Powell Crowned Grand Champion at Governor's One-Shot Turkey Hunt

By David Rainer
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Posted 4/13/22

Governor Kay Ivey and Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship were thrilled to revive the dormant Alabama Governor's One-Shot Turkey Hunt last week as numerous Alabama landowners treated business …

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Powell Crowned Grand Champion at Governor's One-Shot Turkey Hunt

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Governor Kay Ivey and Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship were thrilled to revive the dormant Alabama Governor's One-Shot Turkey Hunt last week as numerous Alabama landowners treated business and industry representatives to our state's renowned turkey hunting and abundant Southern hospitality.

The Alabama Governor's One-Shot Turkey Hunt is a premier event that was started in 2002 and last held in 2015. The invitation list of hunters is made up of corporate CEOs, corporate presidents, outdoor and entertainment celebrities, media representatives, and sponsors. The prospect list to fill the hunt slots comes largely from recommendations by the Governor, the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. The event raises funds that benefit the many projects of the Alabama Conservation & Natural Resources Foundation, including scholarships at The University of Alabama and Auburn University.

With a format change from previous hunts, participants gathered at the Prattville Marriott for the Fly-Down Social and Auction Monday night and then departed for their hunting areas. Instead of returning all the way to Prattville for a formal Tuesday night banquet, a few hunting lodges hosted regional dinners for the landowners and hunting guests near their areas. The participants returned to Prattville Wednesday for the official scoring of the harvested turkeys and the Governor's Awards Luncheon.

Although hunters weren't due back to Prattville until Wednesday, rumors started to swirl that Linda Powell of firearms manufacturer Mossberg had bagged a big bird on Tuesday's first hunt.

That rumor was confirmed when Powell and guide Justin Rock of Riverview Farms brought the huge turkey to the scoring table at the Prattville Marriott on Wednesday.

Powell's turkey weighed a whopping 25.13 pounds and sported an 11¾-inch beard with 1 1/8-inch spurs. Under the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) scoring protocol, the final score is determined by weight, plus double the length of the beard and 10 times the length of the spurs.

Powell topped all 64 hunters with a 71.13 total score to be crowned the Grand Champion of the 2022 Alabama Governor's One-Shot Turkey Hunt.

Powell's bird played coy on the opening morning of the hunt, and that was just fine with her.

"I had a turkey located, so when we went to find that turkey, naturally, he wasn't in the same place," Rock said. "We moved around and got close to his roost. There was a wide-open road between us and the turkey. He gobbled good, responded good. We set up on the road, thinking he would walk right down the road, and we'd be done in 30 minutes."

However, the turkey balked. Powell and Rock changed position three times to try to intercept the bird. They set up on a ridge and started calling. The turkey approached, but the brush was so thick, the hunters couldn't see the bird. Then came a surprise.

"He ended up out there strutting right where we started – full circle," Rock said.

The hunters repositioned and attempted to call the gobbler down the road.

"He had a bunch of hens with him," Rock said. "We called to the hens. They started coming our way with the gobbler behind. We could see him, but we had to wait for him to walk out from behind the brush. Miss Linda did a good job and put him down, no question about it."

Powell, who was using Mossberg's new Model 940 Pro Turkey shotgun, is no novice to turkey hunting with four World Slams to her credit, and she's working on the fifth.

"I love Alabama to begin with, and it's been several years since I've been here," Powell said. "It was such a classic morning to go out and hear the gobbling. I think Justin was disappointed we didn't get him on the first set-up, but I really wasn't. I like the fact we had to work a little bit, and he kept responding.

"In my mind, it was just a perfect morning. It was beautiful and turkeys were gobbling."

A close second at 68.86 total points was a person synonymous with turkey hunting – Rob Keck, former head of the NWTF now with Bass Pro Shops. Keck's bird weighed 22.11 pounds with a 10-inch beard. One spur was 1 ¼ inches, while the other measured 1 3/8.
Keck marveled at the size of Powell's bird and reflected on his history of turkey hunting in Alabama.

"What a turkey," Keck said. "You don't hear of a bird that big in Alabama. I killed my first turkey at Coosa Wildlife Management Area in 1969. I've never heard of a 25-pound turkey in Alabama. I don't know what Tom Kelly would think of that.

"I had a great hunt with Ed McCurdy as my guide. We sort of struck out early, so we just started slipping around to see if we could spot one in one of the pastures. We came through a little ribbon of timber, and we saw this gobbler cutting across the pasture all by himself. I moved up the ribbon of timber onto a hill. I was looking at the fence lines because I didn't want the turkey to get hung up on a fence."

