In the hunt

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Personality oozes from Marquetta Eilerts’ engaging smile. An outgoing woman of confidence and charm, Eilerts’ petite outward appearance masks her inward passion for the thrill of the hunt.

The hunt, in this case, is for deer.

Eilerts happens to be a successful hunter of deer and turkey, too. The walls of her “trophy room” are adorned with evidence of past success.

Many local people will recognize Eilerts from her many years of public service as Marion County clerk, having served in that capacity from April 1980 through her retirement in January 1997.

Eilerts currently serves on the Marion County Planning Commission.

Originally from Anthony, Eilerts and husband Eugene have lived in Marion County since moving from Wichita in 1967. The Peabody couple recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Eilerts said she has enjoyed retirement, “but the first winter, I nearly went crazy, going from a 60 hours a week job to zilch, nothing.”

With a near lifelong fervor for hunting, Eilerts now has the time to satisfy the calling.

“I bow-hunted around here for a lot of years on Doyle Creek, near Florence-probably 25 years,” Eilerts said.

“Noreen Weems got me started, but I’ve been interested in hunting for some time. I grew up on a farm, and we hunted rabbits with dad. He taught us how to use a rifle. But with family and kids and school, you didn’t do those things for a long time.”

Recently, Eilerts’ attention has turned to high-powered-rifle hunts.

“I don’t bow hunt anymore,” she said. “It takes lots of time and scouting, and sitting, and it’s very cold. I paid my dues. I’ve had my boots freeze to the metal stand.”

Eilerts does her primary hunting around Sedan in Chautauqua County. She and her husband own a farm there, and also have a lease. All of her hunting is done on private property.

Bristling at the notion that she’s a woman in a man’s sport, Eilerts’ emphatic “Heck, no!” made it clear she doesn’t consider herself an outsider.

“There are a lot more (women hunters) than there used to be, but I found to be successful, I had to work harder than the guys,” she said. “I had to go further and deeper into the canyons-places the men didn’t want to go.”

She said she still receives good-natured barbs from friends about her hunting, but she takes the ribbing in stride.

“I don’t get kidded so much anymore, but I sure used to,” she said. “I didn’t always admit (to hunting), but if I was asked if I filled my license, sometimes-if it was a friend-I’d quietly say ‘uh-huh.’ But that was before we had so many deer.

“They’d say, ‘Why did you shoot Bambi?’ and I’d say ‘I didn’t-I shot his mommy or daddy.”

The Eilerts have three grown children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Eilerts likes to hunt with her son and his family from Mulvane. Granddaughter Kelley, 14, went on her first deer hunt this year.

“She’s scouted with me for several years, but this was her first hunt,” Eilerts said. “She got an eight-point this year with her dad’s .270, and she was really thrilled. It was well over 200 yards away. She just grabbed her dad’s gun, leaned over a five-gallon bucket and whammed that thing.”

Eilerts said a 30.06 is her rifle of choice, but she also handles a .270 with equal proficiency.

“I like to be within 75 yards, but I’ve had lots of longer shots-some over 200 yards,” she said. “As one ages, your aim isn’t quite as good as it used to be.

“There was a time when the guys would kid me, ‘We’re gonna give you a couple shells and that’s all you get.’ I’d take them up on that, but I don’t anymore.”

During this year’s hunt, snow posed an interesting challenge.

“We had to do a lot of slogging,” she said. “It was almost knee deep.

“I get along better without snow. It hung heavy in the grass and my packs weren’t quite tall enough.”

Even with the added obstacle, her hunt again concluded successfully with a nice white-tail buck as this year’s victim.

Eilerts does her own field dressing and, along with her husband, her own processing. It helps that her son has all the necessary tools and facilities for processing the meat in Mulvane.

“We usually make minute steaks and hamburger,” she said. “We bone the deer out and cut it up for processing. We also make salami, but we don’t have much luck with jerky.”

Her favorite form of preparation is to chicken-fry the minutes.

“I like the flavor of ‘young’ deer, but I’ve had a few older ones that became chili-chili bucks,” she said.

Her trophy wall indicates that deer isn’t the only object of her outdoor quests. A stately turkey along with a lunkering large-mouth bass are included in her collection.

Turkey hunting requires a different arsenal.

“I’ve also got two shotguns,” Eilerts said. “I have a 20-gauge and a 12-gauge.”

The longest turkey beard she’s collected was 10 inches. She also has an extensive collection of turkey spurs.

Eilerts says of her trophy wall: “There’s a story with each and every antler and deer. They’re fun to reminisce about, especially when you’re getting ready for the next season.”

Eilerts’ wall collection was done by taxidermists from Wichita to Marion.

Eilerts said patience is the key to a successful hunt.

“I’ve never had much luck walking and stalking,” she said. “Find your trail, sit down and wait.”

Asked how much longer she planned to hunt, Eilerts said with a twinkle in her eye, “As long as I can get under the fence or I’m able to climb over it.”

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