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The Bonds Of Spring

Josh Dahlke

Dennis Woodall and Josh Dahlke

It was another tough day of turkey hunting in southwestern Wisconsin. The heavens were pounding us with rain, thunder rattled the ground, and lightning bolted across the Mississippi River bluffs. It was time to take a break from chasing gobblers and rebuild our morale for an evening hunt. My buddies and I decided to stop at the Cabela’s in Prairie Du Chien. 

Of course, our first stop was in the turkey hunting section of the store to see what calls or gadgets might help us up our odds of killing a bluff-country longbeard. A soft-spoken, middle-aged guy (a Cabela’s employee) quickly approached, eager to offer his insight about the local birds and turkey hunting in general. His name was Dennis Woodall, a founder of Wisconsin turkey hunting, and a longtime member of the Quaker Boy pro staff. After 15 minutes of talking turkey, he handed me a business card and left me with a proposition: “If you ever want to get down to Texas and kill some Rios, give me a call.”

As I set out to tackle my first Grand Slam a couple of years later, I dug out Dennis’ phone number and gave him a call. Next thing I knew, I was shaking his hand over my first dead Rio Grande gobbler outside Burnet, Texas. Dennis and I would be friends for life.

Those of us who revel in striking that next gobble are bound by spring—a special type of connection that can’t be found anywhere else. 

A decade has passed since that fateful meeting with Dennis. I’ve always respected him as a gentleman and a turkey hunter. Every spring, around April, we make sure our paths cross in some manner. It was on my turkey hunting bucket list to join him among his familiar turkey hunting stomping grounds and have him yelp up a gobbler for me. Fortunately, the turkey hunting gods blessed me with that opportunity last week, and a 1-hour showdown with a mid-morning strutter ended with a bang.

Dennis is a legend in my eyes, and it turns out he was best friends with another turkey hunting legend: Dick Kirby, the man behind Quaker Boy game calls.I never got the chance to meet Dick, but thanks to the bonds of spring and my relationship with Dennis, I feel like I’ve shared the turkey woods with Mr. Kirby. It’s amazing how turkey hunting brings folks together. 
 

Wild Turkey Success Story
By the early 1900s, most wild turkey populations had been wiped out in North America, victims of centuries of habitat destruction and commercial harvest. As late as the Great Depression, fewer than 30,000 wild turkeys remained in the entire United States. Fortunately, our nation's hunters, wildlife agencies and conservation organizations intervened and turkey populations rebounded dramatically. More than 7 million wild turkeys now roam North America, with huntable populations in every U.S. state but Alaska.

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