I probably should have taken the semi-trailer flipped over on Interstate 57 as a sign, but I kept on driving south. With some good friends, my son Kyle and nephew Matt, I was heading to southern Illinois in pursuit of the grand slam of the spring — wild turkey, crappie, wild asparagus and morels. Home base for the excursion was the Boneyard Outfitters near Benton, Illinois. Run by my buddy Jason Johns, the Boneyard provided us with shelter from the nasty weather in their state-of-the-art hunting lodge.
After we dropped our gear at the lodge, we decided to hit to woods to try and check off item number one, morels. With high winds and a nasty storm front pushing through, it would have been crazy to try to get out on Rend Lake. We found a few morels, but that foray was cut short as tornado sirens started wailing in the distance. Checking our phones, we discovered two tornadoes touched down and were moving our way. The temperature plummeted and we thought the best plan was to take shelter and prepare for the upcoming

Matt Hayden celebrates his first wild turkey with his cousin Kyle Stefanich.
Matt Hayden celebrates his first wild turkey with his cousin Kyle Stefanich.

morning turkey hunt.

The next morning’s weather was not much better. The tail of the front was still pounding us with high winds and cold temps. But it was opening day of turkey season, we couldn’t help but be excited. I partnered with my nephew Matt, who had never hunted for wild turkey. After slugging through 400 yards of disced mud, we set up and waited for daylight. I called in 4 birds shortly after they flew down — two hens and two jakes. I asked Matt is he wanted to take one of the jakes, but the look on his face said “hell yes”. So after series of yelps and clucks, the jakes meandered into range. “Get ready” I whispered to Matt. A few cuts and the bird stretched out his neck looking for a new friend, but received a swarm of Magnum Blend instead. He jumped and flew about 40 yards then crashed on the edge of the timber. One down.

We took off to another spot to fill my tag, setting up in a creek bottom that was loaded with birds. Jumping several birds, we snuck up the draw and set up along the creek where several fields and hedgerows converge. After 15 minutes of calling, 6 hens poked along and crossed in front of us, with a big tom straggling well behind. The serenity was shattered as the tom burst in the air cackling like a rooster, as a coyote came flying out of the brush and jumped at him. The tom barely escaped becoming a turkey dinner for the coyote, but his luck didn’t get any better. One blast from my 12 gauge put him back on the ground for good. Two down.
Unfortunately, those were the major highlights to the adventure. The rest of the crew didn’t fare as well. Everyone had birds nearby, and there were 2 missed shots. But, I can honestly say this was some of the toughest turkey hunting I have ever experienced. The storms and cold temps just had them shut down. Love was definitely not in the air, as they weren’t gobbling or responding to calls. The crappie bite was slow as well, but that never lasts long on Rend Lake. By Sunday afternoon my buddies were filling the livewell with slab crappies. And a few of the boys managed to find some wild asparagus. It was a challenging hunt, but I guess that’s what I love about turkey hunting. If it were too easy, what fun would that be?


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