Hunter Downs First Gobbler at Turkey Camp


SD Turkey 2014 204I’ve been a guest at Ken Byers’ turkey camp for nearly ten years. For Ken, the hunt is always a family affair; I’ve stalked the prairies of South Dakota with his father, son, and two daughters. They always pitch in and make the camp both functional and lots of fun. All of the children are now in school or have young families of their own; Ken now counts on his brother’s children to make the camp work.

Upon arrival this year, I was introduced to the newest nephew of the group. “This is Elijah, but everybody calls him ‘Black Mamba,'” said Ken with a hardy smile. Elijah was aglow with the enjoyment of meeting the many people who frequent the turkey camp. I was a bit uncomfortable with the nickname, yet Elijah embraced the mystery of the image and humor which surrounded it.

Elijah had just taken a huge gobbler the morning of my arrival and I took a few pictures of the bird and thrilled at the excitement of the event. Uncle Ken had been calling to a gobbler with a flock of hens, put up the gobbler decoy, and the tom ran right at them. In fact, it climbed a steep slope and popped up so close to Elijah that he couldn’t shoot. Despite his limited hunting experience, he sprang to his feet, took a few steps to the crest of the hill, and downed the gobbler on the run.

SD Turkey 2014 333The early success was a bit of a mixed blessing. Now that the young man had filled a tag, he was eligible for kitchen duty and family matters, like the parade of cousins that preceded him.

As the days went on, Elijah learned to make a mean omelette. The camp had many laughs, thanks to his youthful exuberance and sense of humor. As the camp closed, he was awarded an autographed box call to commemorate the hunt and his achievement. No doubt, there will be a Black Mamba on future South Dakota hunts.

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Joe Byers
Joe Byers has more than 1,000 magazine articles in print and is currently a field editor with Whitetail Journal, Predator Xtreme, Whitetails Unlimited, Crossbow Revolution, and African Hunting Journal magazines. He’s spent the last three decades depicting the thrill of the chase and photographing the majesty of all things wild. Byers is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association and numerous other professional and conservation organizations.