thanksgiving meal with both sides of our family attending. One particular year, Gracie and her mom and dad attended Thanksgiving dinner. Before we ate, we were out in the yard playing with my pet tom turkey named “Squeak.”

After making Squeak gobble for about the 100th time, Gracie declared, “Uncle Tim… I see you always posting about turkeys on social media, I want to go turkey hunting with you someday.”

I was pleasantly surprised at the request, as I love having folks go hunting with me, and I really enjoy guiding novice hunters. I explained to Gracie that she was welcome to go with me anytime and that turkey hunting is rush like no other.

That simply exchange started a new passion in Gracie. I could tell she was serious as she started a list of everything that she would need from camo clothes, face net, calls and boots. I told her that she could use my old Stevens single shot 20 gauge, so that part was covered. She called and texted for the next few months asking questions and showing me the different items that she was gathering in advance of spring turkey season. I could tell that she would be ready. She signed up for hunter-safety courses and obtained her first hunting license.

Before turkey season arrived, we made plans for the first hunt, and I had secured rights to some great property.  I had “horse traded” my guiding services and some morel mushrooms (a steep price, right?) for turkey hunting rights on an 1,100-acre farm just north of my home in Jasper County. It was loaded with birds, and I had already held up my end of the trade. I had provided some morels to the landowner, and on opening week I successfully called in a tom for him to harvest. There were plenty of other birds in the area, and our odd were good.

The day before her first hunt, Gracie drove the hour drive to my house in time for some gun safety and target practice. She was properly prepared with her own “leafy suit” and all the right gear… ready for the hunt. She had completed some homework watching YouTube videos and understood the critical need to be still and be ready. I was excited that she was taking this hunting thing seriously, and I knew that if we could get birds to work that she would do her part.

Being pragmatic, the next morning on the way to the property I tried to explain to Gracie all the nuances and difficulties of trying to harvest a turkey. I explained that most hunters on average harvest seven deer per every turkey they get to harvest. I explained about trying to change the natural order of things with mature toms usually having the hens to come them, and that our game was essentially trying to work against nature by getting the toms to come to us sounding like a hen, so it doesn’t always work out. Gracie was undaunted and said that she just really wanted to hear them gobble and get to see some wild turkeys. We hit the woods.

At daylight, we did get to hear several birds gobbling off the roost and made a run for what I felt like was the closest one in an area that we could work him. He gobbled good and let us set up about 60 yards away way before fly down time. As hunts also often go, it’s hard to compete with the real thing, and hens pulled the gobbler down and straight away from us. Both of us were excited that we got to hear a mature bird put on a show. We were still in a good spot in a hardwood river bottom where visibility was good. With a break in the action, I asked Gracie if she wanted to learn how to use a slate call as we had time to practice a little. I showed her how to cluck and yelp and asked her if she could mimic the same sounds and cadence I was using. I showed her the secret of using a series of three increasing yelp sequences to sound like a wandering hen. We handed my old thunder dome slate call back and forth a few times, and she was picking right up on the concept. When I asked her to try the increasing series of yelps, her third and loudest series caused a shock gobble 200 yards back up the hill behind us.

We both smiled, and the game was on! (I have asked Gracie not to let anyone know about this secret calling method).     

We could not get the bird to gobble again, but I knew he was close to a food plot that we had passed through on the way in. We slowly started working our way back toward the plot, but we still could not get an answer or see any movement. We slowly approached the plot from a thicket, and as I was looking toward the lower end of the plot, Gracie froze and pointed to the upper end.

There they were, 50 yards away… three toms with one in full strut. We slipped behind a large pine tree, and while still standing, I told Gracie to get ready and prop the gun against the side of the tree. Gracie did just that and got the gun set on the side of the tree ready for action. I pulled the old slate call out and just gave it a few purrs and soft clucks. The toms instantly started moving our direction. I asked Gracie to pull the hammer back and get ready… she instantly complied. The largest bird came to edge of the plot and stretched his neck and head up as high as he could to get a better look at what figured was an approaching hen. I whispered, “take him,” and Gracie dropped the hammer.

I had never seen anybody dance while holding a bird until that day. I was happy, but Gracie was ecstatic… and she had every right to be. I said a little thank you to the Lord above and got the camera out.

Gracie’s first turkey, taken with the author “Uncle Tim” in May of 2020 while hunting in Jasper County.

This fortunate series of events set Amazing Gracie onto the path of being a dedicated outdoorswoman.

In her own words, Gracie says, “I have always liked learning new things, and I really just wanted to put my mind and hand at trying something new.”

She has done just that. The initial foray into turkey hunting has inspired Gracie into trying deer hunting, dove hunting and trout fishing. She has been successful at everything that she has put her mind, too. And when I say “successful” it is an understatement. Gracie has taken some enviable bucks in the last two seasons and is on the hunt for another true trophy this fall. Gracie harvested her personal best buck in 2022 she named “Swampy.” I sent her pictures of her and “Swampy” to GON last year and they were kind enough to publish it.   

We have more great turkey hunting stories that we will be talking and laughing about for a lifetime. One of us missed a mature bird (or two) since we started hunting together… and we both realize that it’s more about the pursuit than the bag. Time spend outdoors hunting and fishing is time well spent.   

Gracie graduated from college last year and is looking to start a career. It’s interesting to think that now that she has a job, she can afford more hunting and fishing stuff.. like her own shotgun.

It’s also interesting to note how many opportunities Georgians have to get outdoors in all parts of this great state. If you ever have an interest to try new hunting or fishing opportunities, please be sure to surround yourself with other like-minded outdoorsmen (or women) to pursue new adventures. If you have folks in your circle of friends or family that you could introduce to the outdoor adventures that you enjoy…please do not let those opportunities pass by.

The old Steven’s single shot 20 gauge has been held by six different young men and women who have harvested their first turkey with it.

I can’t wait to find out who No. 7 will be.

Fly fishing for north Georgia trout near Clarkesville in February of 2021.


Gracie with a buck known as “Mr.Crabs” taken in Oconee County.

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