Pinckneyville, Ill. – There was some question if Cole Pedtke was going to make it into the woods for Illinois' annual Youth Turkey Hunt – the official start of the state's popular spring turkey hunting season.
The 11-year-old from Ashley, an avid turkey hunter, knew this years' youth hunt was just a little more special. Cole recently suffered from a medical condition known as hydrocephalus and spent 11 days in St.Louis Children's Hospital.
Cole, his dad, Tim, and 14-year-old brother, Troy, are all fanatic turkey hunters. Cole was released from the hospital on Feb. 25 and spent some time recovering at home. He was well enough by March 26 to hit the turkey woods and bag a 19-pound tom with an 8½-inch beard and 1⁄2-inch spurs on March 27.
The Pedtke hunting party, along with 15-year-old Kevin Wolf, of O'Fallon, was lucky in eastern Washington County and filled two of three youth permits. Kevin was able to fill his tag on Saturday morning with a 23- pound, 10¾-inch beard and 1-inch spur tom.
Tim Pedtke reported vocal, aggressive and active birds on the east side of Washington County with 15-20 birds being spotted over the two-day youth hunt.
Despite predictions that the regular spring season – it began April 4 in the south zone and begins April 11 in the north zone – could possibly be a record year for turkey hunters, the youth season indicates the birds may not be abundant.
Then again, the weather during the March 26-27 hunt was not exactly "spring-like."
Southern Illinois hunters awoke to cold and cloudy skies on opening morning, and the weather progressively deteriorated throughout the day and weekend resulting in 1 to 4 inches of snow cover for the second day.
Mike Brammeier and first-time turkey hunter, 13-year-old Ethan Brammeier, reported a similar success story out of northeastern Washington County. Ethan bagged his bird on March 27 after the 18-pound, 10½-inch beard strutted to the hen decoy at 25 yards.
Jefferson County turkey hunter 9-year-old Brandon Lowery cashed in for his very first tom turkey on March 26 morning with a 22-pound, 9½-inch beard gobbler. Brandon's dad, Danny, reports the southwestern Jefferson County birds as "responsive and gobbling" and "strutting all the way in to the decoys." The Lowery gang claims to have been surrounded by 15 birds on opening morning.
Of the successful hunters, early to midmorning seemed to be the witching hour for the harvest. The Pedtke/Wolf party reports that Kevin's strutter was bagged at 8:05 a.m. on March 26 followed by Cole's bird at 9:20 a.m. on March 27. The Lowery clan was finished at 8:50 a.m. on March 26, while the Mike and Ethan Brammeier show was closed out in the 9 a.m. hour.
As this issue of Illinois Outdoor News went to press, DNR had not tabulated harvest numbers from the south zone youth hunt. The north zone youth hunt was April 2-3.