Greatest turkey hunt ever!!

Discussion in 'Turkey Hunting' started by ASASIN, Jul 3, 2006.


    ASASIN New Member

    Lawson Missouri
    What a season we had this year turkey hunting!!!!!!!!!! Traveled all over the country, met some fine folks and made ALOT of new friends along the way. Here is one hunt that I wanted to share with everyone that holds a special place in my heart and one I'll never forget. This hunt is told by Gary's brother Dan. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did participating in it. It is long, but worth reading. God bless. A Long Time Coming……......Gary's First Bird

    My dad, Al Hemminghaus was a good man, and an even better father, who loved the outdoors, fishing, camping, hunting, and most of all, taking his three sons, Gary, Matt, and me (Dan) along with him. Family vacations were centered on spending time outdoors. If we went to Table Rock Lake, early mornings and late summer evenings were spent in the boat. Late mornings were spent catching crawdads in preparation for the afternoon drift across a flat. If we went to Florida, we spent hours on a pier seeing what we could catch, or on a boat doing the same.

    Hunting trips consisted of chasing quail around with Charlie, our English Setter, and an annual deer hunting trip or two was always planned. Dad was pretty tough on the quail; of course he had three young sons who did a fine job flushing coveys and singles. Oddly enough, the deer seemed to shy away from four people tramping through the woods. Deer were scarce anyway at that time and we kids seemed to decrease even more Dad's odds of success. Strangely enough, he always seemed to get a deer whenever we didn't go along! We just thought he was a lousy deer hunter.

    As we boys got older, (late grade school) we rode our bikes to the local sporting goods store, Dunn's, in Florissant, a suburb of St. Louis. We spent lots of time carefully looking over the calls. Our purchases included an assortment of duck, crow, and turkey calls, as well as a Ben Lee instructional cassette tape for turkey hunting basics. We picked up a little camouflage and a turkey decoy as well. By this time Gary, Matt, and I were heavily invested, for young lads of the ages of 14, 11, and 9! It was time to "move up" from hunting rabbit, squirrel, and dove hunting with BB guns at "The Woods" near our home in Florissant, Missouri, to shooting shotguns.

    Our first turkey hunting trips were to a farm near Salem, Missouri. We had over 500 acres of pure heaven to hunt and boy, did we scare some turkeys! We also had a spot in Clark County, Missouri, near the Iowa/Missouri border. Dad, a civil engineer, had a job at Battle of Athens State Park and found a landowner generous enough to allow us to hunt on his property in the Des Moines River hills. Dad would sneak out before work to turkey hunt.

    Sure enough, he bagged his first turkey! I was in school that day, but I was unexpectedly pulled out of class. It was my father who drove his prize three or so hours to our school to show it off. An absolute dandy longbeard!

    Harvests were sparse; however, as time passed Matt and I managed to kill our first birds and add a couple more every so often. We hunted both spring and fall. Gary was not yet carrying a gun, yet he never turned down a hunt with his family and friends.

    Gary, my wonderful older brother, is a special person. He was born with Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder in which there are three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two. The condition is characterized by varying degrees of learning difficulties and is often associated with eye, lung, and heart problems. My family and Gary were blessed in that his health has been excellent, with none of the characteristic problems.

    Gary is a special person in so many other ways. He has an enthusiasm for life like no one I have met. He has a sunny, upbeat personality, and an absolutely infectious smile. He seems to bring sunshine and happiness wherever he goes! He is always the first one to greet strangers and the first to dish out a handshake and introduce himself. His kindness, grace, and love for others are unmatched. He is a master orator and entertainer at gatherings of any kind (he especially enjoys wedding receptions). He has been enjoying his job at McDonald's Restaurants for over 17 years now. As for fishing, he is the best plastic worm fisherman I have ever seen. His passion for the outdoors is only surpassed by his love for God and his family. He is active at his church, and serves as an usher, acolyte or crucifer nearly every Sunday. I can only hope to see life in the same light as Gary does. Simple things in life mean so much to him and the small, petty details are never a concern of his.

