We are off again – this time to Henrietta, Texas and the WORLD CHAMPION TURKEY FEST. Team DLO was extremely excited to get an Invitation to this great event, which is ‘invitation only’. We knew we would be the newcomers this year but it didn’t matter to us – it was just the excitement of being invited and being able to participate in this nostalgic event.
Day one found us packing the DLO Trailer with all our equipment, greasing the wheels, filling our Orion Cooler with ice and drinks and heading out for a short 2 ½ hour drive to Henrietta. Myself, cameraman and Editor Jeron Detty were ready and waiting on our other team member Jeremy Sickles to arrive so we could get on our way. Shortly thereafter Jeremy arrived and we hit the road.
Arriving in the town of Henrietta was awesome. There were signs everywhere promoting the Turkey Fest and people roaming around and shopping at the main site of the event where there were vendors from all over selling products. There was jewelry, clothes, deer stands, food stands, and all kinds of events scheduled from turkey races to food eating contest.
We stopped at our destination, the Clay Country Courthouse Caboose, which was cool because it is actually the Chamber of Commerce for Henrietta. We stopped to go to the check in and sign up for the event, everyone was so hospitable and friendly. Each of the 7 Pro Teams were sponsored by a Ranch from Clay County, and we were assigned to our ranch which was the Historic Sanzenbacher Ranch which was started in 1873. Our Host the ranch owner, Forrest Baldwin met us in town and led us to where we would be staying the next 5 days.
After arriving at the ranch we drove around looking for Turkey sign and listening for a gobble to help us locate some birds. Forrest is not a hunter, this is a working 7000 acre cattle ranch so were basically on our own to find the birds.
Well its not daylight yet, but we knew we had to get up and get settled in a blind we had put up last night in an area we had heard a few Turkeys gobble last evening.
Forrest dropped us off down the road and we walked to our blind and got set up for the First morning hunt. As daylight started getting close we could hear the Turkeys starting to gobble – we now were getting excited and pumped up for sure. We had our decoys out and ready to rock and roll. But unfortunately they left the roost and flew onto the adjoining neighbor’s property so that left us with no turkey to shoot or chase. Plan B now comes into effect – we decide so start driving around, stopping and calling to see if we can locate some gobblers.
Gobble, gobble, gobble , one answers off in the distance about 200 yds away. We grab our gear and off we go to see if we can get him enticed to come to us.
After, crawling and in stealth mode, we can tell he is coming towards us so we set up and are ready and waiting. We start calling and he’s still coming so we hope we are hidden enough – with 3 guys and camera equipment it gets a little tough sometimes with the eyesight that turkeys have to not be seen. Fortunately we have fooled this one he is still on his way. Jeremy had belly crawled to put out a lone hen decoy out in front of us to keep his attention on the hen. As he came closer Jeron said anytime I have him in the camera. Well problem was it was a Jake and that would not work, contest doesn’t let you Turn in Jakes so we have to Locate and find some bigger ones
After the morning hunt and we had not been able to kill that Turkey, we knew we had to go after another one. For the contest you are only allowed to turn in Two Turkeys and only the Biggest of the two will count as the score.
Jeron and I set up along a fence row in a popup blind for the afternoon hunt hoping to catch the turkeys heading back to the roost for the evening and luckily our plan had worked. We saw a large gobbler working its way towards us, so we started calling. He decided to drift off into the woods and circle us but we kept him heading our way. All of a sudden Jeron tapped me on the leg and pointed to my left. As a turned slowly I saw two gobblers within 20 yards walking straight towards our hen decoy. I was now in stealth mode and excited as we watched the two gobblers get within shotgun range. Next few seconds went fast as Jeron said he had them on the camera. I picked what I believed to be the larger of the two and touched off a round and the shotgun let loose at the bird and down he went! We had a score able bird on the ground! Now my heart was still pounding with excitement as I retrieved the turkey and we felt like we had accomplished our goal with great planning that worked out.
That evening we were went to town for the Dinner with all the participants and workers at Turkey Fest. It was a great meal and we visited with everyone, filled our stomachs and headed back to the ranch to prepare for the next day.
The morning started out tough. Jeron and Jeremy headed out to a pop up blind to see if they could locate a larger bird than we had taken yesterday. I just drove around and listened for areas birds might be gobbling in. Jeron and Jeremy heard some birds gobbling and decided to light out on the chase to catch up to them. They got close several times to different birds with opportunity to take one but none of the birds were as large as what we had so far. These were mostly Jakes and smaller gobblers with shorter beards and spurs. It was a tough day chasing birds, but what an experience.
That evening we tried again to no avail, so we headed off to eat supper prepared by our host Forrest Baldwin.
Day 4 found us working a big bird just after daylight but we could not get him away from a couple of hens he had already located. We went into the chase mode again after some different birds but it was a long and tedious day without any luck. We headed to town for the big Banquet and the Auction for the teams. We are so appreciative to our Great Sponsor TRUGLO for donating such a large amount of product for the auction and giveaways for this event. They went beyond helping to support this event.
As the evening progressed and after everyone had eaten, the auction for each of the 7 TEAMS began. This is an auction for the public to bid on a team to be able to hunt with the PRO’S the next day. This helps to raise money for the next Turkey Fest for 2016, along with all the sponsored products brought by the teams for a silent auction. Each Team came to the stage, was introduced and then bid on by the public. After the first 3 teams had been sold it was DLO ‘S TIME. The bidding started and it kept going up, and up and up till it reached $2800 – we were so excited we had been the high bid. We then learned that TWO of the participants in the Turkey Fest were both Combat Veterans and Wounded Warriors. DLO had been selected to be one of the Teams to take one of these dedicated men turkey hunting. What a privilege we had been given. Our hunter was Stephen Jackel, a Purple Heart Recipient and True American Hero who had lost both legs in combat. Now we had the adrenalin flowing knowing we wanted to make sure his hunt with Team DLO was one he would remember and treasure.
Stephen’s Hunt – Day 5
That night after the banquet as we headed to the ranch, Jeron and Jeremy set up a pop up blind in the woods where we had heard and seen the large gobbler the day before. Since Rain was forecast we thought this would be our best bet to get Stephen a bird if it started raining. Jeron and Jeremy picked up Stephen at his hotel and headed back to the ranch where we met up and made the decision of how to get this thing done. Jeron and Jeremy took Stephen to the blind and I got out along the way to listen for birds if they didn’t find the big bird.
Well this was awesome – Jeron was calling and the bird started answering and things started getting excited for Stephen. As Jeron and Jeremy called and worked the bird closer, just after daylight broke, the Gobbler decided he did not want to come straight in towards the hen decoy. Instead he came in from behind the blind down a fence. Fortunately Stephen was able to get the shot from the back of the blind as the Gobbler came close and killed his FIRST TURKEY! This was so incredible to be able to accomplish this for Stephen – we feel so privileged to be able to have him hunt with us and be able to get him his first Turkey. His face and smiles made our whole experience and the trip beyond words.
We want to thank Turkey Fest of Henrietta Texas and the Organization of HUNTING WITH SOLDIERS for bringing Stephen Jackel and Scott Lear, the two Combat Veterans, to this event. Make sure you go and support this great Organization for what it does for our Veterans.
Thanks to all our Sponsors.
Enjoy the Adventures of the Outdoors and be Safe.
Thanks from The Double Lung Outdoors TV Team.