For turkeys not talking, Greg Mroczkowski and his son Cole have a tale to talk about — as in one of the biggest toms bagged in Illinois this spring and an extended father-and-son turkey hunt for the memory books, all on public land.
Let’s go back to Greg, who lives in Chicago Heights, planning an extended camping trip in west-central Illinois and picking up his son on the bookend weekends at Bradley University in Peoria to hunt turkeys. Cole is a freshman studying mechanical engineering.
Before we even delved into the tales of Cole’s big toms, Greg had me hooked with his tale of turkey camp.
‘‘We roasted up wild hog,’’ he said. ‘‘We had pheasant we had shot, deer roast. We had two turkey dinners from breasts. We ate pretty good, all on wild stuff.’’
When it comes to wild turkeys, it has been an odd spring, one where toms have been gobbling less than normal. Keep that in mind as Cole’s stories being.
Their first site was Sand Ridge State Forest, which Greg had never hunted. But he scouted it and they were prepared.
But it was different with gobblers not calling.
‘‘I was calling and moving around a bit,’’ Cole said.
On the Sunday of third season, he was hunting the full time until the early afternoon, even though he was not hearing anything or seeing anything.
‘‘I see a tom 20 yards away,’’ he said. ‘‘They weren’t calling, and it snuck up on me. I tried pulling on my facemask fast. Right when I got it up, [the tom] started running away.’’
But Cole was quick enough to run and roll the bird at 50 yards.
It was a big tom at 22 pounds with 1-inch spurs and an 8-inch beard.
That was just a taste of what was to come. Next weekend they were at Siloam Springs State Park, hunting grounds Greg knew well.
‘‘We started hunting together,’’ Cole said. ‘‘But nothing was talking, and no birds were coming in.’’
So they split and went their own ways.
‘‘We crossed paths at 11,’’ Cole said. ‘‘He told me he was going to a new spot across the road. I went back to where he was originally.’’
That was a fortuitous choice.
‘‘Right when I got to his spot, I see a jake [a young male] and a tom,’’ Cole said.
He dropped the tom.
It turned out to be something special at 25 pounds with 1 3/8-inch spurs and a 12-inch beard — so big that they drove to Quincy and entered it in GameMasters’ turkey contest. It was still leading at last word.
‘‘He got both birds when I wasn’t around,’’ Greg said. ‘‘He went his way and showed his dad. It was fun.’’
None of this should be a surprise. Cole bagged his first turkey at age 7 and figures he has killed 15 so far.
‘‘Turkey hunting is my favorite,’’ he said.
He comes from good stock in turkey hunting.
Speaking of which, this spring of the silent birds only reinforced something Greg learned in his decades of turkey hunting.
‘‘Stay out in the woods,’’ he said. ‘‘You are at work all day. You can stay in the woods [until 1 p.m.].’’
That’s talk worth hearing and believing.