    Dad wrote the Missouri Department of Conservation to see if he could obtain an exemption for Gary from taking the Hunter's Safety Course. After composing a well crafted letter, we received in the mail a card stating that Gary was indeed exempt from the Hunter's Safety Course with the stipulation that he hunt with my father at all times. So, the mission had been launched--the quest for Gary's first turkey. By this time, Dad, Matt, and I were killing at least one spring bird on a somewhat regular basis. As all we hunters know, some years you can't do anything wrong and some years everything you do backfires! We logged many hours with great friends, my dad, and my brother to assist Gary in reaching his goal. Safety was always emphasized, and following safe guidelines was non-negotiable.

    More years passed and still there was no luck with Gary's turkey hunting, though he had some shots; he missed a time or two while hunting with Dad. We would take him to practice shooting, and it seemed he would make a kill shot maybe 30-40% of the time. Some practice sessions were better than others.

    Matt and I moved to California in 1997, only to come back to Missouri two times a year when we could afford it--one turkey hunting trip in the spring and another trip in the fall to chase deer--and hopefully to get in a quail hunt as well. Meanwhile Dad and Gary kept religiously going to the woods, but never with anything to show for it.

    On November 10, 2001, late in the evening, I received word from my mother that Dad had passed away. He was only 58. I have never experienced the feeling of profound loss that I had that night! With an aching heart, I drove over to my brother Matt's place, also in Los Angeles, to impart the shattering news. Ironically, Dad was found sitting at the base of a tree with his gun across his lap. He had gone out for an afternoon deer hunt and didn't return. I am sure he must have lain eyes on the biggest buck he had ever seen and his heart just couldn't take it.

    I moved back from California in early 2002. Times were rough, but as time passed, we knew we had to move on without the man who had taught us most everything we know about hunting and the love of the outdoors, as well as our values, and many of life's lessons.

    I called the Missouri Department of Conservation to see if I could have Gary's Hunter Safety Course exemption card changed from my father's name to mine. Again, a few weeks later, I received Gary's card in the mail.

    I remember returning home from college at Mizzou and talking with Dad about buying a farm, looking through the classifieds, browsing websites, and promising him that when I graduated and hopefully landed a decent job, we would start the search with checkbook in hand. Now, because of the hard work of my father, and through an inheritance that he left us, Matt, Gary, and I were able to make a down payment on a farm of our own! Matt moved back from California in June 2005, to live on and take care of the farm, which is located near Vandalia, Missouri. Another dream had come true!

    But back to chasing turkeys. I realized that we had to start doing things a bit differently for Gary. Gary and I went shopping and split the cost of a Double Bull BS5 blind. “The Bull” was going to be the ticket! We now had a way to conceal him and afford him the freedom of fidgeting around. Gary was infamous for sitting in the woods while hunting and making sure everything was just so; his shirt had to be straight, with his collar properly smoothed, his pants couldn't be caught in the top of his boots, and it didn't look good if he had even a leaf stuck to any article of clothing he was wearing. The blind! Yes! The blind!

    Since my father's passing, Gary and I have had a couple of opportunities at that elusive turkey. One fall morning, he shot at a hen, and missed again. On another occasion, he didn't feel comfortable with the shot, and the next time he didn't see the bird until it was on its way out of range. The birdless streak continued, yet never once did he get discouraged. “Oh well”, he would say, “we'll try again next year.”

    This past March (2006) we three brothers made the 120-mile trek to Columbia, Missouri, for the Missouri Deer Classic, a virtual "smorgasbord" for the deer hunter (with some “side dishes” of turkey talk as well). We looked at all the deer mounts, played “guess the score of the antlers,” and visited many of the vendors' booths. While we were walking by one of the back areas, we heard a turkey seminar going on, and decided to investigate. I have to admit that we are not the best students in the school of turkey hunting! We haven't read much about the subject; we have mostly learned through experience, i.e., years of mistakes!

