Member's Hunt: Success at Shuhart Creek

posted on April 2, 2022
MH Shuhart Creek Lead

By Mike Roux, Columbia, Mo.

About 18 months ago, I became acquainted with the two gentlemen who own and operate Cutting Edge Game Calls—owner Brian Benolken and inventor of the 4-Play Turkey Call, Eric Steinmetz. Last winter, while at an outdoor trade show out East, they met Rich Burian, the owner/operator of Shuhart Creek Whitetails in Hancock County, Ill. As these three guys got to know each other, Burian expressed his desire to promote youth hunting, and offered to donate a 2021 youth turkey hunt to Cutting Edge Game Calls to use as they liked.

It was shortly after that conversation when my phone rang, as Brian knows I have a grandson who loves to hunt. He offered us this hunt and told me how to get in touch with Mr. Burian. From our first conversation we were friends. We set our date for the last weekend in March, which is the first of two weekends that Illinois offers youth-only turkey hunting. My 9-year-old grandson, Connor (CJ), was excited about our plan. In 2020 CJ, on his first ever turkey hunt, killed a 24-pound tom. Trying to go two-for-two had him pumped-up.

We arrived at the lodge about 5 p.m. on the evening before opening day. Rich had arranged for his guide, Greg Hymes, to meet us and show us around. To prove it is a small world, I have known Greg for more than 25 years. I did not, however, know that he was working with Burian.

Greg had a blind ready for us and we took most of our gear out there that evening so we would not have so much to carry in the dark the next morning. We saw about 20 turkeys on that short trip.

CJ and I were up and at it plenty early the next morning. I explained to him, again, that he had been very lucky last year to get a gobbler on his first day of turkey hunting ever. I wanted him to fully understand how hard this is and that success is not common every season. He was so excited to get out there I am not sure that speech ever sunk in.

We got to the blind well before first light. It was not long before we heard the first distant gobble. He did not even turn around. He just gave me a subtle “thumbs up.” I smiled.

Once the gobbling started it increased rapidly. There were, and I will not exaggerate, birds in every direction. CJ turned and whispered to me, “Grandpa, we’re surrounded!”

By 7:15 the gobblers were on the ground and we started calling. CJ has learned all the tricks his 4-Play Turkey Call has to offer. We had decided that he would be the hen and I would be the jake. We had out two hen decoys and a strutting jake.

His first series of hen yelps was a bit shaky, but he got a response from three gobblers. “I’m impressed,” I whispered. He just grinned. We had two or maybe three birds in the holler over our right shoulder at about 200 yards. There was a bird way out, directly to our right. The ones behind us were the most vocal.

I let CJ be a hen one more time. Again, several toms answered. I took the call and began clucking like a jake. This lit up the farm with gobbling. One of the birds to our left began to move closer. With one more set of clucks he gobbled 50 yards directly behind our blind. For over an hour he stayed right there, gobbling. Every time I clucked he answered, but he would not come to the field.

During the hour I played with the guy at our back door, I heard that distant gobbler to our left again. The next time I heard him he was at a hundred yards. Five minutes later I heard him again, but it was not a gobble, it was, “Pffftt Vooomm.” I told CJ to get on his gun. Within seconds two big gobblers strutted right up to our jake decoy.

I got the camera running and told my young apprentice to take all the time he needed and shoot when ready. He dumped one of the toms and it began flopping all around the decoys. “I got another bird Grandpa!” CJ said excitedly through a huge smile.

A 24-pound, 3-year-old gobbler with a 10½-inch beard lay at my grandson’s feet. We said our traditional prayer of thanks and then he said, “That’s two in a row Grandpa.”  As he hugged me, I could not have been more grateful. God is Good!

Do you have an exciting, unusual or humorous hunting experience to share? 
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