Wheelchairs couldn’t slow Scott McKinnon and Carl Brock, as they were the first hunters to harvest birds on Saturday morning.
Near first light, both hunters took turkeys as they took flight.
“We got them to come down off the roost,” McKinnon said. “We were lucky. We had two birds work in, and they were in the woods. We finally got them to peep their heads out of the woods, and they came out. They got on the decoys, and once they got on the decoys, I was fortunate enough to make a good shot on it and harvest a bird.”
For Brock, the bird he killed was special.
A native of Harrogate, he’s been to the hunt for each of the nine years the event has taken place.
Saturday’s kill was a long time coming.
“That’s my first bird in nine years,” he said with a smile. “I’ve hunted up here for nine years, and I killed a bird the first year we had the hunt. It took me nine years, and this is my second turkey.”
Just after first light, three turkeys came into the field, as they flew from their roosting trees.
According to Brock, they flew down about 7:05 a.m., as the three turkeys walked together.
It took them 15 minutes to get within range, but he still didn’t have a shot.
“That was the big thing,” his guide, Don Tackett, said. “He had the three coming, and he could have shot for a while, but he would have killed more than one.
“Finally, one of them stuck his head up. The other one, it was kind of like after the other one ran its head up, it was like ‘Something bad’s going to happen.’ It was pretty much by the book. You couldn’t ask for it to be any better.”
However, killing a bird so early left more than three hours to spare before the side-by-sides would be back to pick the hunters up.
“It was just an awesome time of fellowship,” Brock said. “We told stories of past hunts, past failures and past successes.”
They were also able to call in some extra birds during the day, however, his Jake was the one that was already on the ground.
“We had some big gobblers close, but it’s sort of like you have it right here,” Tackett said. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. We had two or three in the bush, but that one was in the hand. I think Carl made the exact right decision.”
However, Brock said he couldn’t have done it without his callers in Tackett and Bob Hodge of Sudden Impact Outdoors, a video crew that documented the hunt.
“They’re awesome,” he said. “It sounded like I was in a room full of turkeys. I can’t compliment Dan or Bob enough. It was awesome.”
McKinnon, who’s only been in his wheelchair for four years according to his guide and friend Chad Whittenburg, the whole event was an amazing experience.
The native of Franklin said it the outpouring of support was hard to put into words.
“It’s hard to explain,” McKinnon said. “Once you’ve had a devastating accident and your life changes completely, and you’re sitting there left with so many things that you did on your own while you could walk, all of a sudden, everything is jerked out from under you. With the help of people like these people here – they give up their time and they give up their money and property – it’s just a blessing to come together like this. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
However, this wasn’t McKinnon’s first hunt.
According to Whittenburg, who works for the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, McKinnon went on a duck hunt earlier in the winter.
As for the turkey hunt, he was a little cautious at first.
“He was a little hesitant, but when we got up here, he fell right in,” Whittenburg said. “It’s a joy just to sit in the blind with them, and we take so much for granted. The hour and a half it takes them to get ready in the morning, the hour and a half it takes the to go to bed at night. We can get up 15 minutes before shooting time and head to the woods. We take a lot of stuff for granted, so I’m just glad to help them.”
The Willing Sportsman Hunt, along with other hunts McKinnon has been on has helped him tremendously, according to Whittenburg.
Being an avid deer, turkey and duck hunter before his injury, Whittenburg said he’s not been able to go out as much as he had before his injury.
“He’s only been in the chair for about four years, and he hadn’t done any hunting until the last six months,” he said. “Just talking to his wife, the smile on his face being able to get outdoors and realize he can do it and be around other people in a chair, it just gives him a lot of confidence around others.”
“Absolutely,” he said. “Absolutely. If you can get outdoors, I highly recommend it.”