Hunters With Disabilities Bag Eleven Turkeys in Central Wisconsin

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On a chilly morning in Wisconsin, six children, three adults, and three veterans, all first-time turkey hunters, waited patiently in their ground blinds with excitement and anticipation. They watched intently as their experienced mentors utilized a variety of turkey calls to lure in a gobbler.

The director, John Haydock, shared that they began organizing this turkey hunt in 2007, with only one year off due to the Covid. “When Larry Trelka owned The Pumpkin Patch, he wanted to use it to host a hunt for disabled children. We expanded to include veterans and adults a few years in, which seemed like a natural fit.”

Olivia, with the assistance of her mentors Marlon and Mark, was able to bag a huge gobbler that weighed 26 lbs. It had a 9 1/2-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. Not long after, Marine veteran Brad and his mentors Jeff and Travis were able to bag a tom that weighed 15.5 lbs. It had 12 1/2 and 10-inch beards and 0.36-inch spurs. Then Branyan and his mentors Bobby and Ryan were able to bag a tom weighing 24 lbs. It had 9 1/4-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. When asked about his favorite part of the hunt, Branyan replied with a big smile, “Shooting my turkey!” At 6:42 a.m., Aricka and her mentors Zac and Myranda also bagged a nice tom that weighed 21 lbs. It had an 11 1/2-inch beard and 1 1/8-inch spurs.

Fifteen minutes later, Evan and his mentors Russ and Bill bagged a nice tom weighing 20 lbs. It had an 8 1/2-inch beard and 5/8-inch spurs. At 7:34 a.m. Maya and her mentors, Jess and Jeremy, got a big gobbler weighing 23 lbs. It had an 8-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. Maya said, “We knew there were turkeys behind us, and finally, one of them came out. I took a shot, but I missed it, and the turkey still came back. The second time, I got him.” When asked how she felt about getting her bird, she flashed a big smile and exclaimed, “Bullseye!!”

Jude and his mentors, Mike and Andy, were able to bag their turkey at 8 a.m. It weighed 18 lbs. and had 11 1/2-inch beards and 3/4-inch spurs. “Shooting my turkey was the most exciting part about the hunt,” said Jude.

That morning, they harvested seven turkeys. Afterward, they returned to the Mead Wildlife Center for a delicious lunch, sharing their hunting stories and showing pictures and videos from their cell phones. The infectious joy in the atmosphere quickly spread, bringing happiness to all.

At 1:10 p.m., Izaia and his mentors, Ryan and Jerick, bagged a nice turkey weighing 18 lbs. It had an 8 1/2-inch beard and 3/4-inch spurs. Then, at 3:00 p.m., Claira and her mentors, Johnny and Jack, got a nice turkey. It weighed 19 lbs. and had 3 1/2-inch beard and 1/4-inch spurs. Claira proudly displayed the turkey’s tail feathers and joyfully said, “Ta-da! I got my bird!” She continued, “My favorite part of the hunt was shooting the turkey and holding it with the farmer.” At 4:15 p.m., Elly and her mentors, Anthony and Bob, also bagged a nice tom that weighed 18 lbs. It had a 7-inch beard and 1/4-inch spurs.

Jeffrey, a veteran of the Air Force, successfully bagged his turkey at 6:30 p.m. with the help of his mentors Adam and Joe. The turkey weighed 15 lbs. and had 5 and 2-inch beards with 1/4-inch spurs. Adam advised Jeffrey to wait for the birds to separate so he could make a clean and ethical shot. Adam congratulated his hunter after the tom went down, saying, “Nice shot, Jeffrey, congratulations.” Jeffrey responded, “It was worth the wait. Holy moly!”

In recognition of the hunt’s success, John Haydock attributed it to the collective efforts of a fantastic group of dedicated mentors. Their commitment ensures the success of our hunters. He also acknowledged the significant contributions of the landowners and volunteer staff, who make the hunt a fun experience for everyone. The optimal number of 12 hunters has been found to provide good quality hunts and experiences.

The event began and ended with a patriotic theme. The Marine Corps Color Guard from Plover raised the flag on Friday, and participating veteran hunters and mentors lowered it on Sunday, which was emotional for everyone.

Congratulations to the hunters on their first successful turkey hunt. We thank the volunteers, donors, and landowners for their unwavering support in making their dreams come true. God bless!

If you are interested in getting involved or know of a deserving child or veteran, don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].