It all started at the Fort Custer army training center, near Kalamazoo, MI, where the Turkeyville Tom’s conduct a youth hunt at the grounds. I volunteered to be a mentor for the youth hunters in 2008. I love being able to show youths and people less fortunate than myself, not only to hunt and call, but to also enjoy nature.
In 2008, we hunted a section where the birds flew down into a ravine and moved off to the west. We didn’t harvest one, but they gobbled a lot as they were heading west, so I could tell where they were going. In 2009, my hunter was Ted Sarna Jr., accompanied by his dad, Ted Sr. I told them that we would start out hunting the center of the section at around daylight; move on to the west side of the section at around 9:00 a.m., and set up and start calling at about 9:30. That was the way the birds went the year before, so I felt that our plan was a solid one. About 9:00, we heard one gobbling way off into the distance, so we moved over to the west side of the section. We set up and started calling at 9:40. Shortly after we started calling, not one but two gobbled in the valley to the east. I quickly got Ted Jr. turned around in the blind and started calling again. They were a lot closer that time and within minutes we could see two nice, two year old toms strutting towards where we were set up. When they got within 30 yards, Ted Jr. coolly put the bead of his 870 20 gauge
shotgun on the closest tom’s head and gently squeezed the trigger. That shot dropped the tom in his tracks. Ted Jr. did a great job harvesting his first game animal, a beautiful, two year old Tom.
The next hunt I went on was near Birch Run, with a fellow co-worker named Jeremy Dumbra. We set the blind up so it would face west, 20 yards from a ditch that runs north and south. The landowner told us the turkeys travel from the southeast, cross the field to the west and head towards a stand of pines off to the northwest corner of the field. Shortly after daylight, three jakes entered the field about 150 yards away and they were heading towards the pines. I started calling very aggressively because of the wind and the distance.I did not think that they would hear me, but shortly after I started calling, they turned and bolted towards our blind. They quickly got within 30 yards of our blind, on the opposite side of the ditch. Jeremy readied himself and dropped one with his Remington 1100 20 gauge. That was a great hunt and I’m glad Jeremy got the chance to harvest that nice Jake.
After Jeremy bagged his turkey, I left that spot and headed for North Branch to participate and conduct a seminar for the Wheeling Team 457 Turkey hunt. After the dinner and seminar, I was introduced to my hunter, Brian Woodward. Brian is in his mid forties. He was injured in a car accident where he was left paralyzed from the neck down. He has an air operated wheel chair with a mount that holds the shotgun in place. A device hooks into the trigger and he is able to blow into the tube, causing the shotgun to fire. That year we hunted Harry Wilcox’s property. Harry is an organizer for the Wheeling team and he has a blind set up next to a food plot, specifically for handicapped hunters.
We set up at about 6:30 in the morning. I got Brian set up, and then I set up four decoy’s 20 yards from the blind. After calling off and on for an hour and a half, we heard some turkeys gobbling to the southwest. After sitting quiet for about ten minutes, I started calling again and this time they were much closer to the blind. I slowly peeked out the window on my side of the blind and I could see four jakes approaching the decoys. I turned to Brian and told him to get ready. As I turned the camcorder on, the four jakes walked up to the decoys and started clucking and purring. When they were far enough away from each other, I told Brian to shoot. He fired the gun and harvested his first turkey, a nice Jake. As a nice bonus, I captured the hunt on film, although it was a little shaky, I still got it on film. We called up Harry so he could come pick us up. We went back to camp where we took pictures and showed the video of Brian’s hunt. We were all on cloud nine after this hunt and I was so excited that I got the chance to help Brian harvest his first turkey.
It was only 11:00 in the morning so we returned to Dave and Carol Clemans house, where the wheeling team hunts are based out of. Dave and Carol, as well as many others, put so much time and effort into pulling these events off each year. When we arrived at Dave’s, Wheeling Team hunt director John Stockdale was there. John asked me if I would like to take another hunter out that afternoon. Anyone who knows me knows that I never turn down a chance to go hunt some turkeys, so off we went. This hunters name was Tom Schultz. Tom is in his mid-fifties and he had a stroke that damaged the right side of his body. He hunted that morning with the land owner Joe, but the birds crossed the ditch farther to the north, so he did not get a chance to harvest one. That afternoon we moved to a point where the turkeys crossed in the morning. There is a ditch that runs north and south of a plowed field. We set up the blind 30 yards east of the ditch. At about 6:30 we heard a turkey gobble to the northwest. I called, gave it a rest for a while and then started calling again. This time the turkeys were straight west of the blind. I peeked out the window of the blind and caught sight of two adults and four jakes standing in the field 50 yards from the blind. I quietly got Joe turned around and opened the windows so Joe could see the birds. By then they had moved to the south and were now 70 yards away. I started calling again and they turned back to the north and came within 30 yards on the other side of the ditch. When Joe got his gun up, I told him to shoot when he was ready. When he fired his gun, the closest Jake folded and fell to the ground. After picture taking, hand shaking and back slapping, we called Joe and he picked us up.