Last year on March 29th and 30 the Savannah Wildlife Refuge sponsored their first Youth Turkey Hunt. They opened the hunt to any hunter b under the age of 16. A parent or guardian had to accompany the hunter along with a local mentor. The hunt was cosponsored by the Georgia NWTF, with David Wamer, director of the Save the Hunt Program. Monica Harris and Russ Webb, Operations Managers of the wildlife center organized the event.
The Refuge is a 30,000 acre track of land approximately 15 miles NW of the City of Savannah on the Savannah River, with property in both the Georgia and South Carolina. The refuge closed the property for general hunting until after this hunt. However rainfall the month prior to the hunt had the river 6 feet above flood stage and consumed 30 to 60% of the refuge.
The Hunters were chosen from a lottery style drawing. With the hunters being notified a month in advance. The only requirements prior to the hunt were that the hunters regardless of age must have a Hunter Education certificate. Or have completed one of the on line courses. On the evening prior to the hunt Christine Rocka, NWTF Education Director and a wildlife biologist gave a Turkey 101 class. Andy Taylor, a certified Hunted Education Instructor gave a safety briefing and a review of the hunter education course. After which, 2 of the hunters were required to take the final test and both were issued their Hunter Education certificate.
On Saturday morning, Andy was paired up with Joseph Arnold, and were chosen to hunt a long track of land just to the North of the Savannah River in South Carolina. We hunted hard the first day but because or weather conditions none of the 10 hunting groups saw a bird and a limited amount of gobbling was herd. On day 2, we again went to our track of , land and it was a little better, we heard a couple of tree gobbles then nothing after 8 AM. We walked approx 4 miles that day and I wanted to take him to a small oak flat I found on Google Earth. We made our way to the flat and set up by a very large 300 year old Live Oak tree. At that point we were within 150 yards of my truck. I gave a cluck on a slate call and had a hen turkey answer it. She came along with a very mature Jake walked to our left and down into a gully. I told Joseph to hold tight we can call this bird back up, here. I started some clucks and purrs very softly and used a plastic bag to simulate a turkey scratching in the leaves. Less than 2 minutes later the jake had left the hen and was standing 25 yards to our front.
Now Joseph really didn’t have a turkey gun or proper ammo. I loaned him my Benelli. SBE II, loaded with the new Long Beard e.5 inch ammo, in #5s. Joseph placed ft he bead at the base of the birds neck and slowly squeezed off a round. Mr. Jake was dead before he hit the ground!