A Miller teen on his first wild turkey hunt Sunday has a story he won’t soon forget.
There were no long hours in a blind waiting endlessly for a bird to appear.
Instead, Wyatt Sisco, 13, and his adult guide, Justin James, scooted on their behinds for 210 yards across an open field to bag one of the biggest tom turkeys of the 2018 spring youth season.
The pair, along with fellow adult guide Tyler Senton, waited out the cold Saturday morning before heading out to stalk wild turkeys on private land southwest of Stockton Lake.
They missed a chance at one bird but soon spotted a huge tom strutting his stuff at the far end of an open field.
Armed with a Stoeger 12-gauge over-under shotgun, the Miller seventh-grader got behind James, who used an umbrella-like device that looks like a wild turkey’s tail feathers to keep the bird from seeing them.
“Me and Justin had to crawl on our butts 210 yards to get close enough,” Wyatt recalled. “We finally got 40 yards away from him. Justin told me to get ready and to aim for his head. I was really nervous. I just wondered if I was going to get him.”
Wyatt fired one shot, and the turkey dropped where it stood.
“When we walked up to him, it was just so big!” Wyatt said.
The old tom turkey had a 9.5-inch feather beard and long spurs. On certified scales, the bird weighed 26.77 pounds, a big one by Missouri standards.
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation records, the heaviest wild turkey taken in recent times in Missouri was a 33-pound tom killed near Franklin in 1990.
According to those records, Wyatt’s bird would rank as the 51st heaviest turkey taken in Missouri since NWTF began keeping records in 1982.
“That’s the biggest turkey I’ve ever seen killed,” said James, 29, who has been hunting since he was 8. “This bird had all black wing feathers, and I’ve never seen that before.”
The hefty turkey is now at a taxidermist, and the bird likely will have a place of honor in Wyatt’s family living room.
Young Wyatt said he can’t wait to go turkey hunting again next year.
“But this one was enough for this year,” he said.
Ted Lidie demonstrates two types of turkey calls. Lidie leads the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s JAKES program that teaches young people to hunt.
Cold weather hampered hunters
Wyatt was among hundreds of young turkey hunters who killed 1,723 turkeys during Missouri’s 2018 spring youth season, April 7-8.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, top-producing counties were Franklin with 51 turkeys, Miller with 43, and Maries with 43.
Young hunters checked a little over 4,000 turkeys during last year’s youth weekend.
MDC’s turkey biologist Jason Isabelle says the much lower numbers this past weekend can be attributed mostly to unseasonably cold temperatures and snow this weekend and for much of spring thus far.
“Weather was the biggest contributing factor to this year’s low youth turkey season harvest,” Isabelle said. “Temperatures that were well below average probably made it difficult for young hunters to spend as much time hunting this past weekend as they would have with more seasonal temperatures.”
Isabelle also noted that in addition to cold temperatures this weekend, spring has been slow to get here this year, causing turkeys to be a little behind schedule as far as the winter flock break up.
“When turkeys are still flocked up as they are in much of the state right now, it can make for some very challenging hunting,” he said. “With warmer temperatures in the forecast, hunting conditions should be much more favorable for the upcoming regular spring turkey season.”
For more information on the upcoming regular spring turkey hunting season, April 16-May 6, get a copy of MDC’s 2018 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available where permits are sold, or online.