    I was thus intrigued by some of the topics discussed by Mr. Larry Shockey in his seminar, particularly the use of jake yelps. Another tool was now in place to aid in the effort to get Gary's first turkey. The seminar concluded, but Gary, Matt, and I hung around afterwards and chatted with Larry about a few stubborn turkeys we have up on our farm. I was hoping to get additional information that might lead to fulfilling Gary's mission. We must have talked for 45 minutes to an hour. We told Larry what we were trying to accomplish and he related some of his most memorable accomplishments as well. At the end of the conversation, he said, “Why don't you all come back to the booth. There are some guys you need to meet.” We followed him back to the Hook's Call booth where we were introduced to Mike Miller and Scott Hook. Larry asked Mike if he could arrange “something” for Gary this coming spring. Mike whole-heartedly agreed that it was feasible, and gave me his business card. Before we left, Gary was given a Hook's Calls cap autographed by Scott, Larry, and Mike, and he was, of course, thrilled! None of us could believe that Gary was going to have the opportunity to hunt with professional turkey hunters!!!

    We left the Deer Classic elated and hopeful. We called my mom and several of our friends and told them what just transpired. Could it be true? Was it too good to be true? Matt and I were on a (slightly skeptical) Cloud 9. And Gary really wanted to go to Kansas City!!! We thought about it again: We had just met some “strangers” at a booth. We hadn't heard of Hook's Calls. Not only were we unacquainted with Scott Hook, Mike Miller, or Larry Shockey personally, we had never even heard of them. Yet these fine gentlemen selflessly offered their services to a person with special needs they had never met before that day. All that I knew for sure was that Larry had put on one heck of a seminar, the video they made was phenomenal, and that they named their own elusive longbeard "Carl Lewis." And yes, I had a business card. Back at work on Monday, I immediately emailed Mike and Hook’s Calls with my contact info. I wanted so badly not to let this opportunity slip away.

    The email came back from Mike; Scott returned my email as well. I began to believe that this was actually going to happen. Both Mike and Scott expressed great enthusiasm for this undertaking. I wondered if they really knew what they were getting themselves into. I cautiously informed them, in a general way, of past failings. I could sense that Scott and Mike didn't even come close to batting an eyelash at my warnings as they reassured me of their commitment to Gary.

    With that reassurance, it was time to prepare! First and foremost, I started looking for a new gun for Gary. We had to improve his shooting. I went to several places looking for a single shot 12 gauge that had the capability of having a scope mounted on it. The last thing I wanted was to have another bird in front of us, only to have Gary miss his mark. Most of the shotguns with scope mounts that I found had rifled barrels for slug hunting. After checking at three different places, I finally found a camouflage 20 gauge pump youth turkey gun with a 3" chamber and an extra full choke. Seemed great, but would it fit him? It was light, easy to handle, not too expensive, and best of all had the mandatory screw holes in which to mount a scope. I found a low-powered scope with good eye relief.

    One evening I picked Gary up, telling him that I had a surprise for him. Our destination was the Bass Pro Shop in St. Charles, Missouri. Upon arriving, we entered the store, but didn't go straight to the gun counter. However, I'm pretty sure Gary knew why we were there. I nonchalantly meandered around the store with Gary right on my heels. Eventually made our way to the guns. I told the employee at the counter that we were interested in looking at the Mossburg 20 gauge youth gun. He handed it over and Gary shouldered it. It seemed to fit him nicely. We began putting together one heck of a set-up: raised scope mounts, a new scope, gun case, sling--the works. Gary walked out of there with a new gun, a turkey tag, and a new cheerleader, the gentleman at the gun counter.

    I dusted off the old BB gun and we began practicing shooting through a scope. If he could shoot accurately by looking through the sub-par BB gun scope, certainly his new scope with a shotgun shouldn't be a problem. We practiced in several positions, shooting from a chair, shooting from sitting on the ground, both free-hand and with a rest. He shot amazingly well with the rest and certainly well enough free-hand. His confidence in himself, and mine in him, zoomed. We left behind the 30-40% chance to, dare I say, a sure thing.

