If I were to begin this column telling my readers how much I love to turkey hunt, you’d likely to be shaking your head and mumbling “there he goes again.” Okay, so turkey hunting is my absolutely favorite outdoor pursuit and forgive me if I mention my passion again.
Actually my purpose in writing this column focuses on someone else. The district attorney for Lincoln and Union Parishes, John Belton, is the focus, but first you’ll have to indulge me just a bit.
I started my turkey hunting career in 1992 when I downed my first wild turkey gobbler.
Something happened to me that day that totally redirected my interest in things to do outdoors. I fell for the sport of hunting wild turkeys like a bluegill for a cricket and for the next 25 years, I lived for spring and the opportunity to be in the woods somewhere to listen for the gobble of a wild turkey on the roost and take off through the woods to be setting up 100 yards from his roost tree before he flew down.
Facing reality, my birthdays seemed to occur more frequently than when I was younger and advancing age along with creaky joints have prevented me from taking off through the woods at daylight to be there when the gobbler flew down. I haven’t been able to hunt turkeys for the past few seasons but I have a storehouse of special exciting memories to polish off and recall special times and special gobblers I have run across over that quarter-century of chasing them.
Among my most favorite memories is one late afternoon among the tumbleweeds on a prairie in South Dakota when a long-bearded Merriam’s gobbler stopped just long enough, before flying up to roost, to allow me to draw a bead on his warty neck and squeeze the trigger. I ran out to claim a special bird. Why was this one such a prize? It was the fourth in the sub-species of wild turkeys I had taken to lay claim to a coveted feat. With him I had completed the wild turkey Grand Slam.
This brings me to my purpose in sharing today. I received a note from District Attorney John Belton last week sharing with me a photo of a magnificent Merriam’s gobbler he recently took, a bird that was the final step in his completing his wild turkey Grand Slam. I had to talk with him to hear his story, which was every bit as exciting to him as mine was to me.
“I started out with my first of four gobblers that I hoped would ultimately result in my completing a Grand Slam. I got a Rio Grande gobbler on a hunt in Texas,” Belton said.
“Then I had the chance to travel to south Florida where I was successful in downing a big Osceola. Next, I hunt property I own in Caldwell Parish and got my Eastern and this left just one more to go,” he said.
Last week, it all fell into place when Belton, sensing the completion of his mission was in sight, took advantage of traveling to Nebraska when a big Merriam’s gobbler fell to his gun.
Of these four gobbler Belton brought down, which one in his opinion gave him the most trouble?
“The toughest to hunt to me are those right here at home. Nothing is harder to fool than an Eastern gobbler, partly because the other three species usually hang out in more open country where you might see one 300 yards (away) while the Eastern makes its home in piney woods with thickets that are tough to see. Before I finally got my Eastern, I called a bird in within shotgun range but there was so much brush I couldn’t get a shot,” he said.
His job as district attorney is important and involves controlling every criminal prosecution in his district. Should there be a brief lull in the courtroom, I can imagine his mind for a brief moment drifting back to images of those four gobblers that occupy a special niche in his memory.
Contact Glynn at firstname.lastname@example.org