After trying but failing to help my two sons, Joe and Andy, get a turkey during Minnesota’s first season last week, my turn came on Monday. After witnessing a tough hunt for the boys, I knew it wouldn’t be easy during my season. A lot of birds were still grouped up in large flocks and that always makes it tough. Usually, they have broken into smaller groups and spread out by now.
Sure enough, my hunt was tough, too. I started on one farm in Red Wing where I previously had good hunting and heard only one bird gobbling in the distance. I went to the neighboring farm and ended up calling in four nice gobblers to about 100 yards. But, they wouldn’t come any closer, so I moved on to two more farms without hearing a gobble at either one.
The next day, I went back to one of those farms because my brother, Paul, and his brother-in-law each had shot a bird there. Sure enough, there were toms gobbling at dawn, but I couldn’t get any of them to come in.
So, I went back to the farm where I had called in the four toms the day before. I spent about three hours there and heard nothing. I was packing up to leave when I looked up and saw a turkey approaching my decoy. I looked to see if it had a beard, which is required by state law. Beards, tufts of black hair protruding from the chest, are mostly, but not always, found on males.
I saw the beard, aimed and fired, dropping the bird. When I went up to retrieve it, I discovered it was a female — a rare, bearded hen. The bird was perfectly legal, but very unexpected. In more than 20 years of turkey hunting, I had never even seen a bearded hen, although my Dad got one several years ago. I was relieved that the bird, in fact, was legal, but I had been hoping to shoot a big tom, especially after seeing four of them the previous day.
But, I have learned to take what the Lord gives me and be thankful. As is my custom, I said a prayer of thanks for my bird, then visited the landowners and shared my success story with them. The good news is I have a Wisconsin hunt coming up in mid May and the birds will be spread out by then, plus most, if not all, of the hens should be laying eggs and sitting on their nests, which makes the toms lonely for love and more willing to come to a call.
It’s hard to be disappointed with a hunt like this in light of the tragic death of 8-year-old Hunter Klaseus, who died over the weekend when his father, Anthony, mistook him for a turkey and shot him at a farm near Belle Plaine. After hearing about this, I’m glad just to have a safe hunt.
Yet, a tragedy like this is easily preventable. As a firearms safety instructor, I know that one of the three laws of firearms safety could have kept this from happening if it had been followed: Be sure of your target and what lies beyond. In the spring, only a turkey with a visible beard can be shot, so there’s no reason to shoot at movement.
But, however poor Anthony Klaseus’ judgment may have been, I think the best thing we can do is pray for him and his family. It’s going to be very hard on all of them and they are going to need God’s love and mercy to get them through. I hope and pray they all will call upon the Lord for support and guidance during this time.