Odds are a lot of wild turkeys were called in and killed Saturday morning. A lot of those toms were probably trophy-class gobblers.
But I doubt any were as appreciated as a young jake I watched get taken in Butler County. I assure you none in the state were more deserved.
“I’m either going to have to shoot one of those birds or have a heart attack,” Roger Dakin said, trying to calm himself after watching some Rio Grande jakes attack a Dakota jake decoy 15 yards from the blind. “I can’t believe how hard my heart’s pounding.”
A few minutes later Dakin was heading towards his dead bird, going as fast as his hands cold push the wheels on his chair across the prairie. At the bird he swung his body to the ground and continued his wide smile.
Mine was probably as big.
Dakin, 56, was a Sedgwick County firefighter when he lost his legs while fighting a grass fire in 1989. A car came through the blowing smoke too fast, struck Dakin and pinned him against a fire truck.
“Just the wrong place at the wrong time, really” he told me about a year ago.
We met last year when he was part of the Hunting Heroes program for the Governor’s Turkey Hunt in El Dorado. The program honors military, fire or law enforcement personnel who have been injured while serving. Dakin didn’t get a bird on the hunt last year, but I got a look at a man who hasn’t let life pass him by despite the accident.
We’d tried to make it out after the Governor’s Hunt last year but couldn’t get schedules to mesh. He fired back an affirmative reply when I sent him a text last week, asking if he’d still like to go. We met Saturday morning in El Dorado, to hunt a special place minutes from town.
The place was a hilltop food plot with a solid farm trail leading right to a pop-up blind. Dakin was able to put his pick-up in four-wheel-drive and pull up within a few feet of the blind.
I lifted the blind, Dakin wheeled inside and I went to park his rig below the ridge.
Except for a bit of a riot from a dozen or so wasps inside the blind when we arrived, getting settled wasn’t too hard. I’d placed carpeting in the blind to make it easier for Dakin to maneuver his wheelchair.
It sounded like about dozen toms were gobbling from a hardwood valley about 150 to 200 yards away. They answered my calls, as well as getting into gobbling arguments amid themselves as daylight arrived. When the first bunch of gobbles sounded a bit more muted I told Dakin they were on the ground. When some gobbles sounded closer I told him we had birds on the way. A few minutes later four jakes sprinted on to the food plot, and right to the Dakota jake.
We had about five hours to hunt, and I told Dakin I thought there was a high chance a longbeard would come to calls or wander by in that amount of time. If nothing else, we could come back again until he got a bird. He put his 20 gauge down, and agreed we’d wait and enjoy the show as we waited for a bigger bird.
And brother, what a show…
Jakes are the undisputed class clowns of the springtime woods. They’re totally lacking in experience but totally filled with raging hormones. They pecked at the decoy. The strutted around the decoy. They gobbled. They yelped. They purred…they drove Dakin crazy.
“Ooo, that would be a perfect shot right there,” he said, looking at one jake with it’s head and neck flagpole straight. “He’d be just perfect.”
“Hey, I think that ones a little bigger, isn’t it? He’d probably be a good one to shoot,” he said as he studied the four body sizes.
“Look at that, how pretty they are in that sunlight,” he added. “I had no idea their feathers reflected those colors like that. They’re gorgeous.”
Several times he commented how excited he was getting watching the birds.
“I’ll kick myself forever if I don’t and up not getting a bird,” he said as he lifted his shotgun. “I’ve got to shoot one.”
When the birds separated a bit Dakin made a great shot that centered the bird’s head and neck and didn’t put a pellet into edible meat.
“That’s only my second turkey,” he said as we watched the other three jakes beat up on their fallen comrade. “I’ve always been more of a deer hunter but I can see I’m going to have to start getting more into this turkey hunting. It’s exciting.”
I called the landowner, and he came out to meet Dakin and offer him congratulations. We talked with him a bit and I gave Dakin a quick tour of some neat property along the Walnut River. It was about two hours after taking the bird that he dropped me off at my SUV.
“I’m telling you, I could really feel my heart pounding when they were at the decoy. It’s still pounding pretty hard and that was a long time ago,” he said before offering a handshake of appreciation. “I won’t say I don’t get buck fever, because deer get me excited, but it’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt anything like this morning on a hunt. Man, that was fun and exciting.”
Glad we made it happen, Roger. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been happier to see someone shoot a bird.