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The Turkey Hunters 40-Yard Dash

Are turkey hunters the greatest 40-yard dash participants on the planet?

The Turkey Hunters 40-Yard Dash
(Photo courtesy of Trey Wheeler)

It’s the shot, jump up in one fluid motion, and a sprint each spring that begs the question… are turkey hunters the greatest 40-yard dash participants on the planet?

I was paired up with Jim Roberts and we were to be guided by Calvin Wolf.

Jim Roberts is a veteran of the Air Force and a life-long resident of Hulett, WY. Jim’s family has owned land in Hulett for many years. Getting to speak with him the night before our hunt, I learned that he had never shot a turkey in his life. It was clear he would be first up to swing.

The first Tom to arrive at the blind was a dandy of a fella who put on a long-anticipated strut. We watched for a half hour as he closed the distance from 100 yards to 20 yards. Jim raised up his over/under 12 gauge to let one rip, but before squeezing the trigger dropped the gun just enough to hit the bird hard but not kill it.

Three grown men pour out of pop-up blind dressed head to toe in TrueTimber as they sprint out after the injured, fleeing gobbler. He didn’t make it further than 40 yards before Calvin was on top of the bird. Calvin and the tom had a mini version of a WWE match to see who would be triumphant.

The three of us should not have been able to run down this bird and catch it. We had the tom secured, we were winded, our hearts exploding, and the chaos finally calmed. The aftermath is a pile of loose feathers, grown men giggling, and a harvested turkey! The loose feathers looked like a mountain lion had gotten ahold of that longbeard.

Legend has it that the 40-yard dash was made by Paul Brown, coach of the Clevland Browns, in the 1940’s. It has remained one of the greatest measures of speed for footballs players looking to make the leap from college to professional football. The NFL combine events is highlighted with the event every year. While there isn’t logged evidence of stopwatches clocking a hunter, it is my opinion that no one has closed the 40-yard distance faster than that of a hunter going towards his flopping quarry.

turkey-40yard-jim2
(Photo courtesy of Trey Wheeler)

Spring mornings are typically cool, or downright cold, depending on your location in the 49 states harboring turkeys. I know, you know, and we all know that none of us are stretching before we get out in the woods. Every year I get older, I tell myself I’m going to start doing stretches before I start hiking but I never do. I’ve never heard anyone pull a muscle while running to a flopping turkey which feeds my feeling that turkey hunters are the superior athlete in the moment.

The gobbles from a lonely 2-year-old tom on the roost gets the heart started a little quicker. The scramble to get the right position in a reasonable amount of time compounds the heartrate. Once seated, collect yourself and bring it all back down.

If it all comes together, he’s going to fly down and work his way to you before you let him periscope his head and engage the primer to send a payload of TSS #9’s to put the tom into the death flop.

Is that muzzle blast the start of a race or the end of it? You’re out of shape, and still, you manage to pop up with an eight-pound Winchester 12-gauge in hand and race toward beating wings and kicking spurs. Back to your heart feeling like it’s about to burst from your chest as if it’s Ridley Scott’s Alien. With your boot heel firmly on its neck you’ve earned a chance to inhale pure oxygen.

turkey-40yard-jim
(Photo courtesy of Trey Wheeler)

I only wish that we were required to carry a stopwatch to time each of our hunting partners as they squeeze the trigger. Are we running anything comparable to the athletes or is it purely just adrenaline making it all seem that way? Doesn’t matter if the job is done, but the question still looms.

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As turkey hunters there are always going to be at least two birds that stay in our mind; our first turkey and our next turkey! Mr. Jim got his first turkey on this hunt. His demeanor for the remainder of the day and well into the evenings’ banquet told me it is far from being his last. If you turkey hunt long enough, it won’t be his last 40-yard dash either.

We turkey hunters aren’t known to be the fastest 40-yard dash participants, but there’s never been a stopwatch on us either. It is in the moment that I feel superhuman speeds are produced. Long past when the combines are thru with the 40-yard dash, I pray that turkey hunters never stop racing.




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