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Passing on turkey hunting traditions

OLIVIA -- Marv Boerboom has been witness to some very wild goings on, thanks to his love for turkey hunting.

Like the time a hungry coyote pounced atop his turkey decoy just a few feet in front of him, ready to make the plastic bird its dinner.

And then there was the time when an immature bald eagle arrived just as suddenly, and every bit as intent on enjoying a turkey dinner. It clamped its talons into the plastic replica, lifted it 10 feet away and pounced on it again. Not ready to part with his decoy, Boerbroom emerged from hiding and gave chase, which only caused the eagle to carry the decoy a little farther away before giving up on it.

"It's great to be in the woods in spring," said Boerboom. He considers turkey hunting to be one of his favorite pursuits of all.

Boerboom, of Olivia, is a corn researcher with DeKalb Genetics of Olivia. This is always a busy time of year for him

But turkey hunting is too special not to make time for it.

And, it's important enough to introduce others to it, too. This year will mark second year in which Boerboom and hunting partner Tom Kalahar of Olivia will host a spring turkey hunt for youth. The event is an opportunity to introduce young people to a sport they can enjoy for all of their lives, he explained.

Turkey hunting opportunities have been steadily expanding since Minnesota held its first hunt for the re-introduced bird in 1978. Boerboom said he took up the sport about eight or 10 years ago, or about the time that the hunting range for wild turkey had expanded to include the upper Minnesota River Valley area.

Today, the Minnesota River Valley is one of the state's most productive areas for turkey hunting. Boerboom's favorite hideaway is a wooded area in the river valley between Renville and Sacred Heart.

He conceals himself in a small, camouflage blind on the edge of the woods armed with his shotgun, turkey call and a couple of decoys. Boerboom said he learned the sport mainly by trial and error and from reading about its techniques in outdoor magazines.

Some lessons are obvious. Be quiet and stay concealed, and don't call too much. It's too easy to make mistakes with a call that can tip off the skittish birds, he explained.

The reward for doing it right is a heart-pounding adrenalin rush that Boerboom rates as far better than anything he's ever enjoyed deer hunting. There's just something uniquely exciting about being alone in the spring woods and using stealth to lure the big birds into range.

Boerboom said his first-ever turkey hunt was a bust, but he's made up for it ever since. He's bagged seven birds over the years, ranging in size from 21 to 23 pounds.

One of his most exciting moments came when a large turkey emerged right behind him. Boerboom was concealed in a blind and was able to silently turn around until the big male was within three feet of his shotgun barrel.

More often, turkey hunting is a game of patience. He hears the active turkeys and catches occasional glimpses of jakes and toms as they stroll on the outer edge of shooting range.

During last year's youth hunt, Boerboom and the 15-year-old youth he hosted snuck silently in the pre-dawn darkness to his blind. Soon, they could hear turkeys gobbling and moving all around them, but the heavy thunder clouds that had electrified the early morning air suddenly unloaded a 1½-hour long deluge. He said they waited out the downpour, and held tight until 11:30 a.m. before hearing the sounds of turkeys again.

Boerbroom jokingly told his young companion that it was time to reveal the "secret" weapon he had kept concealed.

He gave a couple of shakes on his gobble call, and to his own surprise a decent-sized jake emerged into a clearing some 40 yards from the blind.

Knowing it was now or never, he signaled to his partner and the 15-year-old bagged his first turkey.

The new turkey hunter is now looking forward to his second hunt, said Boerboom.

Boerboom remains every bit as eager for his return to the spring woods. He will be helping host the second annual turkey hunt for youth April 19-20.