By Becky Lou Lacock
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation is the largest conservation, non profit organization in Tennessee. The annual Tennessee Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt is the largest and most prestigious fundraiser. In 2014, I was honored when TWRF Director John Allred asked me to participate as a volunteer guide to join the line of many “Turkey Hunting Addicts” many of whom are celebrities traveling from around the country forT this grand event.
Living in Texas at the time, the first challenge was to locate property with wild turkey, within an easy driving distance to the event for official weigh in deadlines. I began reaching out to friends in the area, with Johnny finding a few property owners willing to give us a shot. That first year my assigned hunter was Chloe Webb, and 11 year old avid huntress.
Chloe was not the first 11 year old I have ever guided for a Turkey hunt, with my first being my grandson Keaton Cooley in Spring of 2012, memories for a lifetime. My fabulous friend Crissy Springer, avid turkey hunter and Tennessee girl, volunteered to come with us to help call and film.
That first year proved to be a hard hunt for most everyone across middle Tennessee. It rained the entire day. I had been given two options for hunting.
Chloe and I drove out the afternoon before the hunt to do some scouting and we immediately spotted a large group of turkey in the field. This was great, but prevented us from walking across the field to the trees beyond in an attempt to roost some birds.
In a blind attempt early the next morning we made our way out to the tree line mid section of the field. Shortly after daylight the turkey began parading across the field 150+ yards away. We began to call, but with a mixture of hens, gobblers and jakes it would be a challenge. After an hour or so, we managed to coax a small group to break away and head for our decoys. Chloe picked out her bird, braced for a shot only to have a nearby hunter shoot and spook them off. I was happy for the 10 year old boy who got his very first gobbler, but sad for my 11 year old gal, but in true hunter’s fashion, she was ready for plan B.
We hiked back to the truck, loaded up and drove 12 miles to a gorgeous piece of property. We walked for 2 1/2 hours pausing, calling and listening with no response or sign of birds. The rain continued, and so did we.
Finally we spotted two great gobblers being taunted by one “crazy hen”. She was running back and forth against a fence constantly yelping and cutting like something I had never heard. For some reason she wanted those gobblers to come over to her side of the fence, and they were meandering around, screaming their heads off about 50 yards away. She happened to be on the adjoining property of which we did not have permission to hunt. The closest place we could set up was approximately 125 yards away, just 25 yards from a bend in a trail that lead down to the field with all the action. Our only hope was to coax them up the trail and wait for them to round the corner. Crissy and I put the “Hot Hen” heat on, her with a mouth call and me with a pot call. We attempted to sound just as crazy as the one hen, hoping that two hens could bring them in. They were torn at first, meandering back and forth between the one crazy hen they could see and the two hens somewhere down the trail. We managed to convince them to head our way. Responding to nearly every call, within a few minutes they were just around the corner, less than 30 yards away. I dropped my friction call while Chloe and I both braced for a shot. We were ready to close the deal on a double. Crissy kept calling, but the gobblers went quiet. We were frozen in hopes they were coming into the decoy, but within a few minutes we heard them respond to the crazy hen, at least 50 yards away. They had decided that one hen in the hand was worth two hens in the bush. We were so close, but yet so far away. We were tired and wet and decided to go back to plan B. We would miss weigh in deadline, but getting a turkey had become the goal of the day.
We drove back to the first property, with no turkey in sight, we followed the tree line hoping to locate some birds. The one and only response we got was quite a distance, and ended up being far from the boundaries of permission we had for hunting, so we decided to call it a day, end the day believing we gave it our best shot, without firing a shot. The next goal of the day was to dry off and get dolled up for the banquet/auction that evening. Always a grand affair.
The next year, 2015, I was able to guide, and once again Chloe was to be my hunter. She was 12 years old now and had several turkey down, so I was not sure who was going to be guiding who, but I knew for sure it was going to be fun!
Wil Sands of Sands Fence Company was gracious enough to secure a few options in the beautiful countryside of Giles County.. The first option was a fabulous farm with rolling hills and hollers that looked like turkey heaven. Wil worked in the area and had seen turkey come down into the front field nearly everyday for several weeks, so he felt that it was the best option. It was going to be easy, right?