    Turkey season was drawing near and I was getting anxious. I hadn't talked to Mike in a month and had no confirmed date for the hunt. I emailed Scott and Mike again, making sure we were still on for "sometime the third week," when Mike was available. Scott informed me that Mike was out hunting and that it would be better if I reached him on his mobile phone. I phoned Mike, got his voicemail, and left a message. Not a half an hour later, the phone rang. It was Mike! We set the date for the second weekend of the season, Saturday, Sunday, and possibly Monday, if needed. I eagerly called the hotel nearest to where we would be hunting and made reservations for the three of us, then excitedly called Matt and Gary to update them. We were back on Cloud 9, without the skeptical part this time. Wow! We were indeed going to be hunting with professional turkey hunters to try and help Gary get his first bird.

    The days couldn't pass quickly enough. For once, the excitement of opening day was not foremost in our minds. Every time Gary saw a road sign on Highway 70 that read Kansas City, he'd comment would excitedly say, “look Dan, Kansas City. That is where we are going on our turkey hunt.” We made all the preparations; I did some grocery shopping, and gathered our gear. Maybe this time I wouldn't meticulously pack a bag, only to leave it at home, as I had done previously in the season. Or maybe I would, such was my excitement!!

    Several days before departure, I received an email from Scott with the word "Surprise" in the subject line. An apparently ecstatic Scott Hook and his brothers, Roger and Norman, were on their way to Missouri to be a part of an extended weekend of festivities, and to somehow be a part of Gary's hunt on Saturday and Sunday. I had not been expecting to see them that weekend. We had no idea what a treat lay in store.

    Friday, May 5th finally arrived-the day our road trip west was planned. Matt came down from the farm to meet me at my home in St. Louis. I was putting on the finishing touches of cramming items in the back of my pick-up when he arrived. We loaded his bag and headed over to pick up the last piece of this weekend puzzle: the "G Man" (one of Gary's many nicknames). After a quick check of what Gary had packed, and an addition or two of socks and skivvies, we were on our way to the Big Event.

    A little less than four hours later we pulled up to our hotel. It was 10:30 pm when we arrived and we had to somehow try and get some sleep. But, we feared that if we were actually able to sleep, we might oversleep! So, I set my cell phone alarm clock, I set the hotel alarm clock, AND I requested a wake-up call. I double-checked the time and A.M/P.M settings, dialed in a radio station, fine-tuned the volume, and set all the alarms to go off at five-minute intervals, starting at 3:55 am.

    It felt as if we had just lain down when the easy-listening radio station started playing. The cell phone alarm and wake-up call were not necessary. Like two bolts of lightening, two of we brothers were up and going: Gary and I. Matt took a slight bit more coaxing, but not much by Matt's standards. We got dressed in our best camouflage outfits, made sure we had face masks and gloves, and headed out the door to meet the others. We had made previous arrangements to meet Mike at 5:15 am.

    We left the hotel room and as we walked toward the truck, we saw a familiar sight: the unmistakably reddish beard of Scott Hook. Subsequently, we met Norman, Roger Hook, and Scott McLemore as well. Roger had harvested a longbeard the day before and so was free to guide for Gary. Mike was free to film. After some brief introductions and a cup of coffee or two, we were on our way to meet up with Mike. We hopped in the truck with hopeful expectations for what the morning would bring.

    After a 20-minute drive, we arrived at the small town, where we had agreed to meet Mike. Mike was sporting a goat-tee, quite a bit different from the burly beard that he evidently must have started growing in early summer to prepare for fall. Again, brief handshakes were exchanged, and a couple of comments were made about how exciting it was to be on our way to a hunt.

    Roger asked if he could ride with Gary and me to get to know us and ask a few questions so he and Mike could fine tune the plan. Roger got in my truck and Matt hopped in the "asasin" mobile. One pertinent question Roger asked before our short jaunt to the property, "Now, are we going to take a jake?" I said, "I think we have to." All we needed to see was the slightest nub of a beard protruding from a feathered animal.

