Youth Hunter’s Extraordinary First Turkey

Any turkey hunter’s first turkey holds a special place in their heart. The anticipation and excitement that goes along with the adrenaline rush of having a big tom at close range kicks off an addiction that will last a lifetime. Few things can be compared to the awakening of the spring woods on a calm morning chasing wild turkeys.

For youth hunter Taylor and her father Jake Wolf, this was their first-time experiencing turkey hunting. Taylor’s father booked a youth hunt at Harpole’s Heartland Lodge and the journey began to harvest a gobbler. Their guide Zach had situated a pop-up blind on the edge of a clover food plot where a flock of turkeys had been frequenting right off the roost in the mornings. The weather forecast was perfect for turkey hunting, low temperatures were in the 30’s, the high was near 60, calm winds, and a dark moon, the stage was set for opening day of the youth season.

IL Turkey Hunting Taylor, Jake, and Zach crept into the blind extra early that morning around 5:30, knowing that turkeys would be roosted within a couple hundred yards of the clover food plot and there blind. The first gobbler broke the silence at 5:50 and for the next 30-40 minutes, multiple gobblers sounded off in every direction from the blind. Five toms were roosted with a half dozen or so of hens in the draw next to the blind. Soon after daylight, 2 hens pitched down off the roost and into the clover food plot at about 80 yards. The toms and the rest of the turkeys flew down shortly after. The hens bugged and fed in the clover while the toms remained in full strut staying within just a few yards of the hens.

The toms paid no attention to the jake and hen decoys set out directly in front of the blind, and for most of the morning, other than one occasion when a single tom and hen got within 40 yards of the blind with no shot Taylor, Jake, and their guide observantly watched the turkeys at around 100 yards as they fed and meandered around the clover food plot.

It was around 11:00 when the wind started to pick up and the turkeys had been out of the field for about an hour. The guide and hunters had cooperatively decided that the blind needed to be moved another 100 yards to the East in the middle of the clover food plot for the next morning’s hunt. As Jake and Zach struggled getting the pop-up blind situated with the high winds at its new location, Taylor noticed something out in the middle of the field. At first, she thought it maybe a trash bag drifting in the wind but upon further inspection, she noticed they were turkeys. She quietly got the guide’s attention, in disbelief Zach peered around the blind to see two tom turkeys with their heads interlocked fighting at just 70 yards!
IL Guided Turkey Hunts (2)
Zach aptly grabbed the strutting decoy and instructed Taylor to follow closely behind. The two toms were so occupied fighting that it allowed Zach and Taylor to get within 20 yards of them! Nervously waiting for the toms to separate for a clear shot, the birds walked over a rise in the field, Taylor and Zach followed, once at the top of the rise the birds were just 30 yards away. Zach started calling with his mouth and the toms finally noticed that something wasn’t quite right. Taylor readied for the shot and when the toms separated, they wasted no time trying to get out of the field. On a dead run at 40 yards, Taylor took aim and squeezed the trigger at the running tom and made an amazing shot, dropping the big tom in its tracks.

An unbelievable first hunt that will not be soon forgotten, one that father, and daughter will cherish for the rest of their lives. The beginning of a new family tradition for the Wolf’s and the perseverance of the foundation in which the Heartland Lodge was built upon, “tradition’s that last a lifetime.”



Last Updated: February 27th, 2024

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