By Brent Frazee
Gracie Herman admits that she doesn’t have many girlfriends who have shown the interest in turkey hunting she does.
Most of them think “that’s for the boys,” she said. But Gracie is living proof that this isn’t necessarily so.
At the age of 17, she has already accomplished more in the turkey woods and on the calling-contest stage than most boys have.
Gracie shot her first turkey when she was only 6, and has gone on to take more than 15 other birds.
She has won two Grand National Junior Calling Contest titles—in 2015 and 2019.
She already has a sponsor from a call company and is in line for another one with Mossy Oak.
In a switch from the norm, she has taken boy acquaintances and guided them to turkeys.
“None of my girlfriends have grown up around it, so they really don’t understand it, ” Gracie said. “But I think with a lot of girls, if they would get out there in the woods and hear the birds calling and see how they come in, they would get involved.
“It’s just addicting.”
For Gracie, turkey hunting has always been one of those “like-father-like-daughter” things. Friends and family say she was born to be a turkey hunter.
She tagged along with her dad, Doug, from the time she was able to walk. He had the bug, hunting since the time he was a boy. That passion carried him to becoming a long-time turkey hunter, champion caller and custom call maker.
Gracie inherited that passion. Residents of northeastern Nebraska, she and her dad became quite the team.
There were always big tom turkeys to hunt in their part of the world. And Gracie quickly learned why her dad was so fascinated with imitating the calls the hens made to call one of the big boys in.
“Dad took me out to listen to the turkeys when I was real young,” she said. “I remember all the sounds the birds would make and how my dad would call to communicate with them, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
“Even at a young age, I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”
When one of her dad’s friends gave Gracie her first box call, she practiced with it continuously. She entered her first junior calling contest when she was only 6 and unexpectedly pulled off the win.
She continued to use that call to win contests “until I finally wore it down. I finally had to retire it,” she said.
She got another box call and continued her winning ways, both on stage and in the woods.
Today, Gracie and her dad are not only hunting buddies, they are calling contest companions. They travel to competitions in the area, and dad competes in the adult division and Gracie in the junior ranks.
Doug won the Grand National Gobbling Championship one year and has made the cut for the overall competition other years.
So, with all of that calling experience, the turkeys must be in trouble when the Hermans are in the woods, right? Well, yeah, but it’s not as simple as you might think.
Hunting and contest calling are two totally different things, Gracie said.
“I would never call in the woods the way I do in contests,” she said. “With Nebraska birds, you don’t want to call too much. If you start cutting and carrying on, a lot of times it makes them nervous.
“You have to know when to call and when not to.”
A hunt this spring was a perfect example. Gracie called by voice to persuade three reluctant gobblers to strut close enough so she could get a shot. She chose one and stopped the bird in its tracks with one shot.
She and her dad also hunted in northern Missouri this spring and Gracie took a bird there, too. But it’s hunting in Nebraska that remains closest to her heart.
“Nebraska is just a great place to hunt turkeys,” she said. “A lot of the places we hunt are just flat agricultural land with some woodlots, but the birds have aways done well there.
“The population is down now from what it was before, but there still are birds to hunt.”
Gracie will attend Doane University in Crete, Neb., where she received a softball scholarship, starting next year. Her long-range plans include staying in Nebraska.
“I just love Nebraska,” she said. “I never want to leave.”