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Paynesville Press - June 2, 2004

Hunting wild turkeys with Wheelin' Sportsmen

By Michael Jacobson

Rdt-t. Rdt-t. Rdt-t.

It's 5 a.m. And nature's creatures are waking up, producing a cornucopia of sounds.

Rdt-t. Rdt-t. Rdt-t.

A woodpecker picks its beak into a nearby tree.

Camouflaged blinds It's early April, and Ken Lieser of Spring Hill sits in a camouflage tent at the Sand Prairie Wildlife

Management Area just east of St. Cloud. Lieser, who was injured in a snowmobile accident in September 2000, is taking part in a Wheelin' Sportsmen turkey hunt on opening day.

Wheelin' Sportsmen - a group dedicated to providing huntinng opportunities for the disabled, elderly, and immobile - organized a turkey hunt for Ken Lieser of Spring Hill at the Sand Prairie Wildlife Managment Area near St. Cloud in April.

Ralph, a member of the Minnesota Wild Turkey Federation Board of Directors, serves as Ken's guide. Using a slate call - an aluminum disc scratched by a wood stick to imitate a hen's call - Ralph tries to lure a tom from its roost in a tree to the ground and to the camouflage blind.

Eeeeck. Eeeeck. Eeeeck.

Ralph patiently makes the call as Ken waits for action.

The morning scene is full of noises - ducks quacking and geese honking - as well as man-made sounds, the whir of propellers from the nearby airport and the revving of car engines on Highway 10.

Lieser, who lives between Lake Henry and Spring Hill, goes to St. Michael's Catholic Church in Spring Hill with Ron Welle, the statewide coordinator for Wheelin' Sportsmen, a group dedicated to providing hunting opportunities for disabled, elderly, and immobile people.

Because this turkey hunt is organized by the Wheelin' Sportsmen, the DNR allows it to be held at the management area, which is normally off limits to hunting. Lieser had riden an off-road vehicle to the blind around 5 a.m.

Ken Lieser waits for turkeys Around 7 a.m., Ralph's call is returned. A tom starts gobbling, answering his call.

Eeeeck. Eeeeck. Eeeeck.

Gobble. Gobble. Gobble.

Eeeeck. Eeeeck. Eeeeck.

Gobble. Gobble. Gobble.

Ken Lieser wiats patiently for a wild turkey inside the camouflaged blind during the four-day hunt.

The call-and-answer continues until the tom comes within 50 feet of the blind, but it never stops running and goes swiftly back to the wild.

Around 9 a.m., a hen comes to the front of the blind, sitting ten feet from the tent that holds Ken and Ralph.

But this is as close as Ken comes to getting a wild turkey.

Lieser used to hunt geese, pheasant, and deer, but since his accident he has done little hunting. Last fall, he went deer hunting again for the first time.

Lieser had never gone turkey hunting before. He spent four mornings hunting wild turkeys during the opening week without firing a shot, but had fun nevertheless. "Oh, yeah," he said. "The most fun, even if you couldn't shoot at them, was watching those hens."

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