Senior Youth Hunter Essay Winner

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My Turkey Hunting Mentor

By Cody Blatner, Grade 9

I was fifteen years old and had hunted several youth spring turkey hunts without success.

However, I learned a lot with my dad as my mentor. I learned when to call and when to be silent and have patience. I also learned how to sit still even as mosquitoes tried desperately to eat through my head net and gloves.

My dad and I were able to roost several gobblers the night before on some nearby state land. The next morning, we arrived back on the state land at around 3:45 a.m. It was cold and crisp with just enough moonlight to navigate.

I gave a few owl hoots and a turkey immediately gobbled straight ahead on a distant ridge. After several minutes, I gave several more hoots and another turkey gobbled to my left on another smaller ridge. I wanted to continue to call but worried about attracting predators, other hunters, or hens.

I set up my hen decoy and selected a large tree for us to rest against. As I waited for it to get light, I listened to the woods come alive around me. I could smell damp earth and wild leeks. A pileated woodpecker pounded on a nearby tree, and as I heard the caw of a distant crow, I knew it was finally time to call.

My dad gave a series of soft tree yelps and the turkey triple gobbled. I heard the wing beats and breaking branches as the turkey pitched down toward my location. I raised my gun into position while my dad gave a few soft clucks on his favorite mouth call. The turkey gobbled again and the ground seemed to shake. I heard the leaves crunching as the tom suddenly approached in full strut. The sun was shining on its tail feathers and its head was fire engine red and blue.

As the turkey faced me with its head tightly tucked in, my heart was pounding. My dad gave a series of yelps and the turkey broke strut with its head extended like a periscope. My red dot was on the base of his head and I fired. The turkey folded backwards from a load of copper-plated shot from my twenty gauge. After tagging my prize, I was finally able to wrap my hands around the legs of my first spring gobbler. I did a partial mount with my dad’s help and my mom prepared a great turkey dinner! I will always have memories of that special day.