We decided that setting up on a tree line in the middle of the field seemed like it would be the perfect spot to catch them as they came down from the timber, so we cleared a spot for Chloe and I, and a spot for Cameraman Lou across in the timber. With little to cover us to the open field, Chloe would use my new TurkeyFan to help hide any movements when she got ready to shoot.
The next morning we arrived and set up long before daylight. We waited, and waited, and waited some more. We never heard the first turkey. Apparently they had decided to have breakfast somewhere else. We then decided to make a move. It was going to be a long steep and steady hike up the hill to the back of back of the property, but there had to be a gobbler out there somewhere for my girl, and we were going to find him!
As we walked the tree line we spotted a lone hen just beyond the area we had just left. She must have been coming into the calling from behind us. Just for kicks, I opened the TurkeyFan turning it toward her and fanned it in and out. She was very interested and I think we could have brought her in, but we had a gobbler to get, so we headed back up the hill.
It seemed like ten, but I am estimating a good 1/2 mile hike on a steep incline until it flattened out, just slightly. There we found turkey heaven. Stopping here and there to do a little calling, it was not long before we heard gobblers answering in the distance. I was never so happy to hear a gobble in my life!
As we tip-toed through the timber with the gobblers responding to every call, we approached a beautiful meadow. Much to our dismay, the gobblers were also in the timber, 200+ yards away on the opposite side. They were extremely excited and responsive, so we had to make a move quick. We either had to try and coax them over, or make a mad dash for the small batch of trees and brush in the middle of the meadow. I made an executive decision and we dashed for the trees, quickly set up a hen in the field. Chloe and I started calling and 3 nice gobblers poked their head out of the far tree line to the left. They were spooked, most likely from the 3 figures that had just dashed across 100 yards, but were still willing to take a chance on love. They made their way cautiously across the field, looking at the decoy but still wary of what might be lurking in the bushes. Suddenly they broke and ran back into the timber. Our hearts dropped. I thought about it for a moment, and thinking back on the crazy hen across the fence from the year before. I decided that we would just go crazy on these birds. It was our only shot. Chloe is an excellent caller, so I told her to give it all she had. We yelped and cut as hard as we could, only pausing to listen briefly for a response. Finally we heard a faint gobble, off in the distance. Apparently those turkey were headed for the next hill but we turned at least one of their heads. We kept calling, cutting and listening. He didn’t respond often, but each time he was closer. Finally he poked his head out and decided he would make a break for it. As he approached the decoy, he looked over at the #TurkeyFan but decided he would brave the danger and continued toward the hen decoy. As he got closer, we stopped calling. Chloe braced and waited for the perfect shot.
As good as any experienced mature hunter I have ever seen, she became motionless, I was just hoping she didn’t forget to breathe. I left the timing to her better judgement and with the perfect shot, she gave that turkey a dirt nap. No flopping, chasing or 2nd shot needed! In true hunters fashion, we had high fives, hugs and a big WHEW!
Although guides are allowed to harvest a turkey to compete for prizes with combined scores of both birds, we would have to head north to beat the deadline for the official weigh in in Franklin, TN, 1 hour away. Chloe was beaming with pride when she jumped out of the truck with her 23 pound turkey bearing a 10” beard!
The Tennessee Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt is a first class affair, and the banquet/auction is always packed with entertainment, great prizes and fabulous food. The public is invited and there is always a full house, so if you want to attend each year check the TWRF website and save the date!
TWRF (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation) do wonderful things to conserve, protect and promote wildlife and their habitat, and very worthy of your support. There are many ways, to help including monetary donations, items for silent and live auctions for events and volunteering your time. The Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt is their flagship fundraiser and people from around the country can secure a grand Tennessee Turkey Hunt with a donation, along with prizes and a fabulous banquet to finish it off. Each year I am thrilled to attend and contribute to this event, and amazed at the people traveling from around the nation donating their time, effort, and money to make this event a huge success.
2014 Tennessee Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt photos
2015 Tennessee Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt photos