It had been a very cold and wet March in southern Alabama, putting the gobblers behind schedule when it comes to acting the way spring turkey hunters want them to act. And yet host Preston Cauthen, cameraman Tom Davis, and yours truly found us covered up in gobbling as dawn broke on March 18, the opening morning of the Alabama Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt, on the Cauthen family farm near Montgomery.
In an hour we had moved our set-up and hunkered down, calling to three raucous birds before two came to the head of a small green field, where they called and strutted for an hour until they finally couldn’t stand it and attacked our decoys. I greeted one with a swarm of No. 6’s at 25 yards, and just like that, my hunt was finished.
Meanwhile my Grand View Media Group colleague Derrick Nawrocki was hunting with guide/hosts Boyd Kelly (Forest Fund) and Eddie Jones (International Paper) on some land owned by International Paper near Prattville. After a morning of close-but-no-cigar encounters just before lunchtime the trio encountered a strutting tom about 500 yards down a road slowly moving in their direction behind a trio of hens. They backed out before Eddie and Derrick dropped down and attempted to close the distance in a gully on the side of the road. When they eased their heads over the road edge the birds were only 150 yards out and they were in a perfect spot. The turkeys closed the gap, and before they knew it Derrick made a tough shot to end his hunt on a successful note.
We were just two of nine successful hunters out of 75 participants — weather played a huge role in the lack of gobblers taken in the 1 ½ days of hunting during the 3-day event — but nobody really cared. Certainly neither Derrick nor I cared that we shot the 7th and 9th place birds. This hunt is all about much more than that.
Begun in 2002, the goal of the Governor’s Hunt is to showcase Alabama as a preferred destination for business, industry, and nature-based recreation. Participants include top industry leaders, industrial prospects, elected officials, and national outdoor media celebrities. Southern hospitality and an abundance of natural resources combined together provide a wonderful environment for everyone involved. Invitation lists are made up of corporate CEO’s, corporate presidents, sports and entertainment celebrities, media representatives and sponsors. The prospect list to fill 75 slots mostly comes from recommendations by the Governor and the director of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
Media participation focuses the spotlight on Alabama during the three-day event and ensures that the world sees what Alabama has to offer, not only in the area of outdoor recreation, but for business and industry as well,” Governor Bentley told me at the event. “Support of conservation partners at the state, regional and national level lends credibility to the event.”
A key focus of this event is to promote long-term educational importance by creating and funding scholarships for two state universities -- School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University, honoring Dan Moultrie, and College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama, honoring Larry Drummond,” said Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Director Chuck Sykes, a man I have known for nearly 30 years. “The Governor’s One Shot-Turkey Hunt has already fully funded a $500,000 scholarship endowment at the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.” Other charitable groups that have received funding over the years include Alabama’s Youth Hunts, Hunters Helping the Hungry, National Archery in Public Schools Program, Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, and The North Alabama Birding Trail.
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