When Jeff Flood of No. Mankato (Minnesota) climbed out of bed 10 days ago and slipped on his socks to go turkey hunting he was still unaware of the raw excitement awaiting him just hours later in the turkey woods. What follows is a story about a determined hunter who also happens to be a close friend of mine. I’m blogging about Jeff not only because he shot what appears to be a record-breaking bird (at least for Minnesota), but in the process his unusual hunting experience on that day also earned him a trip to the local emergency room. As you will soon learn, sometimes as a hunter you must make physical sacrifices in order to achieve a successful outcome.
Jeff stated he arrived at his hunting blind by 5:30am and was already a little concerned because the sky was quickly getting brighter with each passing minute. Nearby, and still in the roost, he could hear a gobbler repeatedly sounding off as if it was very impatient to get the new day started. He quickly got his gear organized in the blind and then began with some soft-calling to coax the noisy turkey from its roost and in the proper direction to Jeff’s location.
Moments later Jeff indicated that he could hear the gobbler on the ground and that, indeed, he was quickly on the move. Jeff explained to me that his heart was pacing a bit quicker because it was now obvious this turkey was closing in on the lucky hunter’s location. Then, about an hour after arriving at the blind, Jeff finally got his first look at the old boy…and he was huge. Still, with way too much brush separating the hunter and with the bird being about 60 yards out, he hung up by strutting and gobbling choosing to only move in a small area. It seems the tom had seen Jeff’s decoys and was now expecting those inanimate, uncooperative hens to come to him.
This little chess match continued for nearly an hour when finally the gobbler decided it was his next move to make the love connection. Jeff watched as the big tom inched closer and the moment of truth would soon be upon both the hunter and his bird. Jeff, shooting a compound bow, described a narrow shooting lane that the bird must walk into before releasing the arrow. Just two…maybe three steps more by the turkey and the arrow would be released by this excited hunter who had never before shot a turkey using archery equipment.
To make the shot, Jeff was kneeling on the ground in his blind in a perfect shooting position. That’s when it happened! The unexpected. You know, sometimes when the body gets older it has a strange way of reacting to the increased adrenaline cursing through the bloodstream. Now, when Jeff was only seconds away from releasing his arrow, his body had other ideas on what he would be doing this morning. Jeff got an excruciating “charley horse” that involuntarily snapped his body to the side to stretch out his leg muscle and to dissipate the sharp, stinging pain. Simultaneously Jeff lurched sideways while also letting-off the draw on his bow so his hands could quickly attend to his aching, sore calf muscle.
Jeff soon realized his problems in the blind have now been compounded. Not only did he figure he’d probably let out a moan when the pain first struck…but unfortunately the process of quickly releasing from a full draw had somehow seen the broadhead slice through his leather glove and deeply cut his left trigger finger…down to the bone! It wasn’t painful…at least not like the charley horse…but the blood was spurting and in no time the wound had completely soaked his glove. Suddenly, the pain in the calf was a secondary concern to the dealing with the blood loss on his left hand.
He looked around and could not find any suitable bandaging material to control the bleeding. In a matter of no time there was enough blood on the ground about the size of a small dinner plate. He put pressure on the wound with his right hand and it seemed to work…but whenever he released it would gush again. So quick thinking, Jeff decided the best way to put constant pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding was to tightly grab hold of his bow…and it turned out the technique worked almost perfectly.
Okay, here’s where many hunters would have said…SELF…you have a non life-threatening wound here, but one that likely needs prompt medical attention. Perhaps that would have been the prudent action to take. But to expect this particular hunter to ruin a good morning turkey hunting due to a slight injury or misfortune would be a mistake. Jeff simply does not approach hunting that way.
Jeff figures it was about 15 minutes or so from the time he last seen or heard the bird until he re-focused totally back on his hunting. Now gripping the bow tightly with his left hand, this determined hunter gave out some soft yelps hoping for the best. To his surprise the big bird was still working the area only about 45 yards away, but out of sight. After another hour or so the bird worked back into bow range and Jeff finally placed his shot in a shooting lane about 2 feet in diameter. The arrow hit the center of the bird’s chest at 25 yards as the tom whirled around and disappeared.
Jeff looked for his bird for about two hours but was having no luck. He saw plenty of positive signs indicating a hit…but no bird. His finger began throbbing once again and dripping more blood. He also claims he was growing a bit light-headed and thirsty…so he figured he better go get some help. At home he found a first-aid kit…so he bandaged himself up, drank a bottle of water…called a friend to explain what happened…and the two of them resumed the search back in the woods.
Eventually Jeff found some blood (that he figured wasn’t his own) so he followed it. About 10 – 15 minutes later they tracked the bird to a tall grassy area where suddenly the big turkey jumped up in front of the hunter in an attempt to fly away. The bird hit the ground running so Jeff wasted no time in reacting similarly. At one time Jeff was so close to grabbing the bird that he reached and only got a handful of feathers.
Perhaps it was because Jeff had sacrificed so much already for this tom he was not about to let it get away. Eventually, Jeff got close enough to it again so he body-leaped as if to tackle it. He got it alright…landed squarely on top of it where he quickly dispatched the massive tom. A full 5 hours and 15 minutes after this whole fiasco began…Jeff finally went home beaming with pride from the woods with his monster bird slung over his shoulder.
Now, after a brief picture session back home…Jeff was off to the registration station with his big gobbler…eventually, and once the excitement of the morning had started to subside, Jeff even made it to the emergency room to attend to his injured hand.
Now for the vitals from this hunt:
WEIGHT: 29 lbs, 0 oz.
BEARD: 10 inches
SPURS: 1 1/8” on both sides
STITCHES: 7 (in the hunter’s left trigger finger)
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation records, Jeff’s bird smashes the present record for an Eastern turkey taken with a bow in Minnesota ranking on weight alone. The next largest turkey recorded (also the present record holder) that was shot with a bow weighed 24.5 pounds taken last year by a hunter from Anoka. In fact, Jeff’s turkey is only about 10 oz. away from being the largest turkey ever taken in Minnesota by either gun or bow (according to this records registry). As you can imagine, Jeff is now completing all the paperwork necessary to register this fantastic bird for the books.
In closing, I share this little story with you for several reasons. First, I think it shows how a person can turn dedication and determination into success by overcoming great obstacles during the hunt. And while I will never condone all of Jeff’s actions as they pertained to his own physical wellbeing, it’s a great reminder that when you hunt (especially with scalpel-sharp broadheads) you need to carry an emergency kit with you at all times “just in case.” Finally, and perhaps most importantly, those of us who had a boring spring turkey hunt by all comparison sometimes need to live vicariously through someone else who persevered in the challenge and tasted turkey hunting success.
2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.