Friday, May 25, 2012

Late Season Turkeys

By Spider Rybaak

Wounded warrior Chris Jones and the two things that got him into the woods: his white-haired companion and an Action Track Chair.
As with all game, bagging a turkey is easiest—relatively speaking—early in the season. By now, most gobbler hunters have put away their camo and guns and picked up fishing or lawn equipment. Bad mistake: late bloomers are just getting revved up.

Stanley Ouellette, owner of Deer Creek Motel and Pheasant Shooting Preserve, (315) 298-3730, showed me last Tuesday.

“Spider,” he whispered, “we just got a nice jake. Want to take some pictures?”

“Sure,” I responded. “When and where”

“At the hotel, 1 p.m.”

“How come you’re whispering?” I asked.

“Because I’m working a bird right now and don’t want to spook him,” he responded.
“I’ll be there,” I promised.

Wow, I thought as I hung up. The guy can make a phone call while he’s talking turkey.

When I caught up with his group of seven, I was introduced to all of them, but two stood out: Chris Jones and Pat Donnelly; Stan is so modest and low key you hardly know he’s there.

Donnelly, President of Team E Outdoors, a hunting and fishing show which runs  September through February on Time Warner Sports, and is currently available on the Pursuit Channel, 6 p.m., on Thursday nights,  has access to an Action Track Chair, an all-terrain wheelchair. Deciding to devote several segments of his show to Wounded Warriors shooting the bird, he made a deal with Ouellette.

“Stanley provides us with accommodations, time, place to hunt and does all the calling,” admits Donnelly.

Jones is the Wounded Warrior. On August 27, 2011, while stationed in Iraq as a member of the 10th Mountain Division, an IED went off near him, compressing and twisting his spine, causing heavy loss of hearing in both ears and major nerve damage, among other things.

“I love to hunt,” admits the Watertown resident, “and this chair lets me get out there,” he says, sweeping his arm over the fields and forests behind the motel. “I couldn’t have gotten out there without it.”

I asked Stan what technique he used in drawing turkeys close, especially so late in the season.

“Runnin and gunnin,” he replied quickly, with a grin.

“Say what?” I retorted.

Kyle Ott, a member of the field staff for Lights Out Custom Calls, responded “Cover as much ground as possible, call to close the distance, giving him a shorter distance to cover when you call, then sit down and shut up.”

““How do you know when to stop calling?” I asked.

“Once I know he’s closing ground, responding closer, I stop calling,” he answered.

Rick Miick, a local fishing guide and the only one to bag the bird, butted in “Hens came in first today, talking right back to me, mirroring what I was saying. They stayed at the edge of the hedgerow. Not the jakes that were with them, though. As soon as they hit the field and saw my decoy, they broke with the live hens and came running for it. Dead jake.”

Unfortunately, Jones didn’t get a shot.

He recounts his experience: “Stan called three hens that actually pecked at our decoy before returning to the woods. A couple hours later, a couple more came out. But the one tom Stan attracted never came around the open side of our blind. His voice was deep, raspy…a real mature bird. Stan saw it and estimated it at three years old.”

Hunting turkeys is a good way to welcome spring. The weather’s warm, everything’s green and the turkeys are talking their hearts out.

Highly popular Salmon River guide Rick Miick, showing he can shoot turkey, too.

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