We've just wrapped up the annual Caldwell Wounded Warrior Turkey Hunt, hosted by the Caldwell Hunting Club and supported by the entire Caldwell Community. Caldwell is a farming community located about ten miles north of Chapel Hill, NC. These are wonderful people who have retained their sense of patriotism, reverence for God and love of their fellow man. You can't come away from one of their events without a smile and feeling that the world is not as much doom and gloom as we often see portrayed in the media.
I first participated as the mentor for a soldier who had never hunted about seven years ago and was honored when they asked if I could be their contact for locating deserving soldiers and recently discharged disabled vets. Being a retired disabled vet myself prompted a quick "Yes - I'd love to be involved". The Caldwell Hunting Club hosts a turkey hunt in the spring and a deer hunt in the fall. They require a lot of planning, coordination, funds and just plain hard work. These events don't just happen - people make them happen. It's been a challenge but we've touched a lot of lives in a positive fashion and made many friends along the way. Every hunt starts with paperwork - something our military guests are very familiar with.
Time for brief introductions and an overview of what to expect for the next twenty-four hours. The turkey hunt consists of a Friday afternoon and Saturday morning hunt. Meals and lodging are provided by our hosts.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC) provides an enforcement officer to give a quick hunter safety briefing and familiarize everyone with regulations pertaining to turkey hunting.
Hunters are then paired up with local landowners / guides. Most of the locals have been watching fields and scouting for turkey sign. Although many are turkey hunters themselves they have voluntarily placed many spots "off limits" in anticipation of this hunt.
My guide had a few good spots in mind. We almost immediately saw a big Tom Turkey in a field but there was no way to close the distance so we backed out and and planned to try for him the following morning. We then moved around a block of woods to set up another field. Our make-shift blind is about 100 yards ahead at the little point of woods by the big pine tree. Those are a couple of very realistic turkey decoys in the guide's right hand.
While the guide places the decoys about 30 yards from the tree line I located a few more dead tree limbs to help "brush in" our make-shift ground blind.
Well that didn't take long. We had been sitting less then 15 minutes waiting for things to settle down. My guide had just started to scratch out a few chirps and clucks on his slate call when I looked to my left and saw a big Gobbler heading toward the decoys. He was puffed up but not in full strut. I nudged the guide who had not yet seen him and got my gun up. He was proceeding from left to right and I probably could have waited for him to get closer but was afraid he might see us so squeezed the trigger when everything was lined up. At the shot he just keeled over without a lot of flopping or thrashing around. There was no need to even pump another round into the chamber. As we walked to him my guide said "Wow, he's a big one"
Check out these spurs. He was definitely the Boss Tom of this woodlot.
It doesn't get much better then this!
The guide offered to drive his truck out to pick everything up but I foolishly refused by saying "Nope, I shot him, I'll carry him out". It was a long walk but I loved every step of it.
Back at the Community Center our hosts are whipping up the fixings for a huge evening meal with venison burger being one of the main entrees.
Fried and baked fish along with coleslaw, potato salad and hush puppies rounded out the menu. Wait - wait, don't forget to save room for two tables of wonderful desserts prepared by the ladies of the community. My sweet tooth was well satisfied this weekend.
Things start with the soldiers, many of whom have life altering injuries and illnesses introducing themselves to the community.
As their stories unfold a calm and reflective mood can be felt as you scan the audience.
Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and blessing of the food before every meal. These folks still live everyday like many of us remember when we were growing up.
After the evening meal the hunters retired to a nearby hotel where rooms were provided by the Caldwell Hunting Club and community sponsors. When we arrived back at the Community Center we found our hosts busy preparing a scrumptious breakfast which probably would not have met with the doctors approval as our regular diet. It was good.
Just what a hungry hunter needs to eat for energy before the hunt. It had started raining during the night and continued that morning. Some of our soldiers were on serious medications and there was a concern about getting wet and chilled. While we ate breakfast our guides were conferring as to where the most likely spots would be. Some places had tent blinds and a few even had old tobacco sheds which could serve as blinds. Off we went determined to make the most of it and hoping for the best.
It worked out. Just about everyone saw or heard turkeys. Only two were able to close the deal but what a deal closer it was. Guide /caller, Gary Russell (left), called in a huge Gobbler for SSG Melinda Hamilton (center) and a Jake for her husband and caregiver Bryan Hamilton (right). Melinda, a combat medic is going through some medical issues of her own and we are all thrilled for them both. Melinda's bird will receive a full body mount compliments of the Caldwell Hunting Club.
We wrap things up with a few remarks and awards. Tobacco Row Custom Call Maker, Troy Blalock presents Bryan Hamilton with one of his custom turkey calls. I was honored to receive a similar call from Tobacco Row co-owner Jason Terry.
Melinda brought a military coin for her guide / caller Gary Russell.
Melinda also wrote and read a very emotional letter addressed to the Caldwell Community for their concern, love and support during her illness. Stephanie Brown, official event photographer, accepts the letter on behalf of the community.
No one walked away empty handed. The community provided a table of outdoor related gifts for the hunters and the hunters provided a table of soldier related gifts for our hosts.
We didn't shoot as many turkeys as we had hoped but we had a safe hunt, met some wonderful people and made many lasting memories.
- Avid Angler
- Join date : 2010-10-26
Location : Fayetteville NC