    The eastern sky was growing lighter by the second; daylight was coming quickly. With no time to waste, we had Gary begin walking (since he doesn't come close to breaking any land speed records) with Mike and Roger toward the "Death Trap" that Mike had selected. Matt and I quickly tried to riffle through all the gear we had in the truck. The fishing poles were on top of the chair. The chair was on top of "The Bull." Where was Gary's gun hiding? Where did I put the shells? Matt and I dove into the back of the truck and started pulling out everything we needed. After what seemed an eternity, but probably only two minutes (two minutes is a long time when daylight is approaching), we had everything. Matt and I did our best impersonation of those fast-walking racers as we hurriedly passed through the gate and down the hill toward the creek.

    Over Matt's and my gravel crunching and gear flopping, we heard a turkey gobble. We looked at each other and smiled as we kept racing down the farm road. In no time at all, we caught up with the others about 50 yards from the creek. The farm road headed down to the creek and beyond, to what appeared to be another field. Timber was sparse. The creek had a strip of timber on both sides. The timber appeared to broaden as we looked upstream to the north. Timbered draws faded as they ran uphill into hilly pasture.

    As we stopped at the creek, several turkeys were now gobbling no more than 150 yards away. Roger asked what sort of boots Gary had on, because we were going to cross the creek. I knew his boots could withstand at least six inches of water, but the creek appeared to be slightly deeper as I started across. Without answering Roger, I thought it would be a good idea to have Gary lean over my shoulder so I could carry him across. I may have taken two steps when down I went. Somehow I managed to put Gary on his feet as I felt the water rush over my legs and into my boots. "Well," I thought, "his feet may be wet, but at least I didn't completely submerge him." We all eventually made it across. I felt his socks later on that day and they were bone dry.

    Meanwhile, the turkeys were going crazy. Ten seconds didn't pass without our hearing a gobble. The blind and the chair were immediately dumped out of their carrying bags. Another less hilly, larger field opened up on the other side of the creek. A hen and a jake decoy were quickly placed 10 yards away from our anticipated blind location. I momentarily wrestled the blind as Mike suggested putting it up where we were standing, which was definitely out of the turkey's sight. Once up, we slid it into position. We placed the chair in the blind and Gary, Roger, and I followed. Mike sat in a spot lower than us at the base of a walnut tree a couple feet away to our right. Matt positioned himself on the other side of the road behind us. We were finally getting settled, but the close group of gobblers was not as vocal. Perhaps they had spotted us.

    The position of Gary's chair was rearranged after a couple of dry runs of Gary shouldering his gun. One 3" shell of #5 heavy shot was loaded. Roger sat to Gary's left, and I was on his right. Five or so minutes passed, and we were still wondering if the gobblers had spotted us. Fortunately, they must not have been spooked too badly. The concert recommenced. It sounded as if at least three stories of gobblers were stacked in the same tree less than 120 yards away. We have never heard that many turkeys gobbling that were roosted in that small an area. Roger leaned over and whispered to Gary and me, "We are going to wait until flydown to call." Gary and I were content with just being there.

    Flydown was imminent. The next refrain of the concert began, only this time there were human accompanists. Mike started with the intro and Roger chimed in with their diaphragm calls. They told the story of the excited hen that pitched down from the roost into the field where we were. The wad of gobblers was a rapt audience. The story continued with Mike portraying a jake moving in on the hen. Gary and I were spellbound. What sweet-sounding calling!

    We heard a turkey yelping behind us. Unknown to us, Matt had been watching this turkey for several minutes as it worked toward the decoys and the blind. The turkey yelped again. Roger thought it sounded like a jake. We spotted a bird 100 yards away in the field behind us. It was shooting light; however, it was far from full daylight. As the bird approached, Roger and I discussed the sex of the turkey. As it neared, the turkey appeared darker and larger than a hen. I am not sure if I told Mike we saw a turkey or if he heard the commotion in the blind. I do know I looked out the window where he was kneeling, with the camera on his shoulder, facing the turkey. His eye was glued to the eyepiece.

