Outstanding In Their Field

turkey

For as long as I can remember, there have always been constant requests for hunters to come on our farm to hunt wildlife.
When I was younger, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was rabbits and pheasants. Now I believe if you want any chance of seeing a rabbit, you must go into a yard or garden and catch them eating the shrubbery or vegetables. I suggest you google ring-necked pheasant on the computer if you want to see one of those anytime soon.
It was also about the mid-1970s that we saw our first whitetail deer and coyote on our farms. My dad had lived since his birth in 1926 on farms west of Joliet for almost 50 years before he saw his first coyote or deer. Now these two animals are so common to the area, you can frequently see their bodies along the side of roads from failed attempts at crossing.
I remember the first time I saw a wild turkey on my farm. It was circa 1995, and I wasn’t even sure what I had seen flying out of my wheat field. My summer baling worker, Andy, was with me, and since he hunted, he was ecstatic when we saw the turkey flying.
Even though I was witnessing an explosion of deer and coyote populations in my lifetime, I was unaware the turkeys were also returning to our county. At that time, I thought every turkey in Illinois was raised on a farm and sold in a store to be eaten for Thanksgiving dinner.
Here in the last several years, the requests continue for rights to hunt my property. Only now it is dove, geese, coyote, deer and turkeys being hunted. No one requested to hunt these animals 50 years ago. Almost all requests receive the same answer of “no,” until Mike called last week.
Mike tracked me down to see if he could take his son out for the spring youth turkey hunting season. His plan was for himself and his father, Rick, to accompany his son, Justin, while they concealed themselves in a ground blind surrounded by turkey decoys and tried to call a mature Tom turkey within shotgun range. It would be 3 generations together, passing on a tradition that is perhaps as old as time itself.
The patch of woods, grassland and hay fields in my creek bottom ground had endured serious flooding only the day before. This did not prevent a successful hunt. Justin was able to shoot his first turkey and fill his youth turkey permit. I have yet to meet the young hunter, but when I do, I will be sure to find out if he thought it tasted better than a Butterball.
I believe this fit the definition of “Local Food.”

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