SFC Varren Davis' Giant Spring Turkey!

Recently at a hunting show where I was speaking, I was approached by a few gentlemen representing a charity that says “thank you” to veterans by taking them on guided hunts. “Mr. Herbert... would you like to guide a veteran on a turkey hunt this spring?”

 

I thought for a moment. “Yep... I sure would. But I already have a local guy in mind.” We thanked each other, and they went on their way.

 

At the ripe old age of 17, US Army veteran Varren Davis enlisted in the Army. He did basic training as soon as Uncle Sam would let him, and has been in the military ever since. He has now achieved the rank of SFC, or Sargent First Class. Our daughters are friends and introduced us a few years ago. When I first learned of Varren, he was overseas fighting in Afghanistan on a one year deployment. I remember watching his wife keep it all together, continuing to provide a normal childhood for his daughters while dad was fighting overseas. Varren’s home now, his wife did a fantastic job, and the girls are doing great!

 

Varren and I have found that we have a lot in common. He's an avid deer hunter and watefowler. But doesn't have anything to hunt in the spring, So I knew he'd be up for a turkey hunt.

 

SFC Varren Davis is all smiles with his first turkey! SFC Varren Davis is all smiles with his first turkey!

A few months ago at an event for our daughters, I told Varren's wife Stacey that I wanted to take him turkey hunting this spring. She said he would be thrilled! So I gave her my number for him to call me. ScentBlocker hooked him up with the greatest turkey hunting gear we have to offer, and my friend Seth at Bully's Game Calls donated a custom made, personalized box call to Varren as well. He was using my Winchester SXP, with Hevi-Shot Magnum Blend turkey loads and a Hevi-Shot turkey choke. We would be hunting out of a Redneck Blinds Hunter's Choice Bale Blind. I wanted to make sure his first turkey hunt would be done in style!

 

With both of our hectic schedules and commitments to our families, Varren and I had only a few short days to hunt together.

 

The forecast for Saturday May 9th wasn't the greatest- heavy storms and rain most of the day. I like turkey hunting in a light rain, but didn't like the thought of thunder, lightning, and furious winds. But... I knew we'd be safe in our Redneck Bale Blind- so I texted Varren Friday night and simply said, “We're still on tomorrow, rain or shine”.

 

He replied back, “I can't wait!”.

 

After a short night of sleep due to my oldest son's track meet getting rain delayed until 1:30 am, I groggily woke at 4:30, fueled up with a hot coffee and Clif Bar and was off to get Varren. He was ready and waiting when I arrived, decked out in his ScentBlocker turkey hunting gear from head to toe. With Recon pants and shirt, a Versa face mask, an SB ball cap, and thin Whitewater gloves- he looked like a pro.

 

As the rain came down, we had a great time drinking coffee and talking in the blind. I learned a lot from him that morning. I think most Americans have no clue what it's like to be away at war- at least I didn't. His stories were very eye-opening. Emotionally, Varren is doing great. Physically, 25 years of the military have caught up to him. His biggest issue is a past shoulder injury that keeps coming back to haunt him. Other than that- Varren’s fortunate to be in such great shape. Still, after 25 years, he is retiring from the military soon, and looking forward to the next chapter of his life.

 

After a few hours of great conversation but no action, I was starting to realize this hunt was slow. I mean like molasses in December slow, but Varren didn't know any different. And... we were having fun- which is all that matters. We hadn't even heard a roost gobble! It's funny how my goals for the hunt changed throughout the course of the morning. At first, I wanted him to kill a tom, an hour or so after no action, I wanted him to at least see a hen, a little while after that, with still nothing happening, I hoped he would hear a gobble! I quickly said a silent prayer to God that Varren would at least hear a gobble. Something soon overcame me, and even though it was still raining, I suggested we get up and talk a walk. “You don't mind getting a bit wet, do you?”

 

“Nope! He replied, “let's go...” I should have figured that a war veteran wouldn't be defeated by a little rain.

 

As if God had a plan for us, the rain let up significantly. We wandered around the property a bit, following my access trail to several food plots. We walked slow and called before each bend in the trail. Unfortunately, each plot was empty- but we were still having fun. The rain had all but stopped, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. We eventually came to a fork in the road, right at the river. I called loud and would swear I heard a gobble to my left. Varren didn't hear it, but we went left anyway. I'll never know if that gobble was real or not. (I think sometimes we turkey hunters imagine things?) With more fruitless calling, we eventually hit the end of the woods, which opens to a beautiful hay field along the river. I ripped out one last call.

 

“Gobble!... Gobble... GOBBLEEEEE!” Varren's eyes lit up! The tom was a distance away, but close enough to be interested.

 

There, to my left, as if lit by a beacon of light from Heaven, was a split oak tree I had never noticed before. I'm convinced God created it just for us. “There, let's sit against that one.” I said. Varren had a portable stool he brought along, so he used that and I folded down the seat on my Thunder Chicken vest and sat on the ground. We each sat against one part of the split trunk. The way we ended up, Varren had a view of the entire field. However, since I was much lower, with the tall grass and slight rolling hills I only could see the corner in front of us. Varren would have to be my eyes while I did the calling.

 

I called again, to gauge the turkey’s location. “Gobble!” He fired right back.

 

Varren whispered, “He's getting closer”. This chess match went on for a few minutes, with the gobbles coming closer and closer, but the tom wouldn't leave the river bottom to our right. I thought to myself a few times that I had heard a second tom behind us. Varren swore he herd two toms as well.

