Kristen Traugh

Traveling for Turkeys

There is many a Southerner’s heart that quickens at the sound of a turkey gobbling in our Georgia woods. If that describes you, then you are certainly not alone. Every year, over two million turkey hunters take to the hills and hollers of their properties in search of a trophy bird. This sport and lifestyle has such a following that the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has even designated several levels of goals for dedicated hunters. One of these hunters is in our own backyard.

Jake Jeter is a Faceville, Georgia native who is currently in the midst of working on a United States Super Slam title through the NWTF. This rigorous title involves harvesting one bird of the four sub-species per state except for Alaska. The NWTF records and certifies each slam harvest, making for the ultimate test of hunting skill. To this date, 16 individuals have registered their U.S. Super Slams. Jake aims to join their ranks shortly.

Recently, the film crew for Chasing 49, a brand that focuses on turkey hunting and conservation, followed Jake on one of his hunting adventures in the Western U.S.

WL&L: Can you give us a brief history about your - self and how you got started in turkey hunting?

JJ: I started turkey hunting when I was about nine years old. My brother had done it a little bit, and he wasn’t a professional turkey hunter or anything, but he harvested one and it struck my interest. I started hunting when I was about four years old, before I could even tote a gun, and I’d go duck hunting with my dad. I hunted my first deer when I was five and my first duck and dove at six years old. At about nine, I started turkey hunting and the first three years of it, I never harvested one. Everything that could ever happen, went wrong. It was a strug - gle! But when I first took my turkey, that was one of the most memorable hunts I’ve ever had.

WL&L: It took you a minute to get started, but once you did, you had it!

JJ: Oh, yes, my dad never turkey hunted and my brother only did it a little. I ended up meeting with Keenan Adams. He was one of my brother’s really good friends. He was an avid turkey hunter and he ended up taking me. I harvested my first one with him. [It] jumped out of a ground blind and landed on a big snake-- it was a whole ordeal! I’ll remember it for the rest of my life for sure.

WL&L: Could you tell us about the Chasing 49 documentary and what you’re doing with it?

JJ: Chasing 49 is a documentary series for the NWTF. It follows along with guys who are chasing their United States Super Slam. I got into it when I knew one of the camera guys who was filming it. Another guy was finishing his Slam for that year and my buddy called and told me they were looking for another guy who was chasing his Slam. He asked if I would be interested and I said, ‘Oh absolutely!’ I was already traveling to turkey hunt anyway so it was a no-brainer for me. The next year, I got hooked up with them. We have our clothing sponsors, camouflage sponsors, boot sponsors, shotguns, and turkey shells. They sent everything I needed and we planned out a trip.

We flew out to Washington State the first year I was with them. We hunted Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. That’s some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen in my life!

WL&L: How has the show and process changed since you’ve been there?

JJ: There’s a lot of people doing it now. But there’s, I’d say, 25 or 30 that’s working at it now. It may be more than that. But when I started, there were under 15 people who had actually accomplished it.

WL&L: How’s your Super Slam coming? Have you made it through all of it?

JJ: No, I’m about halfway. I’ve killed birds in 24 states so far.

WL&L: That’s quite the accomplishment!

JJ: I’ve still got a ways to go! That’s one of the main reasons I enjoy doing it: stepping foot in all those different places, and seeing how the woods change in every state. It’s really something.

WL&L: With all the travel, I’m sure you have a lot of stories. Is there one especially memorable one you’d like to share?

JJ: With every turkey you hunt, you learn something. Hunting in different states helps you become a better hunter all around. The turkeys in South Georgia are nothing like the ones in the Northeast or Northwest. We in the Southeast have the hardest turkeys to hunt in the whole country. The ones who live around here are very educated because we have so many turkey hunters. You get a lot more access to private land out West because the people view them as a nuisance. They don’t care so much about them out there but I guess it’s because they’ve never eaten one!

I can look at a picture of a turkey I harvested; it doesn’t matter when. I can go back in my mind and remember every hunt and where it was. When you do it, it’s burned into your memory.

WL&L: Speaking of land, how do you think we as landowners could take bigger steps towards conservation and providing a good environment for turkeys? What do you see in our area of the country?

JJ: Adding in chufa food plots is a big deal that really helps out turkeys a lot. Burning is also one of the main things you can do. You don’t want to burn too late unless it’s really overgrown. You don’t want to burn prime nesting habitat too late in the year. Burning in February and early March gives them a good open area to scratch around and strut. You need it to have some cover too so they can build a nest nearby.

WL&L: Do you have any favorite gear or hunting tips to share?

JJ: I love using a crystal call and a Wingbone. A Wing bone is a call that a lot of old-time hunters used to use and it fell off for a long time. It’s come back now. It’s got a very unique sound to it and I’ve had a lot of success striking turkeys with the Wingbone. I finish them with a mouth call though. I harvest a lot of turkeys early but most have been from 10 in the morning until 2. Early, they will have hens with them but they’ll be lonely later in the morning. When they get lonely, they’re a lot easier to hunt!

WL&L: That’s very interesting! Do you have any advice for someone who would like to get into turkey hunting?

JJ: Patience is key. When it comes to calling, less is more. A lot of these guys get impatient and start calling a lot. Turkeys have a sixth sense to them and they’ll shut up and disappear like a ghost. Learning the woods and the topography of where you hunt is important. If you watch and listen to the turkeys, they usually use higher ground to get hens and then fall off to the bottoms if you’re in a hilly area. But definitely don’t call every time they gobble. Let them know where you’re at and then sit back and wait on them.

WL&L: What are your future plans for hunting and maybe a career?

JJ: I work with my dad and we build custom cabinets right now. But hunting is one of those things where I will see where it takes me. I’m having fun traveling and meeting really good people along the way. We’ll see where it goes.

WL&L: It sounds like you’re on the right track. In all your travels, what brings you back home to hunt? Besides us having the hardest turkeys to hunt?

JJ: After Hurricane Michael, it’s been a lot tougher on the turkeys. Our woods really got destroyed. The hardwoods, the pines, it’s what I grew up on and it’s always been one of my favorite places to hunt. The woods are going to come back, hopefully, in my lifetime.


You can find the documentary featuring Jake called “Go West Young Men” on YouTube.

Whether you are new to the sport of turkey hunting or have been at it for years, owning and developing your own slice of turkey habitat can be an enormously rewarding experience. Southwest Georgia Farm Credit relationship managers have the know-how and resources to make those dreams a reality. They can assist in land purchases and through the steps of land improvements. So come springtime in South Georgia, your heart can flutter with every gobble

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