Wild wild turkey hunt!

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently partnered with others to host a spring wild turkey hunt near Newcastle for disabled veterans.  The event had highs and lows, but overall was a success.
“All four of our veteran hunters were able to connect with a nice wild tom turkey,” said Joe Sandrini, Newcastle wildlife biologist for Game and Fish.  Sandrini planned the hunt for the NWTF by securing access to private lands for the hunters, finding and pairing hunters with guides, and working closely with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VWF) Post 2516 to host an appreciation dinner and fundraiser.

The hunters arrived in Newcastle on Friday evening and were treated to a barbeque dinner co-hosted by the NWTF, VFW Post 2516, and American Legion Post 3.  Not only were the hunters recognized at the dinner, but also the invaluable landowners, the guides and event sponsors.

“We had a great supper on Friday night at the VFW,” Sandrini related. “It was a chance for the community to support the NTWF’s efforts to put these types of hunts on the ground and recognize the many people who worked to make them happen.”

The wild turkey hunters awoke Saturday morning to heavy rain and wild turkeys that were holed up and not wanting to cooperate.  An exception came with a little break in the clouds that lit up the Gold Bar Ranch for a short while.  That was all it took for Dale Messerly to become the first veteran to harvest a wild tom turkey.

“I couldn’t believe our luck getting a break in the weather,” said Casey Dickinson, former Wyoming NWTF president and Dale’s guide.  “His tom was very call responsive,” the experienced guide from Riverton added.

As the rain tailed off later in the afternoon, Brandon Vaughn became the second veteran to harvest a wild turkey.  Guided VFW Post 2516 commander Chris Rhodes on the Plum Creek Ranch, his bird came after eight miles of hiking, and it would be the last bird to fall on day one of the hunt.

All the hunters returned to town Saturday night to enjoy another donated dinner.  Then, the unsuccessful hunters and their guides set out on Sunday morning as the sun shone and wind picked up.

Dick Terry, who works for Wyoming State Forestry and was one of the guides, put it this way; “The weather was better Sunday, but the turkeys just didn’t seem to be acting like they usually do this time of year.”

Persistence and tactical flexibility put birds in the pot later in the day when John Sullivan, a veteran from Gillette, harvested a beautiful wild turkey on the Angle N Ranch.  Landowner and guide, Jason Nahrgang, exclaimed, “It was an epic hunt!”

Even as the weather improved, hunting remained tough.  The deep gulches of the Cambria Canyon Ranch made the fourth veteran, Wade Christensen, and his guides Dick Terry and Jonathan Sloan work extra hard.

“We had all but given up and were headed out, and just tried one last call,” Terry said.

Not expecting much after being stymied for two days, a big tom responded with a resounding gobble. 

Terry continued, “That bird was ready to come in, and when he did Wade was ready.”

In summing the three days up Sandrini remarked, “The weekend’s activities and hunt were a great way to help some really deserving veterans, who have sacrificed for all of us.  Plus, what an opportunity to bring together landowners, hunters and other community members to celebrate not only our veterans, but also wild turkey habitat and hunting.”


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