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Illinois hunting and fishing

Turkey Tales: Dad’s first bird

April 15, 2009 at 03:41 PM

Win CamoFlex

Prairie State Outdoors readers can win one of five CamoFlex systems we will be giving away in the next two months. To enter the drawing, submit a turkey hunting story and picture via e-mail to: Turkey Tales Stories can be about this season's hunt or any previous season. Our first two winners are Chad Mayfield of Brownstown and Brad Crisco of Elmwood.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here in the words of Troy Jackson of Galesburg is the story of his father Terry Jackson’s hunt for a gobbler in Henderson County.

The following tale took place in May of 2003 when my Dad bagged a turkey on his first hunt in less than an hour. It sounded easy, but from speaking with others who pursue this bird, things don’t always work out so favorably. However, after running around the outdoors with him over the last, say, 30 plus years, I’d have to say that his success was no mistake. Many times a hunter or fisherman will speak of having “good luck.” In my mind, you make your own “good luck” through four steps: education, dedication, experience and execution. 

Here’s how these steps led to me getting up that morning at 7 a.m. to see who in the heck had just left me a message. To my surprise it was Dad wanting to come by and show off his prize.  I wasn’t so surprised that he’d got one; it’s just that Dad’s not a big fan of telephones or answering machines (must be hereditary too). Anyway, here’s the story.

Since Dad had recently retired, he figured that he’d give turkey hunting a stab. He applied for his permit and prepared for the season. Fortunately, he had a turkey hunter for a son-in-law who was up to the task of answering questions about this odd bird and had the mounts to back up his advice. Dad is also a fan of outdoor television programs and may have even gone as far as reading a bit on the subject leaving no doubt that he was an educated hunter.

After soliciting advice, Dad purchased a turkey call in plenty of time to practice prior to the season. He then headed to the timber in order to hone his skills and scout the area for a prime spot to plant his lawn chair (although I personally know very little about turkey hunting, I am pretty certain that the stores also sell fancy, expensive gear to accommodate hunter’s rear ends). He also made sure to have Mom pick up some camo cloth in order to disguise the white handles as he customized his seat.

Other purchases included a pair of decoys to plant at his site and plenty of shells for his gun. In addition, he was fully stocked with camo to help him hide in the woods as he selected just the right spot near where a cornfield ended and the timber began to get a turkey in his sights. There was no doubt that he was a dedicated hunter.

Things get kind of mysterious here. I’m more educated in fishing and trapping than hunting so I can’t really relate to what he told me prior to his hunt, but I’ll do the best I can. I asked Dad while we were fishing at Gladstone Lake on the day before the season opened if he had patterned his gun in order to make an accurate shot when the opportunity arose. He told me that he’d shot the gun for so many years that he was entirely comfortable with its range and accuracy. Kind of like being one with his firearm, and I believed him. 

He would later mention being “a part of the woods” (I think was how he described it); talking about how the Native Americans must have felt when they expressed feelings of being “one with nature.” Between this feeling and his camo, he felt that he became invisible.  He said that my uncle and my brother could relate to this and mentioned times when he hunted with them when they disappeared also. Cool stuff that I’m sure other hunters would understand, and I believed it from the way Dad told the story. There was no doubt that he was an experienced hunter.

After doing all of his homework, it was on to the execution portion in order to put a bird in his sights, and that’s exactly what happened early that morning. Dad arrived at his chosen spot around 5:30 a.m. to discover that someone had stolen his lawn chair. As a replacement, he found a suitable log and proceeded to hang up his camo cloth to block out his silhouette and then loaded his gun. His next step was to place his decoys and as he pounded in his hen decoy he heard gobbling. 

He quickly placed his second decoy, a jake, and headed for his log. Barely five minutes into his first turkey hunt, a tom appeared to his left about 150 yards out. Dad gave four clucks on his call, imitating a hen, and the tom stared right in his direction. More mysterious stuff here as Dad slowly dropped his eyes, because “if you’re not looking at the turkey it won’t see you” (not his exact quote but the basic concept). The tom then walked away and disappeared into the timber. Following instructions he’d learned while preparing for the hunt, Dad did not call again figuring that the bird knew where the call came from and would return if his mating instinct saw fit. 

Ten minutes later, a hen appeared out of the timber and headed towards the decoys. The tom was not far behind and headed in the same direction. Shortly, the hen ducked into some weeds near the edge of the cornfield and disappeared. The tom began to strut, fan his tail and flap his wings in an effort to impress his potential mate. 

Dad simply sat tight and watched. When the hen spurned the tom’s display, the tom set its sights on Dad’s decoys. As the tom approached, Dad had his gun poised and ready for the bird to walk into a window where he could take a shot. The tom came into his sights at just under 25 yards and it was time to make a decision. A few more yards and the branches of a hedge tree would eliminate the possibility for a shot. 

The range was acceptable; the bird in his sights and with only his eyes exposed over the camo cloth, Dad decided it was time to squeeze the trigger. Dad’s aim was true as the shot found its mark.  As he made his way to his first turkey, he looked at his watch, which read 6:19 a.m.  Forty-nine minutes into the season, he had his bird. 

Dad told me that he laughed aloud at how things all fell into place so quickly since some hunter’s fail to get a shot for an entire season or an entire year or miss the shot when they get their opportunity. I think my brother summed it up best, stating that Dad got his turkey so quickly because he is retired and didn’t have to use vacation from work. The bird weighed 29 pounds with a nine inch beard and 1.16 inch spurs. An entertaining tale, perhaps only topped by the events surrounding his second turkey, but, of course, that’s another story. 

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Great story…thanks for sharing!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/16 at 10:12 AM

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