Olivia’s Turkey Hunt
By Dave Merry, South Carolina State Chair
Although RMEF banquets are considered family events, getting kids in the door where we have the chance to teach them about conservation and the Elk Foundation isn’t always easy.
In 2009, the Upstate South Carolina Chapter in Greenville offered attending youngsters a little incentive by presenting each of them with a ticket entering them into a drawing for a spring eastern wild turkey hunt. The winner was Olivia Baumgarten.
The hunt was held on March 27, 2010, near Belton. I hosted the hunt and asked Craig Russell, guide and turkey caller extraordinaire, to help us out. Craig spotted some roosting birds the night before and with some coaxing from her dad Tom, Olivia, who turned 14 that week, agreed to meet at 5:30 a.m.
Olivia and Tom set up just before first light on a field surrounded by a pine forest. Craig and I were about 30 yards behind them. As soon as Craig hit his first call, gobblers responded from three directions and continued to talk as Craig called aggressively and started bringing them in. It was not long before we heard turkeys coming to us from our left. Every time Craig called, they responded. Finally, two nice toms appeared at the head of the field and strutted toward Olivia. Those birds put on quite a show. When they got within range, Olivia fired but the turkeys lived to see another day. However, Olivia had the thrill of a lifetime, learned what turkey hunting was all about and, most importantly, got to spend a morning together with her dad in God’s country.
We later celebrated with a gourmet breakfast at a country establishment named Grits & Groceries, where praline bacon, French toast and eggs benedict are specialties. By noon Olivia was on her way home to prepare to play in her school’s tennis match at 3 p.m.—you know how teenagers are!