“We had terrible storms the night before the hunt. When we got to the ground blind, it was all wadded up from the storm. The weather at 5:30 am was cold, windy, and raining. We had to get the blind all set back up and organized., The next couple of hours were brutal. The wind would try to blow away the blind, so we had to hold it down. Then, it would snow and rain, and it was rough,” said Maddy’s father, Nathan, a veteran.
Early that morning, all the mentors and hunters tried to make the best out of difficult weather conditions. 12-year-old Braiden’s Uncle Jameson said, “Our mentor, Joe Davis, and myself were trying to get the heater going by trying all different things, then all of a sudden we heard a gobble from a distance, and we watched a tom with four beards come in from about 50 yards away 3/4 strut right up to the decoys then Braiden made a perfect shot.” The young man was beaming with joy at the success of his first hunt.
As the morning progressed, many other turkeys flew down from the roost, and one came over the top of a hill towards 17-year-old Megan, sitting with her dad and mentor, Dakota Hall. Shortly afterward, she bagged a nice jake. A bit later, Maurreon got a nice tom and was overjoyed to share the experience with his grandpa and mentor, Rick Vandrew.
At 7:05 am, Anthony, 13, and his mom and mentor, Donald Hall, bagged a nice tom too. Jessica said, “It worked out perfectly because Anthony was in a lot of pain from the bone-chilling storms, so the short but sweet hunt was just what he could handle. It was neat for my son and me to see turkeys dancing and moving through the fields for the first time in their natural habitat.”
Nathan expressed, “Despite the weather conditions, Maddy did a fantastic job staying vigilant from the moment we got into the blind but fell asleep at about 9:27 am. We hadn’t seen any turkeys or heard any movement. However, our mentor, Gerry Grimm, continued to call diligently. Then a turkey appeared out of nowhere from behind us. Gerry tapped her on the shoulder, and without hesitation, Maddy woke up, stayed still and waited for a good target, and took her shot. All in a matter of about one minute or so, and just like that, she got her bird. It was amazing.”
With four toms and one jake bagged by the USSA kids, the anticipation back at camp was exhilarating. Nothing could surpass the excitement everyone felt waiting to hear if the last hunter would get a bird before the hunt concluded at 1 pm.
Throughout the hunt, Bryonna, 13, her dad, and mentors Dave Chapman and Trent saw some massive flock of turkeys, but they were always too close together to get a good shot without wounding another bird. She started to get nervous with time running out, but soon a turkey came into range, and her patience and perseverance now paid off. She bagged a nice tom at 12:56 pm with only 4 minutes left to hunt.
“God blessed us after the bad weather on Friday night, and to have everything still there and useable, and the action of the birds was just phenomenal. A great crew and a great bunch of kids made it all happen. Watching the kids come in with their birds explains why I keep organizing these hunts,” said Illinois Hunt Director Terry Day.
Special thanks to the NWTF Rock River Turkey Chapter, mentors, volunteers, landowners, and Camp Lowden, BSA. Congratulations to all the kids for bagging a bird on opening day. The beautiful memories they shared with their mentors and parents will be engraved forever in their hearts. God bless!
If you want to get involved or know of a deserving youth or veteran who would like a wish granted, don’t hesitate to contact United Special Sportsman Alliance.