published Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Walker family get first wild turkeys

  • photo
    Jacob Walker of Soddy-Daisy shows off his wild turkey from the first day of this year's season.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Jacob Walker of Soddy-Daisy has fished with his father since early childhood. He went through a hunter safety course with his dad, Robert, at the age of 10.

Fifteen years later, the two recently experienced a new outdoors achievement together -- twice. The Walkers beat the strutters.

Jacob killed a wild turkey on his first-ever turkey hunt on the morning of March 31, the day the season opened in Tennessee. Six days later, he killed another gobbler, soon after his 48-year-old uncle Chris got his first. Then the next day after that, April 7, 50-year-old Robert killed his first, and that was after two decades of trying.

All four birds were taken on a relative's property in Soddy-Daisy, about a half-mile from Robert's and Jacob's house.

"That first morning I thought I heard one gobbling when I was getting in the truck," said Robert, who works for Preferred Title Insurance. "Jacob told me I was hearing things, but when we got out of the truck we heard one and he said, 'Did you hear that?'

"We got our stuff and eased into the woods and set up behind a log. I started calling out quietly with a slate call, but I didn't get a response. A little later I called louder and I heard one about two ridges over. He quieted down, but after we'd been there about 30 minutes we heard one on an adjoining property, and every time he'd call back we could tell he was getting closer.

"I told Jacob to stay right there, and I went up about 40 yards on the ridge behind him. The last time I called he didn't call back, but I could see Jacob and I could tell he was watching him."

Said Jacob: "At first I couldn't see all of him because of some brush, and I had to make sure he was a gobbler. You can't shoot hens. But then he moved and he was strutting, so as soon as I had a clear shot I pulled the trigger."

Said the proud father: "He went down with one blast. I was tickled to death, more than if it was me."

Robert was tickled again by his son's success at a moving target the next week, and then at his own a day later, when he made a similar one-shot kill with his late father's shotgun.

"I put in a lot of time for that bird," Robert said. "I had been hunting turkeys for 20 years and never got one. But I was hoping to get Jacob hooked on it."

The 25-year-old son has killed four deer through the years and he also goes hiking and "loves learning survival techniques," according to his mother, Tammy.

The 2004 Soddy-Daisy High School graduate and Tractor Supply employee also holds a yellow belt in karate and is an artist. He has a wide range of subject interests, he said, including landscapes, animals and primitive weapons such as spears and swords.

"Hunting is something that makes me feel connected not only to Dad but also to the people who came before us who had to hunt to get food," Jacob said. "It makes you feel good to know how to do it, because there is so much involved. And if it wasn't for Dad taking me out, I probably wouldn't know how to hunt -- how to track, how to call, how to set up."

Hunting success also connects one to people doing well in other sports, he said.

"When you see what you're hunting, your heartbeat gets real loud and heavy and you feel your blood pressurize and you start shaking a little bit," Jacob said. "You have to control your breathing to aim well. And with a turkey, you hear him before you see him, so your heart starts racing even sooner.

"When the turkey stops gobbling, the suspense gets to you and you've got to make yourself stay still, but once you see him and can get off a shot, it has all the fast-paced excitement of any sport or any worthwhile accomplishment."

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