Doubling down on toms for father and son: Joy of turkey hunting

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It’s about a father and son bagging tom turkeys with each other, but really about sharing life in the outdoors.

“The sights and sounds of spring are truly special,’’ Steve Hinger emailed. “The redbud trees and lilacs blooming, the songbirds chirping, morel mushrooms popping and, most important, the turkeys gobbling is a welcome sign after the long winter.’’

Hinger and his dad, also named Steve, have hunted a friend’s farm in Pike County for 15 years. This year was extra-special.

Opening morning, they drove to the farm as lightning flashed.

“After arriving at the farm and driving my brother-in-law with the ATV to his spot to set up his ground blind, I rushed back to the truck to pick up my dad and our gear in hopes of getting our blind set before the storm hit,’’ Hinter emailed. ‘‘As I loaded the ATV and told my dad to hurry, he said, ‘Let’s wait this one out,’ and with that, heavy rain and hail came down. ‘Good call, Dad.’ ”

That phrase covers years in the outdoors. Hinger, of Orland Park, is a civil engineer for the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. His father is a retired physical-education teacher from Midlothian.

“When I was little, my dad loved to fish for salmon on Lake Michigan,’’ Hinger emailed. “We spent all summer out on the big pond fishing out of Burns Ditch.’’

Hinger hunted pheasants as a youngster with his dad at Des Plaines Conservation Area.

“Over the years, we hunted doves, pheasants, deer, geese, ducks and turkeys together and had some amazing hunts,’’ Hinger emailed. “Some of my earliest memories involved sitting in a tree stand with my dad in Jo Daviess County on a snowy morning, waiting on a deer to appear. At 38, I can still remember those hunts like they were yesterday.’’

Back to opening day. After the storm, they heard some gobbles, but only saw hens and three jakes (young toms).

On Tuesday, the weather was different, but they only heard one distant gobble.

“After yelping in the general direction, the turkey again gobbled but seemed to be a little closer,’’ Hinger said. “Five minutes later, a tom appeared at the edge of the woods and spied our tom and hen decoys. He broke into strut and slowly worked in our direction. Eventually, he decided he had had enough of our tom decoy and strutted alongside it at 12 yards.

“After he spurred the decoy, my dad made a perfect shot and dropped the large tom in his tracks. After collecting my dad’s bird, we settled back in the blind to wait for my bird.

“We didn’t hear one gobble. At 10 a.m., we spotted a tom walking along the tree line 300 yards away. As soon as he spotted our tom decoy, he started strutting. Slow and steady, the tom closed the distance and was soon strutting alongside our tom decoy. I made a great shot, as my dad looked on, and dropped [the tom] in the same spot my dad’s bird went down.’’

The moment made Hinger want to thank his father for introducing him “to the outdoors and instilling a love and passion for hunting and fishing, a gift I am passing on to my two sons that are growing up in the outdoors. My 10-year-old son was able to harvest his deer last gun season with my dad and me sitting on either side of him in the blind. Great memories indeed!’’

Follow me on Twitter @BowmanOutside.


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