Sixteen youth hunters between ages 10 and 15 participated. Eighteen dedicated mentors and four facilitators donated their weekend to provide an educational and fun weekend.
Hunters and mentors arrived at Turkey Camp on Friday evening for the welcome and briefing, and then they headed to the field to try to locate turkeys. Lights-out would come at 9:30 p.m., with anticipations running high among the youth hunters, and mentors determined to give the best experience possible, even though wintery conditions were going to make things difficult.
Each hunter was presented with a custom made slate call made by Luck Custom Call in Luck, Wisconsin. These beautiful walnut potted calls had a slate over glass striking surface. Each one had a laser engraved bottom depicting a gobbling long beard on an oak branch overlooking Lake Superior as an ore boat goes by; the Gitchee Gumme Chapter’s logo.
Some youth had difficulty sleeping Friday night. Their adrenaline was high, and some got up well before the 4 a.m. wake-up call. Sharon Nummi prepared sausage patties and egg bake for breakfast.
Dave Evered arrived Saturday morning at about 3:15 a.m. to get breakfast on. Much of the prep-work was done Friday evening for egg bake and breakfast sausage patties. Dave checked on the oven and mixed the pancake batter. He carefully poured out the pancake batter on a large grill.
At 4 a.m., Turkey Camp was buzzing with activity. Mentors and adult walk-alongs welcomed their first cup of coffee, youth lined up for a buffet of hot food, and all, settled at their tables anticipating the first morning hunt. Toe warmers, donated by Solon Springs Mercantile, and hand warmers, donated by Poplar Hardware, were distributed to the group.
I was paired up with Caleb Wakefield of South Range. By 4:45 a.m., we were headed to a large red pine plantation on the Brule River State Forest where we had seen tracks from two gobblers and five hens the night before. Unable to stick the decoys into the frozen soil, we opted for stinking them into the 12 inches of crystalized snow just off a wood road.
With decoys set and dawn breaking the darkness of the east sky, we settled in with our backs against a red pine. One of my biggest goals was to show Caleb as many calling techniques I could, and to have him imitate me on his slate call he received from our Chapter the night before.
At 6:15, we heard our first gobble in the morning. Caleb was clearly excited, and I was thankful that at least he got to hear one. A short while later, we heard three birds gobbling, one closer and farther north than the other two. Unfortunately, there were also several hens tree yelping.
A barred owl hooted a little over a hundred yards west of us and I asked Caleb if I should see if I could call it in. With him giving me permission, I let out a classic owl call in the format “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.” Immediately three owls hooted back and the gobblers shock gobbled at the ruckus. One owl flew toward us and landed in the tree next to ours and looked down at us with a look seemingly saying, “just who do you think you are?”
After about two hours, we were cold and the turkeys were not interested in our calls. Caleb did succeed in getting them to gobble at his calling, but they stayed quite a distance away. So, we picked up our decoys and headed for the car.
With an air temperature in the middle teens, one can only hunt for so long. We opted to try to find a gobbler in the warmth of my van. This technique was replicated by several of the mentors in the course of the weekend.
Upon returning to the Four Season’s Building, we found Andrew Lancour with his mentor Brandon Nollet, with a nice two-year-old long beard.
After supper, the whole group of hunters anxiously waited for their turn to demonstrate their calling techniques to three judges. Michael Khalar from Lake Nebagamon won the contest and had first pick at a bunch of prizes that the Chapter put on a table. Caleb ended up in fourth, and I was proud of how well he did. Sharon Nummi once again prepared the sausage patties and egg bake for breakfast.
Sunday morning brought bitter cold temperatures. A great hot breakfast prepared everyone for a cold morning. At minus 6, we knew we had better set up in a location that was much closer to roosted birds. We set up a half mile southwest of our Saturday morning spot. At about 6:10 a.m., a bird gobbled on private land about 150 yards away. He had so many hens by him that when they got excited in the tree, they let out so much cutting, it sounded like a popcorn popper. We picked up the decoys at 7:40 and headed for the van. Caleb’s calling was going very well, but we continued to practice while staying in the van. We drove past the small flock of turkeys that had joined up with another gobbler in the opposite direction from our earlier calling.
The group had a great time and there are many that need to be thanked, for it was because of their kindness that made this weekend so successful.
For the 11th year, the Four Seasons Recreation Club once again donated the use of their building for our hunt headquarters. The Saturday dinner was provided by Gruzy’s and Circle Pines Resort. The Crystal Lake Resort again helped with logistics. Our mentors and facilitators are top notch people who understand how important it is to work together to be able to provide such a program. The Gitchee Gumme Chapter of the NWTF sincerely thanks all of you.
Kevin L. Feind is a natural resource property supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.