Turkey hunting in Illinois: Perseverance pays off in final youth season

R.J. Kiefel bagged his first turkey on his final day to hunt youth season to earn Turkey of the Week.

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R.J. Kiefel bagged his first turkey on his last possible day for youth hunting. Photo provided by Chris Elliott

R.J. Kiefel bagged his first turkey on his last possible day for youth hunting.

Photo provided by Chris Elliott

R.J. Kiefel epitomizes the learning curve of Illinois’ youth turkey seasons. The 17-year-old persevered for his first turkey in Will County.

“This year on the last day and the last youth season he could hunt, he got it done within 30 minutes of shooting time,” Chris Elliott messaged. “He even had a double come in and he picked the best bird.”

It had inch-long spurs and a 7.5-inch beard.

“It was a unique experience that’s for sure,’’ Elliott messaged. ``I mean the week before we had four long beards hung up on the other side of a bend, but at 30 yards, gobbling their heads off, and he was the same way. But it basically.really sparked a fire to keep hunting, then he [shoots] the bird on the last day of youth, 30 minutes into shooting time.

“But he also learned how things can change in an instant. The day before the Saturday of the second season, it was dead, no gobbles and didn’t even see a bird. The next day, five-plus birds lighting up around and having a double come in. I’ve killed a lot of turkeys and guided a lot of hunts [he guides for Porter’s Waterfowl], but I friend-guided a few turkey hunts and it was a picture perfect hunt with perfect lessons about the sport mixed in with patience, heartache and reward.”

TOTW, the celebration of the stories of turkey hunting around Chicago outdoors, runs Wednesdays in the Sun-Times as warranted. Submit nominations by message on Facebook (Dale Bowman), on Twitter (@BowmanOutside) and Instagram (@BowmanOutside) or email (BowmanOutside@gmail.com).

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