MIKE GILES: The Tenth Legion unites hunters with turkey affliction

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Members of the Tenth Legion included Hall of Famer Paul Meek, Mike Giles, Hall of Famer Leland James and Scott Young.

Steve Brown slowly drew back his bow until he touched his anchor point and released his arrow.

“Thwack!” The broadhead smacked another gobbler and Brown had completed his Second World Turkey Slam with a bow, earlier this year. The Starkville resident is an avid bowhunter who was stricken with a disease that only a few men contract.

Derek Eaves, of Louisville, took aim at old “Goliath” and released his arrow just as the bow sight touched the sweet spot.

“Whap” The arrow slammed hard into the trophy tom that Eaves had just called up. Eaves was also stricken with the disease.

Old Goliath ranked as the second largest gobbler ever taken with a bow in Mississippi according to the National Wild Turkey Federation records. Eaves knew the old bird was special and it took a lot of planning and effort to bring him down. It was quite an accomplishment.

Arriving at the Hull Farm near Louisville, I was greeted by an array of talented men, all stricken with the same disease and members of the Tenth Legion. Though it might sound ironic to some, these men ranging in ages from their 30s to 80s all had the same disease, though most had learned to live with it, and continued to carry on semi-normal lives.

Though the disease can be controlled with the proper therapy, there is no known cure and for many of their families, that may lead to stress and inconvenience for a couple months each spring. Many of these men seemingly disappear and are rarely seen from March through May. Occasionally some of them disappear with their wives, also.

Yes, the one thing they all have in common is the dreaded “Turkey Fever.” These otherwise sane men put aside almost everything during the spring turkey season. Though you might not realize it, they are stricken in such a way that they can’t think about anything but going to the woods and hunting that old gobbler.

And after they harvest that bird, they start thinking about the next one. The disease has no cure, but it will go into remission a few days after turkey season is over. Yes, deer hunters have nothing on turkey hunters when it comes to contracting the turkey fever.

MIKE GILES: The Tenth Legion unites hunters with turkey affliction

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Brad Dye and Jerry Beck helped in the cooking and eating.

Brad Dye, of Meridian, greeted us warmly as we arrived at the farm. Dye introduced us to several people and we soon met Steve Brown, who was frying up turkey nuggets. Dye had invited Mark McPhail and me to attend the 18th annual Tenth Legion turkey gathering. The group’s name is borne from the highly acclaimed Tenth Legion Turkey book by Col. Tom Kelly.

MIKE GILES: The Tenth Legion unites hunters with turkey affliction

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The 18th annual Tenth Legion Turkey Banquet.

 

What started as the brainchild of friends Steve Brown and Scott Branton, of Starkville, to get together with turkey hunting friends and talk turkey, had turned into an annual event now attended by turkey hunting legends from around the state. Many of the people in attendance were turkey hunting legends, Hall of Fame members and future Hall of Fame Members.

But all were avid turkey hunters who enjoyed turkey hunting and sharing their passion with friends, family and in many cases the world. Scott Branton is a talented outdoorsman and accomplished author as well, having penned several nationally acclaimed turkey books featuring Neil Cost and related turkey things. In fact Scott and his wife also accompanied Steve and his wife as they all four completed a World turkey slam together.

The camaraderie amount turkey hunters and turkey collectors is second to none. Most are talented, thoughtful and compassionate people who will go out of their way to help people from all walks of life. Of course at the core of it all is their passion, the dreaded turkey fever that sometimes gets such a hold on people that they just can’t shake the addiction until the season is over.

The 18th annual Tenth Legion meeting was filled with tales from days gone by as many recounted old times, successful hunts and lamented the passing of old buddies. Many knew friendships were made as well. National NWTF Board Member Robert Higginbotham was also in attendance and shared in the festivities and tales as well.

MIKE GILES: The Tenth Legion unites hunters with turkey affliction

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Hall of Fame Member Leland James presented Mike Giles with this custom made Indian headdress made from turkey feathers, moose hair and a custom molded face.

 

Master call maker’s Paul Meek and Mark McPhail were in attendance and stirred the turkey pot a bit, too. They are two of the modern-day turkey call making legends and award-winning call makers. In fact Paul Meek was recently elected to the Mississippi Outdoors Hall of Fame along with Leland James, of Sturgis. James, an acclaimed taxidermist and avid turkey hunter was in attendance and took part in the festivities as well.

Noted call collector Gene Davis was there as well as former state champion turkey caller Bill Yeatman.

There’s just something extra special about talking turkey and eating good food with the Tenth Legion and people who share our hunting and fishing heritage and carry the dreaded turkey fever. The food was seasoned with some spicy turkey calling from Paul Meek’s box calls, Mark McPhail’s trough calls and even a few natural voice yelps, clucks and gobbles from Yours Truly. Carpe Diem!

Call Mike Giles at 601-917-3898 or email mikegiles18@comast.net.

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