June 5, 2012
MADISON -- Kevin Naze of Algoma didn't know he'd help a novice hunter fulfill a family promise when he launched his 11th Learn to Hunt Turkey program in April, but the episode was another "wildly rewarding experience" that he said makes these events worth the effort.
"Hosting a Learn to Hunt Turkey program takes a little planning and enough seasoned mentors to go one-on-one with beginners - but it's worth the effort," Naze says of his history with the Department of Natural Resources turkey hunt program that attracted hundreds statewide this spring. "The 2012 program again proved to be a wildly rewarding experience. There were a few missed shots and other opportunities that didn't end the way hunter or mentor would have liked. But whether or not a bird was bagged, the shared outdoors time and conversation between trips always goes down as one of the highlights of my year."
And one of those highlights for Naze was working with Melissa, one of the rookie hunters.
"Her attitude -- even after having to pass when three gobblers walked in but were too close together for a safe shot at just one of them -- remained positive throughout a week of trips with several different mentors," Naze said.
So, it came down to Easter morning - the last chance to get a turkey. And this is when Melissa dropped the promise on Naze. "She'd promised her mom a turkey for Easter dinner," Naze said.
Easter morning was looking dismal as far as turkeys go. There wasn't even one gobble to be heard and the hopes of fulfilling that promise were evolving into pledges from the always-positive Melissa to keep hunting because she enjoyed it.
About the time she was talking about her newfound passion, a few hens appeared and seemed to be escorting a tom turkey in Melissa's direction. "We watched what would turn out to be a 21-pounder with inch-long spurs and a 10-1/2-inch beard strut for more than a half-hour before coaxing him close enough," Naze said. "One perfect shot ... did the job. Melissa was shaking with excitement. Tears of joy ran down her cheek. Easter dinner was served!"
Keith Warnke, DNR hunting and shooting sport coordinator, says Naze's experience as a mentor and Melissa's successful hunt are why there are 50 Learn to Hunt Turkey events statewide.
"Preliminary totals show more than 1,000 hunters participated in one of these learn to turkey hunt events this spring," Warnke said. "This program is fun for participants and mentors - and has the right blend of classroom and actual hunting."
Warnke says the program also features learn to hunt events for other species - including deer, bear, pheasant, mourning dove and small game. Some events are posted now on the DNR website, but more are anticipated to be organized for the fall. People can find current offerings by searching the DNR website for "LTH."
People who sponsor an event should send the completed Learn To Hunt Turkey event final roster to: Learn to Hunt Coordinator, Wisconsin DNR LE/8, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.
"Current hunters represent an army of qualified mentors for the next decade," Warnke said.
Under Wisconsin's Mentored Hunting Program, anyone 10 or older can hunt without first completing a hunter education course if he or she is accompanied by a licensed hunter (mentor). This one-on-one opportunity gives first-time hunters a chance to try hunting in a highly controlled manner and enables veteran hunters to pass on their passion for the outdoors.
"Mentors help keep Wisconsin's hunting heritage strong. If you're a hunter and are concerned about its future, you can help by mentoring a new hunter," Warnke said. More information on Wisconsin's Mentored Hunting Program is available at DNR's website at dnr.wi.gov, search mentored hunting."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke, DNR Hunting/Shooting Sport Coordinator, 608-576-5243 or Joanne M. Haas, DNR Office of Communications - 608-267-0798