Hey Turkey Junky!
I had noticed, while looking through other forum entries, that you are from Inver Grove Heights. I have noticed, too, that there are quite a few of us who live in Minnesota (or other northern states with limited tag availability/short local seasons) who travel to hunt turkeys. Once you get the fever and need to be out there with turkeys throughout the spring (and fall) season, the only thing stopping you is loading stuff up in the truck and being willing to drive, right?
Great going, taking your dad hunting after he would have difficulty going by himself. And I'm glad that he got so excited that he missed a few of his shots this year... I feel the same way you do about all that. My dad, and his friend Gus Stoesz, both felt they were a burden on me during their later years of hunting, because they required a lot of help. But they will never know that their absence in our hunting camps now is the real burden. I miss them so much, and their enthusiasm for the sport, and life.
They were among the few license holders back in 1978, the first modern Minnesota season, and my dad shot a Merriam's gobbler down in the Whitewater area. We all did for a while after that... I've had many turkey hunters look at me like I'm nuts when I talk about how we used to have Merriam's turkeys in Minnesota, that they were the first birds we were allowed to hunt, and that transplanting of easterns came after that.
There's no doubt some very old Merriam's blood still kicking around down in Southeastern Minnesota (although it would have no impact on appearance, I'm sure, after this many generations). My feeling is that there is all kinds of turkey blood coursing through many "wild" populations, owing to yard birds that breed with wild birds, escape and live with wild birds, etc. Those turkeys of the prairie units in the Dakotas, for example, have every kind of turkey blood ever created in them. No matter what their genetic makeup, turkeys that live in the wild are wild turkeys, and they're all fantastic to me.
It reminds me of how they weren't going to transplant any "true wild turkeys" in the Minnesota River valley (near Mankato) until they killed ALL the "tame" turkeys that were living there, so they wouldn't interbreed with the pure wild birds and screw up the genetics of the flock. The "tame" turkeys proved to be superb at eluding the best efforts of the eradicators, then came an official announcement that they had gotten them all, and it was safe to release wild birds from their cardboard boxes into the now "turkey-less" river valley. I still kind of chuckle when I think about what the actual genetic makeup of that local flock is. They all look like wild easterns, act like wild easterns, and remain difficult to get close to on purpose.
Sounds like you had an amazing season this year, with plenty of scenic travels, and congratulations for digging in and having success on public land... I'm honored that you read one of my stories every year before and after your season, and I mean that. I am still the worst crybaby of all when the last day of the last season is upon us, and I do feel that depression that sets in for a while when it's over for the year. Maybe it's largely exhaustion, because I do feel better in a couple weeks, after getting more sleep.
Thanks again for writing... it was fun tossing things back and forth. Good hunting to you, too... soon we will be forced to go fishing! As the late Ed Zern would have said, we now have to go fishing... because the turkey season is closed.