The first time Frank Troglauer participated in the National Wild Turkey Federation's Wheelin' Sportsmen "Ultimate Turkey Hunt" – on the Savannah River Site four years ago – he missed a nice gobbler.

He was determined not to duplicate that lack of success on his second trip to the special outing for handicapped hunters April 20-21.

"I had hunted with Dale Cullum of Edgefield on the first hunt, and he was my guide again this year," said Troglauer, of Lexington. "He told me I could not miss this time, so the pressure was really on."

 

 

And he was not disappointed, taking two gobblers in the first two hours of his Friday morning hunt.

 

 

Troglauer, who lost his left leg in a farming accident when he was 13, was one of 29 hunters with disabilities drawn for the ninth-annual turkey hunt, which is put on through a partnership of the NWTF, the U.S. Forestry Service and the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the only turkey hunt allowed on the SRS property each year.

 

 

The hunt, which attracts hunters from across the United States, had an international presence for the first time with 23-year-old Ontario native Brad Mewhinney participating.

 

 

"I read about the hunt on the NWTF website," said Mewhinney, 23, whose uncle John, Arnold, was president of an NWTF chapter in Ontario. "It was great. I'll definitely be back next year." 

 

 

Sponsors of the event included the NWTF Aiken Chapter, Wackenhut Services, Savannah River Remediation, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and the Aiken Sertoma Club, which provided meals.

 

 

The 29 hunters harvested 28 gobblers the two mornings of the hunt. Bobby Hammond of Edgefield needed only an hour or so of daylight Friday to harvest two gobblers, including a 20-pounder – the biggest bird of the weekend. Hammond, 77, also was the most successful hunter over the weekend, harvesting two other gobblers early Saturday morning.

 

"It was pretty amazing," said Hammond, who was assisted by Tal Mims, a U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist at SRS, and Tom Hughes, NWTF's assistant vice-president for education and outreach programs. "As soon as we stopped the truck, we heard turkeys gobbling on their roost."

 

 

Troglauer said he and his escorts, including a videographer, had birds gobbling from the crack of dawn until he shot the two gobblers less than two hours later. Shortly after 8 a.m., five gobblers strolled out of the woods and headed for the gobbler and jake decoy in the field in front of their set-up.

 

 

"They were all bowed up, and then they saw our gobbler decoy and came straight across the field and started beating up on the decoy," Troglauer recalled. "I've never had five toms out in front abusing my decoy like that. They were pretty aggressive. It as fun to watch and even more fun to watch it on video."

 

 

Troglauer had his gun up and was ready, but the videographer kept saying, "Don't shoot. Don't shoot." while recording the scene.

 

 

"Then they stopped beating the decoy and turned like they were going to run off, and he gave me the go-ahead," Troglauer said. "I had the bead on one and dropped it, then swung to the right and picked up another bird, but I missed with the first shot. He jumped into the air and took off and I dropped him."

 

 

One of Troglauer's two birds had a 10 7/8-inch beard and 7/8-inch spurs and the other had a 10-inch beard and 1-inch spurs.

 

 

He and Cullum went back to the same area on Saturday morning in hopes of scoring again, but did not hear a gobble or see a bird. They moved to another area and saw some turkeys, but were never able to get one to respond.

 

 

But he was not disappointed.

 

 

"It is a great event, and it is such a beautiful piece of property to be able to hunt on," he said. "There is a lot of good fellowship, and it's hard to find a place where the birds don't have any pressure like that. I put in for it every year."