    Roger said, "There's the beard!" It was indeed a jake and he was still approaching. I began focusing on getting Gary ready, as Roger, with his call, was inviting the turkey to come closer. Mike was rolling the film and adding some insurance calls as well. Gary raised his gun and pointed it out the window of the blind. The bird was 40 yards away and still coming nearer. It was time for Gary to aim. He squinted one eye and bore down while attempting to look through the scope. The turkey was now 25 yards away. Gary said, "I can't see 'em through the scope." I whispered, "Try again, move your eye closer." Gary again said, "I can't see 'em through the scope." I was close to panicking. I said to Roger, "I think the scope is fogged up." He reached over and rubbed the scope with his gloved finger, as Gary momentarily relaxed his eye. Gary bore down once more and repeated; "I can't see 'em through the scope." I didn't know what to do. Just as I began my brainstorming session, the gun went off. I looked out the window and there was a turkey flopping in the place I had last seen the jake standing!!! It was just after 6:00 am.

    Four grown men began yelling at the top of their lungs. It sounded like the cheering after your favorite football team has just scored the winning touchdown in double overtime at the Superbowl! Roger and I instinctively threw the blind over our and Gary's head. Matt later said, "It looked like the blind was spring-loaded." Gary was still sitting in his chair, now out in the open with the blind laying on its side behind him, an amazed look on his face. The triumphant yells continued--high fives, followed by hugs, followed by more yelling. Gary ran out toward his turkey and before even before looking at it, he gave each of us at least one of his most heart-felt hugs. At age 37, he had had several firsts as a hunter: the first time guided by professionals, the first time he had shot his new gun, and the first time "The Bull" was christened. But this was his first turkey!

    Tears were shed that day. We were the proudest hunters in the world. Roger and Mike both declared that, "as a hunter, this is the happiest day of my life." As brothers, Gary, Matt, and I couldn't have agreed more.

    Thank you Hook's Calls- Mike Miller, Roger Hook, Scott Hook, Norman Hook, and Larry Shockey. You all are an inspiration and are truly great people! Mike, great work with the camera!

    A word to the reader:
    Hunting has kept our relationships close with friends and family. Take the time to share your love and knowledge of hunting, and to spend time outdoors with others, especially youth and special needs persons like Gary. The experiences are much more gratifying when you have a special person sitting next to you. Also, please contact Hook’s Calls if you are interested in seeing the video. Gary, Matt, and I would love to share more of the magic that accompanies this story.

    To our great friends/hunting buddies, thank you for all your time and patience throughout the years. You have struggled and learned along with us. Our fond memories would not be the same without you.

    I love you, Mom. Thanks for all the years of putting up with the many early mornings, weekends away, and late nights getting home. Thanks for making us scratch buttermilk pancakes in the wee hours of the morning, and a warm supper when we arrived home.

    Dad, I know you are looking down on us with the biggest smile ever, and tears in your eyes. I know you are as proud as we are. We love you, and we will always hold your memory in our hearts.

    To my brothers, I love you both, and I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life.

    Gary's first turkey, as you well know, was a long time coming. But it came.

    Dan Hemminghaus

    "Confidence in your God given abilities will add more turkeys to your resume!" Mike Miller
  2. tatersalad

    tatersalad New Member

    Clover, SC
    That might be the best hunting story i have read since 'The Old Man and the boy'.

  3. teaysvalleyguy

    teaysvalleyguy New Member

    GC, OHIO
    Great story brother, thanks for posting.
  4. bigred

    bigred New Member

    that really sounded fun.
  5. metalfisher

    metalfisher New Member

    Very good!!!


    ASASIN New Member

    Lawson Missouri
    Thanks guys. I was definitely blessed to have been a part of this hunt. I thank God for the opportunity to film/call in Gary's first turkey. We've already made plans to have Gary back next year for opening day!!!!!!!!!!!!! To say I am excited and can't wait for that day is an understatement!!!!!!!!!! God bless.