 

As the gobbling got closer, my heart started to pound out of my chest. I could only imagine the excitement Varren was experiencing. His gun was raised, and he was just waiting for a bird to pop out of the river bottom. Then he whispered, “I see him... To my left... That bird is huge!” I could hear in Varren's voice he was trying to stifle his excitement. At first that didn't make sense to me, but I wasn't going to argue with him. Somehow, if it was the same bird from the river bottom (on our right) came out of the field, and got to Varren’s left without us seeing him, or... there was in fact another bird behind us. (our left) Either way- we had a visual!

 

I explained to Varren my calling strategy. Basically, once I know a tom is committed, I quit calling. I don’t want him to know exactly where we are, but would rather he wander in rather curious. We did not have a decoy set out, and I needed this bird to stick around as long as possible Varren kept me updated, describing the birds actions, the colors of his head, and what direction he was headed. Eventually I saw the tom and he was huge. He had to stand at least 3 feet tall!

 

Just as silent as he had been the last half a minute or so, the tom continued to quickly close the distance. I whispered to Varren to to take the safety off, and follow the bird with his gun. “OK... stay on him. Let him get as close as possible.” At about 30 yards, the jig was up. The bird knew something was fishy. He stopped and started to turn. I was afraid he was going to run away. “Now!” I whispered, “...kill him.”

 

“BOOM!” And the bird vanished. One second he was there, the next, he wasn't.

 

It was a long, heavy hike but Varren was happy to do it. It was a long, heavy hike but Varren was happy to do it.

“I got him!” Varren shouted. I could hear the confidence in his voice. Being a trained military shooter, I knew he meant what he said. But, I was a bit worried. Usually the birds flop around a bit, and feathers fly everywhere. From my point of view, it looked like the turkey was never there. We quick got up and ran to where the bird was. In about a half second, I heard Varren again, “There he is! He's huge...” And he was.

 

Soaking wet and glistening with fresh raindrops, the birds iridescent feathers looked picturesque against the green spring alfalfa. His head, a patriotic tribute, in a beautiful mixture of red, white, and blue. Rather fitting, I thought.

 

Upon further review, we figured that Varren had drilled him right in the back of the head as the bird was turning away. That Hevi-Shot gets the job done at long distances. This isn't the first tom I've seen killed with it that did not flop at all. After a few high fives, and several back slaps, Varren grabbed the bird. “Holy cow... he's heavy”.

 

“I bet... and look at those spurs...” The birds spurs were giant- long, sharp daggers. “I bet this thing's a legit limb hanger.” I replied. And it was. We got back into the woods and I grabbed the bird from Varren. “Watch this” I said. I hung the bird upside down by his spurs on a small limb. I've hunted turkeys for a long time, and killed a lot of birds, and I have never seen a bird with spurs this long!

 

We shot some pictures and fired off a few celebratory texts. Then I showed Varren how to carry the bird out and said, “Now the work starts”. Totally forgetting about his shoulder issues.

 

We talked and laughed and relived the hunt on the way back out of the woods. I did not clock it, but we had quite a hike ahead of us. Back at the blind we stopped to shoot a few more pics, and only after I asked, Varren told me his shoulder had went numb. We took a break, made a few phone calls. He was trying to figure out if his daughter's soccer game had been canceled. (He's their coach) I was making similar phone calls trying to get the same answers for my son's soccer game as well. With both of us clear as to the morning's soccer plans, it was time to finish the hike. I asked if he wanted me to carry it out, and he simply replied “nope”.

 

We made it back to his house as his kids were waking up. Varren’s wife and daughters were so excited for him, and proud of his accomplishment. It was really an amazing moment and I was happy to be sharing it with them. After pictures and more coffee, we went to see my buddy Don at Rustic Antler Taxidermy in Plainwell, Michigan. Don had agreed to give Varren a deal on a fan mount as his way of saying thanks for serving.

It is hard to tell which one of us had more fun? It is hard to tell which one of us had more fun?

 

At Don's shop, we weighed the bird. Surprisingly, the bird weighed in at just over 20 pounds. I thought he was a bit heavier. His beard measured over 9 1/2”, and what was most impressive, is that the bird's spurs were a solid 1 1/2” each... pushing 1 9/16”! Still, the longest spurs I have seen yet. I'm no turkey biologist, but I think this was a really old bird, almost going “downhill” in a sense. I know mature bucks often lose body weight and their antler growth isn't as impressive near the tail end of their lifetimes. Maybe this turkey was entering his golden years?

 

After Don took what he needed, we went to my house and I showed Varren how to butcher the turkey. He saved everything! He had big plans for the delicious white breast meat, and also saved the wings to hang in his garage, a bunch of feathers for his dad to tie fishing flies, and I even got the legs and thighs for him to throw on the smoker

 

I said to him in a half joking way, “You know... turkey hunting isn't always this easy”.

 

Smiling he said, “I figured as much... too bad I can only shoot one each spring”.

 

I'd like to thank everyone that came together to make this hunt possible. A big shout out goes to ScentBlocker, Bully's Game Calls, Hevi-Shot, Winchester, Redneck Blinds, Rustic Antler Taxidermy, and my buddy Rick. (whose property we were on)

 

I'm also really thankful for this amazing hunt that I was able to share with Varren. The good Lord works in mysterious ways, and I'm pretty certain that after SFC Varren Davis retires from the military, God wants him to become a turkey hunter.

1 Comment;

  • Varren

    Thanks Jason, it was a great hunt! And thanks to all your sponsors for helping to make this happen :) I will surely try turkey hunting again.

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