Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

As you read this Sunday morning, I should be turkey hunting.

Unfortunately, I’m not. And, it’s not because I filled my tag.

There was no turkey hunt this year because neither I, nor turkey, swim very well.

This is the third year I had planned to hunt family property along the Kaskaskia River in Clinton County. And, this is the second year in a row my season has been cancelled due to flooding.

Last year was washed out because it had been an extraordinarily wet spring throughout Southern Illinois. This year, it’s largely the Mississippi River that is to blame.

The Mississippi has flooded areas of deep Southern Illinois for the past couple of months. As a result of flooding downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was holding water at Carlyle Lake. Our property is several miles downstream from Carlyle.

With the Mississippi flooding mitigating somewhat and Carlyle Lake rising, the Corps of Engineers increased the release of water late last week, effectively washing away my turkey hunt.

This isn’t meant to point any fingers, or assign any blame. It’s just bad luck on my part … again.

While I love hunting turkey, my history with the sport is checkered. I’ve harvested just one bird over the years, but had a series of comical near-misses that led me to believe I was jinxed.

While hunting in Missouri several years ago with turkey guide Keith Enloe, I made a stupid mistake — I didn’t listen to him. Enloe expertly worked a tom, which I clearly heard gobbling, but since I didn’t see the bird, I failed to get my gun in position.

And, when the bird suddenly materialized 30 feet in front of me. I couldn’t lift my gun without spooking the bird. Fortunately, Enloe wasn’t in the turkey’s line of vision and was able to harvest the bird.

Several years later, hunting in Williamson County, I had a nice tom 20 yards in front of me. This time my gun was ready and the bird was nearly in my sights. However, a sizable sapling just to my left prevented me from swinging my gun any further, and the bird refused to take another step forward.

The turkey eventually out-waited me, walking off without me getting a shot.

And, even the harvested bird came after something of a misadventure.

Hunting in Williamson County again, I was standing in the middle of a swampy, forested track with two friends on a hot, sticky morning when a turkey shattered the morning silence with a thundering gobble, no more than 30 yards from us.

The three of us scrambled to find cover. We had just gotten seated when the tom hit the ground and headed directly at me. I managed to get my gun in position as the turkey walked behind a tree, but as soon as it emerged my glasses slid down my nose.

All I could see was a large black ball moving toward me.

Fortunately, there was another tree between us and I was able to get my glasses back in place.

So, was there another bird in my future? That’s debatable. But, I will miss the opportunity for another misadventure.

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On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​


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