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Venezuela Hunter Shoots His First Turkey

5/12/2012
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As the Illinois turkey season comes to a close, I start looking back on the memories made this season with the hunters at Heartland Lodge.  An extremely warm and early spring was the last thing we wanted to see while gearing up for what we hope would be an exciting year.  Early, thick foliage and grass can ruin strut zones and turkey activity for even the most skilled hunter.  Knowing what challenges lay ahead of us, the crew at Heartland understood that our only option was to suck it up and get our job done by giving some mature toms the ol’ dirt nap.

In the first of five weeks of turkey season, we entertained a group of guys from Venezuela going on their first turkey hunt.  The hunter that was going out with me was Carlos Puppio.  Carlos was set on getting a mature tom.

Carlos and AllenThe first day of the hunt proved to be a nightmare.  Thirty mile per hour winds had us more concerned with holding our blind down than killing a turkey.  We stuck it out and called as best we could with the wind howling around us.  At one o’clock quitting time the only bird we had seen was a small jake.  Our bad luck was sorely disappointing because Carlos’s group was only hunting two days, which meant we only had on chance to get it done and we could not let the weather hinder us in reaching our goal on day two. 

The second morning we got in the woods very early.  Abandoning the blind in order to get in closer to the roosted toms, we snuck within thirty yards of the tree our bird was in.  First light let us know that the long beard wasn’t the only thing in the woods with us.  Two young does walked within twenty yards of us threatening to ruin our hunt.  After about ten minutes, the deer left us alone, and we were back to turkey hunting.  Very shortly after that, the woods were filled with the sound gobbling birds.  The one we were after was twenty-five yards away on roost, and there were two others within seventy.  I called once to let the birds know where the hen I would be pretending to be was located.  That call was answered by the tom’s apparent girlfriend, and she didn’t seem happy that we were there.  The hen that responded to my call flew from her roosting tree to a tree about ten feet from the one Carlos was sitting against, and once again there was a severe threat to our hunt.  In typical bad luck style, the hen pitched down right at the base of that tree within eight yards of us.  We had to be very still, but as long as we weren’t spooking her, we had ourselves a live decoy.  Pretty soon I could see tail fan coming over ridge top in our direction.  The problem would now be raising the shotgun without being spotted by the hen. However, for some reason the hen decided it was time to leave us.  The tom was in range so I told Carlos to shoot, but he could not hear me from his seat ten feet away.  He was wasn’t sure enough about what the yardage was to make the call himself.  A second later, our gobbler walked away with the hen that had left us.    

Thinking we had missed our opportunity I started talking to Carlos about why he had not taken the shot.  No sooner did I finish my sentence than the bird came back.  This time we weren’t going to miss our opportunity, and Carlos hammered the long beard with an excellent shot.  The hunt was over, and we stood victorious with a turkey that boasted a ten inch beard, and inch and one-eighth spurs. 

Allen Ballinger

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