That was the case for 7-year-old Hunter Grady, who recently shot a once-in-a-lifetime trophy gobbler — his first tom — while turkey hunting with his dad, Justin.
The pair first went on Sunday afternoon after Easter lunch to a hunting spot near home in northern Shawnee County where Justin had been feeding some turkeys.
“They usually stop by sometime in the evening, so we headed down about 3 o’clock,” Justin said. “When we got there, there was snow cover all over the ground, but we realized immediately something was amiss. A fire had gotten out of control the night before and burned through the property that we were hunting and burned up our ground blind. We tried to find a place in some brush on the ground to do some calling and we hunted for a few hours but to no avail. So we went to another place to try to call in a bird and Hunter missed a gobbler at about 25 yards.
“He was very upset, but I assured him we would have an opportunity to hunt the next day.”
Justin took off work the next day and pulled Hunter out of school so they could have a full day to try to get his bird. The morning was clear and cold, with a low of about 23 degrees.
The pair hunted in four different spots, but nothing showed up. They couldn’t get any gobblers to respond to locator calls, so they headed back to the spot where the ground blind had burned up and put up a new blind around noon.
They went home, grabbed a bite to eat and then returned around 3:30 p.m.
“At that location, we usually see turkeys stopping by the feeder between 4:30 and 5 p.m.,” Justin said. “About 4:58, Hunter and I looked up and saw a very big turkey sneaking in to the corn feeder.”
The feeder is only about 20 yards away from the blind, and the turkey immediately looked into the blind and saw them both.
“We were not moving an inch, but he knew something was not right.” Justin said. “I’ve never experienced scrutiny from a turkey quite like that. This bird literally stood completely still for several minutes looking right at us. I was so proud of Hunter — he didn’t move an inch.
“After what seemed like an hour, the bird calmed down a little bit and started picking at some corn. He would take three or four bites of corn and immediately look up and look back at us in the blind, almost to confirm whether or not we were moving and (if) we’re really a threat.”
Justin whispered to Hunter to try to pull his gun into position, but only to do so when the gobbler had its head down to eat. He said Hunter had to pause the action of pulling his gun up three different times because the bird looked up to try to catch them moving.
“Eventually, Hunter got his gun completely up, but that was just enough movement and noise to make the big bird decide to leave for good,” Justin said. “He was walking right to left at about 25 yards and he was about to exit our view from the blind, but he stopped one last time. Without any instruction from me, Hunter slipped the 20-gauge off of safety, beared down on the tom and dropped him right in his tracks.”
Elated, Hunter tore open the blind and ran out to see his prize. Without even measuring, Justin told his son he likely would never shoot a bird that big again.
The big double-bearded tom weighed 29 pounds, 5 ounces and had an 11-inch beard with an 8 1/2-inch second beard. The bird had 1 5/8-inch spurs on both sides.
“Based on my measurements that have been witnessed by three witnesses, this bird will tie for the number 10 all-time state record in Kansas,” said Justin, who scored the bird at 83.75 points as a typical turkey.
Justin said he is filling out the trophy turkey application for the bird this week.
“Needless to say, it was an incredibly memorable and special hunt, especially given the fact that this turkey ended up scoring so high on the (Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s) top 20 list,” he said. “We’re having the turkey mounted so that Hunter will never forget the story of his first big gobbler.”
Hunter agreed that it was an incredible hunt.
“I still can’t believe my first gobbler was bigger than anything my dad and all his friends have ever shot,” Hunter said. “We knew that big gobbler was around but we never thought we’d get a chance to actually see him. I’m just glad we stuck it out and kept hunting that day.”
In other outdoor news:
- The Kansas Federation of Houndsmen hosted its State Show and Hunt this weekend at the Jefferson County Fair Grounds in Valley Falls. Organizer Terry Porter said there were dogs from all over the Midwest and Kansas participating in the event. This event helps pay for a big youth hunt in the fall. For more information on the organization, visit http://www.kansasfederationofhoundsmen.org/.
- The Topeka chapter of Ducks Unlimited is hosting a Firearm Frenzy from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 14 at the Sunrise Optimist Club Building at 720 N.W. 50th. Tickets are $25 apiece or eight for $100. A gun winner will be drawn every three minutes, starting at noon. More than 60 guns will be given away. For more info, contact Chris Young at (913) 333-2922.
- The Kansas State University chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host a dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. April 14 at RC McGraws, 2317 Tuttle Creek Blvd. in Manhattan. For more information, contact Zach Porterfield at (870) 688-1836.
- The Hiawatha chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its seventh annual “Whiskey, Wine & Wetlands II” dinner banquet beginning at 5 p.m. April 21 at Klinefelter Farm, 1774 230th St. in Hiawatha. Single ticket $50, couple $75, Greenwing $20. For more, contact Jacquie Kerl at (913) 549-2349 or Cory Lay at (785) 288-0670.
- The Twin Rivers Bass Club will host its Spring Kick Off Event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 5 at Bluestem Farm and Ranch Supply, 2611 W. US-50 Highway in Emporia. The event will include fishing rep vendors and booths, boats on display, a kids casting event and adult casting contest with prizes for first and second place. Food will be provided. Contact Chuck Gardner at (620) 794-8671 or John Gieber at (620) 481-6252 for more info.
- Fishing’s Future and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Fish KS will host a Youth Aquatic Education Day from noon to 3 p.m. May 12 at Clinton State Park, with a fishing derby to follow. For more info, contact Sherri Withers at (785) 842-8562 or Phil Taunton at (620) 794-5373.
- The “Keep It Clean Kansas” state park cleanup will take place from 8 to 11 a.m. April 21 at five state parks: Webster, Wilson, Sand Hills, Eisenhower and Prairie Spirit Rail Trail in Garnett. Volunteers at each park will be served breakfast and given a commemorative event T-shirt. To register as a volunteer, visit www.kdheks.gov/waste/earthday.html/.
- Muzzleloading is one of five events being added to this year’s roster of events for the 2018 Sunflower State Games. The sport is one of three shooting disciplines at the Games. The muzzleloading competition will take place July 28 at the Santa Fe Trail Plainsmen Muzzleloading Club near Quenemo. Other sports being added this year are boxing, weightlifting, dodgeball and ultimate. Dodgeball and ultimate are returning to the games after a five-year hiatus, while the other three sports are brand new to the Games.
Youth/disabled — April 1-17
Archery only — April 9-17
Regular — April 18-May 31