Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fathers & Sons Turkey A Hunting Tradition

It all started over a year ago in May 2011, then one thing led to another.  Lou Gambale, Chairman of the ACGP Turkey Committee, and President of the newly formed NWTF National Wild Turkey Federation Chapter, the TLC Tri-County Longbeards,  invited his friend Bennett to the 1st Annual TCL Banquet Dinner Auction, held last September at the Weymouth Fire Hall in Mays Landing.  Bennett was so enthusiastic about turkey hunting, he came on board as a corporate sponsor with his business,  He attended the banquet where I first met him, and offered to show him around the Game Preserve, and talk turkey.  He was hooked! And joined just in time to participate in Youth Day for the Spring 2012 Turkey Season, on Saturday April 21.

It was shaping up to be a great day!  Lou had put together a Youth Day Challenge, based on NWTF scoring guidelines, where by they would be entitled to special recognition for harvesting a bird, and possibly be entered into the record books for qualifying scores.  We had over six dads and Granddads with their Youth Hunters that day; Lou S., Ron S,. Joe R., Pete D., John B., including Bennett.

I met he and his son, Bennett Jr. at about 5:00 AM at the Field Camp.  It was perfect weather, in the mid to upper 50's, clear and no wind.  It was looking to be a great day for the turkey hunters.  We set up on the edge of a chufa field, which had been planted for the past three or four years, next to another field of sorghum and clover.  The turkeys had been tearing up the chufa all winter and spring, and had been scouted around the area.  

Jr. was loaded and patiently looking for birds. Dad  made the first yelps at shooting time shortly past 6 AM.  I followed with a few yelps and other calls of my own.  We waited for a good half hour till sunrise to call again, by then the fields and forest had come alive with birds and animals; still no gobbles to be heard or  seen.  We waited patiently for another hour, before moving about 500 yards towards field 1, along the Peasley Wildlife Management Area, where we set up and called along the field, woods and back again.  Still no responses.  Patience! I said. A bird can show up anytime, anywhere unannounced.  You have to assume they will be coming in quiet, so beware. No sudden moves. By 9 AM we ended up almost where we started.  Breakfast was calling, but I insisted we give it one more try.  We sat down just inside the pines next to the field facing a swampy spung area and I made a few different yelps, cuts, and gobbles followed by some purrs.  NOTHING in response.  

After 20 minutes it was time for breakfast.  I stood up, and there were two big toms 20 yards to our left,  that had come up quietly from the swamp, not making a sound.  For a moment, it was a standoff!  Then I told Jr. to shoot!  The first shot winged him, but the second shot was a clean kill.  Dad and son quickly walked over to claim the prize; 20 lbs 7 ounces, 10 inch beard, 1 inch  spurs.  What an experience!  First time turkey hunting for two new hunters, on opening day of turkey season.  A memory that will last a lifetime!  

Dad and son in the field of clover just in front of the woods where the bids came up from.

It is a unique privilege to guide, and mentor new hunters!  A tradition that was passed down to me from my brother Fran, and an Atlantic County Game Preserve tradition that has been repeated for Sportsmen and Sportswomen for generations.  Remember-Practice Safe, Ethical Hunting.  Pass it on.

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