Turkey hunting is challenging enough when the weather is nice. Add in 40-degree temperatures, pouring rain and 30 mph winds, and you’ve got your work cut out. That was our situation in Southern Illinois this past weekend. My three buddies and I headed to Franklin County near Rend Lake for some castin’ and blastin’- crappie fishing and wild turkey hunting.

Despite Mother Nature working against us, we had some success. Young Cody Kowalczyk took his very first wild turkey, a beautiful tom with a 10-inch beard. Most of the birds were with hens, so calling them to us was tough. Cody put a stalk on 6 toms following 3 hens, and intercepted them in some heavy brush. One shot with a load of Remington Nitro #5’s put an end to that party.  His dad Cliff also

Cody Kowalczyk smoked this big Southern Illinois Tom on opening day.

killed a dandy 23-pound bird with a 1.25” spurs. We hunted with Jason and Ryan from Boneyard Outfitters.

Since you can only hunt turkeys until 1:00 pm, we figured we would spend the afternoon on Rend Lake with our buddies Todd Gessner and Jason Johns with Todd Gessner Outdoors. The weather didn’t seem to bother the fish. We all pounded the crappies on jig and minnows with a slip-bobber. The fish were in the bushes along shore, in about 2-3 feet of water. The water temp was up to 64-65 degrees and the crappies are starting to spawn.

We had outstanding accommodations at the Seasons Resort on Rend Lake. The great food and warm hospitality made a day of hunting in the rain seem not so bad. The staff treated us like kings, and the seafood buffet on Friday night was off the hook. They also have an awesome golf course. We met golfers from all over the midwest during our stay. We plan to go back when we can squeeze a few rounds in between crappie fishing.

Mid-April is also wild morel season in Southern Illinois, so we topped of the trip with a nice haul of morels. My usual honey hole was not producing, but we stumbled across a bunch while chasing turkeys on saturday morning. My buddy Jason turned us on to a spot so we were able to bag a few more, probably 3 pounds by the time we were done. Morels will be popping up here in Will County in another week or two. Rule of Thumb: when the lilacs start blooming, the morels are poppin.

We were 50% on the birds, we probably would have done a little better had we roosted birds the night before. But we all went home with some fish and a few mushrooms. And I would rather be turkey hunting in the rain than working.  If turkey, crappie and morels (the Southern Illinois Slam) are up your alley, you better head south asap.

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