Editor’s note: The following blog was written and photographed by Troy Rodakowski.
By Troy Rodakowski
Last Friday the Pacific Northwest was hit with a doozy of a wind storm that left several thousand folks without power and cleanup crews working overtime to remove downed trees and limbs. I had donated a youth turkey hunt to the statewide OHA banquet a year earlier and had plans to take 12-year-old Jacob Haley, who had recently passed his hunters safety class, along with his father Jason from Medford, out that day, April 8th, as well as the 9th if needed.
However, the Tuesday before then my first daughter was born, and we were held up in the hospital until Saturday morning. Luckily, Jason and Jacob were able to book an additional night in their hotel and stay until Sunday for some turkey action.
We made the short 20-minute drive to our hunting grounds, scarfed down some sausage breakfast sandwiches I had made, swilled some beverages and got our gear ready.
I had a small 6-acre parcel of private land that had a couple strutters working it during the midmornings and early afternoons. I placed a hen decoy about 30 yards from our tree-covered fence and began to call. With nothing making a sound for nearly two hours I could tell Jacob was getting a little cold. The temperature had dropped to nearly 33 degrees and sitting was difficult. I rounded up the father-son duo and told them we needed to get back to the truck and warm up.
Once we were warm we headed to a Christmas tree farm I had scouted over the last few months and where we could get some hiking in, which would help to keep our blood flowing. I yelped and cackled every once in a while listening for a response. At about 10 a.m. the weather had warmed, sun began to peek out and we found ourselves above a nice meadow when Jason heard a gobbler cut off my yelp.
I quickly yelped again and he chimed back immediately from the meadow below. Jason told Jacob to follow me as we moved quickly down the trail. I found a nice tree, pointed to it and told Jacob to sit there while I promptly placed the hen decoy about 15 yards down the trail, then joined him at the base of the same tree. We got situated and I gave him instructions to try and get comfortable and ready to shoot once the bird cleared a small stump down the hill that was along the trail.
Yelping again the bird immediately fired off. He was hot and I could now see him almost 150 yards down in the meadow strutting away. I called again and he began to head for the grassy trail we were set up on. Watching him I could tell he was picking up the pace and I could see his long beard swinging as he walked even quicker up the trail. Yelping one more time he went in full strut.
Jacob saw him and got excited. I told him to take his safety off and keep his finger away from the trigger. Whispering in his ear, I said, “Now, once he clears that short stump, I’ll tell you when to shoot.”
The bird proceeded ever so slowly as he approached the hen decoy. Strutting again just past the stump I waited as he dropped his fan and took two more steps. From the corner of my mouth I told Jacob, “Shoot him in the head.”
He didn’t hesitate, as his 20-gauge Weatherby kicked almost instantaneously. The bird dropped immediately flopping around 30 yards from our tree.
We all celebrated the end to a great week and a great weekend. The Haleys were able to spend some priceless father-son time together, and ended the weekend with a very special turkey hunt. For me, the experience has already made my entire season a success. These are the special moments I fondly remember and hope to pass onto my own daughter in the years to come.