When Keck and McCurdy set up, Keck said the turkey responded to the first call.

"He just ate it up, but he was about 250 yards away," Keck said. "I just kept giving it to him, and he gobbled every time I hit the call. Then he hung up at about 150 yards still in the timber. I started challenge purring with my mouth call and my slate. It will flat tear them apart.

"He got to the edge of the pasture, went in full strut and gobbled. I gave him a little more and then put the call down. He was coming. He would strut, stop and gobble; strut, stop and gobble. He was coming to fight. He came to within 25 yards, and there was just one little gap in that fence. He got there, ran the periscope up and the rest is history."

Although Keck has chased turkeys all over the world, he said Alabama is a special place to him.

"I killed my first spring gobblers in Alabama," he said. "I won the World Championship calling contest in Mobile. A lot of the work NWTF does was formulated right here in Alabama. This is the cradle of turkey hunting.

"I remember reading a story by Charlie Elliott in Outdoor Life back in 1969 about how Alabama had the longest spring turkey season. To me, Alabama is the mecca, like coming back to where it all started. So many states around the country have copied what Alabama has been doing for an awful long time. For me, I have so many great memories, so many great people I've met through the years, the conservation work, the ability to hunt here. I want to become an honorary Alabama citizen."

Alabama Conservation Advisory Board Chairman Joey Dobbs was the second runner-up with another 20-pound turkey, 20.34 to be exact. The beard measured 10 3/8 inches, and the spurs were both 1¼ inches for a 66.09 total score.

Dobbs said the early morning set-up was a bust, and he and his guide, Tim Wilsford of Pintlala, were just about to give up. They had even unloaded their guns when Dobbs came to full alert.

"I heard a 'cluck, cluck, cluck' behind us," Dobbs said. "We squatted down. We didn't have time to get set up. Around the corner came six birds, six gobblers. This was the biggest bird, leading the way the whole time. Then a hen intercepted them and hung them up for about 30-40 minutes. Finally, they came around a tree where I had a good, clean shot and got him.

"Tim and his family were such wonderful hosts. I'm just so proud that we're able to do this (Governor's One-Shot Turkey Hunt). COVID slowed us down the last two years. Getting this back and raising the money we've raised this year for the Foundation, I'm very pleased. The participation level was just fabulous."

Governor Ivey was also pleased that the event went off without a hitch and raised valuable money for the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation, which funds scholarships at the University of Alabama and Auburn University as well as numerous programs like Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, youth dove hunts, the Adult Mentored Hunting Program, Hunters Helping the Hungry, the Go Fish program, the Gone Fishin' Not Just Wishin' Exceptional Anglers Event and more.

"When we kicked things off on Monday, I said Alabama was blessed with our great outdoors," Governor Ivey said. "I hope you all got a good glimpse of that. Not only is Alabama a great place to visit, it's also a great place to come to live, work and play. To those of you who are considering coming to Alabama or expanding existing companies, I certainly hope you'll make the choice to do so. We'd love for you to do business here in Alabama.

"I'd like to thank the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and Department of Commerce for putting this event together. I want to thank Chris Blankenship (ADCNR Commissioner), and I appreciate our many sponsors too. Without you, this would not be possible. Bev Leigh was also an integral part in making our auction – and the event itself – happen. I also want to thank Ed (Poolos, ADCNR's Deputy Commissioner) and Billy (Pope, ADCNR's Communications and Marketing Director) for their hard work."

Commissioner Blankenship said he wanted to thank several other people involved in the event.

"I wanted to make sure we recognize Bev Leigh, Craig Harris and the rest of the volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation who weighed and scored the birds and who put on very successful silent and live auctions," Commissioner Blankenship said. "They were great partners in this event. I appreciate the Alabama Wildlife Federation and Tim Gothard for the AWF Wild Game Cook Teams that provided some great food at the Fly-Down Social. We had 28 sponsors, and several of those sponsors made additional contributions because we had to postpone the 2020 event due to Covid.

"We had great participation from the landowners. By not having the Tuesday night banquet, we were able to spread it out. The winning turkey came from a little farther away. We probably wouldn't have been able to hunt that bird if we hadn't changed the format. Also, on Tuesday night dinners, people were able to talk business and develop relationships that will help them do business here in Alabama. It's extremely important to our economy in using the outdoors to help grow business. We enjoy getting out in the woods or the hunting camp in a relaxed environment. A lot of business deals get done on the golf course, but I think we have just as many opportunities to do that in the woods or on a boat fishing in the outdoors in Alabama."

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