Youth hunters bag five turkeys in fifth annual event

Fifteen youth hunters between the ages of 12 and 16 converged at the Wascott Four Seasons Recreation Club ball field facility April 9 to meet with their mentors and other facilitators from the Gitchee Gumme Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Fed...

turkey hunters
Youth turkey hunters participating in the fifth annual learn to hunt event, hosted by the Gitchee Gumme Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, pose for a picture after the morning hunt. (Submitted Photo)

Fifteen youth hunters between the ages of 12 and 16 converged at the Wascott Four Seasons Recreation Club ball field facility April 9 to meet with their mentors and other facilitators from the Gitchee Gumme Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. For the next day and a half they would be learning to hunt turkeys in Douglas County.

After a welcoming and briefing, each hunter was presented with a slate call and a four pack of mouth diaphragm calls from the chapter. The group enjoyed dinner together, and the youth hunters then left for the field to see if they could roost a bird with their mentors. Many of the youth hunters also brought a relative along to observe.

At about 9 p.m., the group came back to the ball field and prepared beds either there, or at the Crystal Lake Resort just up the road. Both Crystal Lake Resort and the Wascott Four Season's Recreation Club donated the use of their facilities for the hunt, and their generosity allowed the chapter to run the hunt at no cost to the youth hunters.

By 3:45 a.m. Saturday, everyone was up. Breakfast was to be served at 4 a.m.

Shelly Amys Catering provided Friday night's supper, along with breakfast Saturday and Sunday. Garrett and Lisa Little served pancakes and were cooking them outside on a large propane burner, nine at a time. Forty people can eat a lot of food, and everyone was hungry.


I served as a mentor for Damen Rankin, from Hawthorne. We had quite a drive to our hunting area, so we headed out at about 4:40 a.m. Arriving at our parking spot at 5:10 a.m., we walked about a quarter mile to where I had built a brush blind a few days earlier. We hadn't heard a gobble the night before but thought we could hear three turkeys fly up into a tree to stay overnight.

We were completely ready by 5:27 a.m., and Damen and I sat shoulder to shoulder so I could offer instruction and support as the day progressed. At 5:54 a.m., we heard the first robin. I told Damen turkeys usually start to gobble shortly after the robins start to sing, and like clockwork, at 5:55 a.m. a bird gobbled about 400 yards from us, right where we thought we heard birds fly up to roost. Eventually, a jake and another gobbler could be heard.

At about 6:15 a.m., the turkeys had flown down but were heading away from us. I thought I could hear at least one hen, but the males were gobbling so much it was heard to hear anything else. After the gobblers got about 650 yards from us, I called aggressively with my two Quaker Boy slates and mouth call.

At about 6:35 a.m., it sounded like one of the gobblers was coming towards us. I told Damen to shoulder his shotgun so he wouldn't have to move later. Sure enough, one gobbler was making his way to the single jake decoy and two hens. At 6:49 a.m., the strutting long beard came into the decoys and attacked the jake, breaking the plastic stake and smashing the decoy to the ground.

While standing over the now flatted decoy, I whispered to Damen to shoot. He said later that he was shaking so much, he had to take a deep breath and concentrate. He slowly moved his gun into position, aimed and shot the four-year-old long beard at just under 15 yards. His Mossberg 20-gauge loaded with nontoxic Heavy Shot 13 shells did the trick, and the bird lay motionlessly.

After photographs, a cell phone call home and the walk out, we headed back to camp. The gobbler was weighed at the Trading Post in Gordon on their certified scale at 25.0 pounds. It had a 10 inch beard and 1 ¼ inch spurs.

By noon, three more long beards were brought back to camp. Kasey Holland, mentored by Bob Butzler; Elijah Adolphson, mentored by Matthew Hatfield; and Frankie Abbott, mentored by Brandon Peterson, were the lucky hunters.

After our noon lunch of homemade turkey soup with sandwiches, donated by Rick and Stella Adolphson, most headed back to the woods for the afternoon hunt until 5 p.m. No more birds were harvested that afternoon.


The evening supper was donated by the Wascott Area Businesses Association. After supper, most youths participated in a turkey calling contest, using the skills they learned from their mentors. Light were out by 9:20 p.m.

Sunday morning, everyone was up at 3:45 a.m. again for the morning hunt. Dylan Schiff, mentored by Dave Evered, shot a nice gobbler on Sunday morning. He worked the bird with a variety of calling and hunting techniques for more than an hour and a half.

We can't thank enough the dedication of our group of mentors and facilitators this year. This is the fifth year the Gitchee Gumme Chapter has provided this hunt, and it only gets better every year.

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