GUERNSEY COUNTY, Ohio. -- The weather was far from ideal for wild turkey hunting: windy, the temperature hovering around 40 degrees. A low, gray sky threatened rain. Would turkeys even gobble on such a day as this? Undaunted, U. S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) stepped into the woods on opening day of the Ohio turkey hunting season, Monday, April 23, well before dawn.
Clad in camouflage from head to toe and toting a black 12-gauge, the Senator was guided by Roby Williams, a veteran state wildlife officer and turkey hunter. The location was privately-owned land in Guernsey County, beautiful, rolling hill country in the southeast portion of the Buckeye State.
After a hike up a steep hill, Portman and Williams stood in the dark on a ridge catching their breath, listening and hoping. As the black of night turned slowly to the gray of early morning, songbirds began to call, the first being a whippoorwill. Next, other species joined in one at a time. Combined with the wind, the building crescendo of birdsong made it even tougher to hear a turkey gobble.
But Portman needn’t have worried. Officer Williams had done his scouting homework well, and when the first wild turkey of the morning gobbled it was roosted less than 100 yards away. The two hunters grinned at each other, then dived for cover. Sitting down against two trees, they pulled their facemasks on and waited.
Soon, two other toms were also gobbling, and Williams began answering with hen yelps from his mouth diaphragm caller. The birds loved it, and flew down. Gathering together, the trio of gobblers set out to find that tempting “hen” on the ridge.
The turkeys continued to gobble as they approached, conveniently signaling the hunters as to their progress. Eventually, the birds were so close Portman and Williams could hear them strumming or drumming, a sound normally only heard when a turkey is within shotgun range, 40 yards or less. Knowing the birds were close, Portman slowly and deliberately shifted his 12-gauge from his lap up onto his bended left knee.
Within seconds a long-bearded wild turkey gobbler walked into Portman’s view — not 20 feet away! Unfortunately, the bird’s head was behind an obstruction, and Portman wisely chose not to shoot. Seeing no hen, the turkey turned and went back down the hill, joined his two buddies, and walked back out of range.
But Williams, being the experienced turkey hunter he is, had played this cat-and-mouse game before. He whispered to Portman that they needed to move, and the two hunters slipped quietly farther down the ridge and repositioned. Once again, Williams sent several soft yelps through the woods, telling the toms where their elusive hen had moved to. The three turkeys gobbled their response, and within minutes were again closing the gap.
Senator Portman drew a bead on the first tom to walk within range, slipped off his gun’s safety, and squeezed the trigger. The shotgun roared and the bird went down in a heap, a two-year-old tom weighing around 20 pounds and sporting a beard just over nine inches in length.
“I’ve hunted nearly all my life,” said Portman, later that morning. “Growing up in the Cincinnati area, my father started me out on small game such as rabbits, pheasants, and squirrels. He and I particularly enjoyed quail hunting together.”
Unfortunately, a blizzard and severe, prolonged cold weather during the winter of 1978 wiped out most of the bobwhite quail population in Ohio. But it’s about that time white-tailed deer and wild turkeys were coming on in the state, so Portman set his sights on those game animals. In addition to the gobbler he took on opening day this year, Senator Portman has previously killed several other wild turkeys in Ohio.
Both a hunter and angler, U. S. Senator Rob Portman is a friend of America’s sportsmen. He’s also on the short list to possibly become Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential running mate should Romney secure the Republican nominee for president. As a guy who enjoys the outdoors as much as we do, Rob Portman is one of us. And he’ll fight for sportsmen’s rights to continue to hunt and fish. Regardless of your political leanings — Republican, Democrat, or Independent.