BAGDAD — The African animals look as if they're ready to leap off the sage-green wall in Marty Mason's trophy room behind her unassuming house. Zebra, kudu and eland are most newly mounted.
Mason, 64, a retired state employee, is competing for the title "Extreme Huntress 2014." She is one of 10 worldwide finalists. Online voting — which ends June 15 — will narrow that to four who will then compete for the title in an outdoor skill competition at the 777 Ranch in Hondo, Texas. The event will be taped by NBC Sports.
Mason took up hunting 20 years ago after participating in state-sponsored courses in becoming an outdoors woman. Initially, she wasn't certain what type of gun to buy. Her first purchase was a Remington .243 rifle. Her first target: deer.
Now Mason and her husband Bob, 75, both retired, travel the world to hunt.
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After deer hunting, Mason found what she refers to as her favorite game: wild turkey.
"Turkey hunting is a finesse game," Mason explained. "Turkey hunting is one of my super-favorite things to do. You sit in the woods, at first light. You don't always get one ... but it's a real adrenaline rush, it is."
The trick in turkey hunting is to convince the turkey, through a series of calls, that there is a fellow turkey around looking to mate.
Mason hunted her way to the turkey "grand slam," bagging four subspecies of North American turkeys. Besides those in Kentucky, that includes breeds in the Texas-Oklahoma area, Wyoming/Montana and South Florida.
She has also hunted alligator, which is a process more akin to wrestling the animal into submission and a well-placed final shot than the more traditional land-based stalk-and-shoot process.
"He'll pull your boat around, he'll thrash, he'll sit on the bottom" of the water, she said. "You put a bullet in him with a thing called a bang stick" — a firearm that can be used under water when in direct contact with the alligator.
While many of the animals she hunts are more interested in fleeing than fighting back, Mason recalls a close call with a Javelina, a herd animal that looks like a wild pig but is really a hoofed mammal known as a peccary.
"I've been run up in the back of a pickup truck after I shot one," she said. "My guide had one foot in the seat of the truck, another in the window. That was a rush."
The Masons' trophy room features an eland, a type of antelope; his-and-hers kudu, which Mason calls "a magnificent animal"; and skulls from baboons, black jackal and alligator.
Marty Mason has a favorite, of course.
"My buddy," she calls him, sitting in a display on a rocky perch, the honey badger.
"They are bad," Mason said. "They kill snakes, they get stung by bees, they don't care."
Mason said she does not yet have a leopard.
"They're very elusive," she said.
Nonetheless, she is proud of being a finalist in the Ultimate Huntress contest, which her husband urged her to enter.
Standing in her trophy room, she said, "I come out here sometimes and sit and think, isn't this pretty spectacular? I can tell everything that happened: where the animals were, who I was with, what I did."
The Masons' taxidermist is Harry Whitehead at Gunner's Taxidermy in Lexington.
She and Bob are going to South Africa later this summer. Her quarry?
HOW TO VOTE
To vote for Marty Mason to make the finals of "Extreme Huntress 2014" visit extremehuntress.com. Voting instructions are simple, but you do have to give your name on the ballot.