Hart’s heart set on hunting gobblers

By G. Sam Piatt - PDT Contributor



Harvest results for Kentucky’s spring wild turkey season are in and they show hunters enjoying another banner year, with the statewide kill totaling 32,063.

Lawrence County’s tally was 248. Four of those were taken opening day back in April by Leon Hart and his sons, Tim and Seth, both in their 30s.

But their most memorable hunt came on opening day last year.

Leon grew up in Mansfield, Ohio and recalls as a youngster how he and his father, Herb, would traipse behind his father’s retriever until it froze on point and they moved in to flush the ring-necked pheasant.

He was one of seven children. The other three boys didn’t have much interest in hunting, but a sister, Delores, nicknamed “Spook,” has killed more than 40 deer with the bow and arrow.

When his teaching career brought him to Kentucky he fell in love with hunting the much bigger bird, the wild gobbler. Weights of 24 pounds or better are not unusual.

Opening day 2016 found the three posted up before daylight near a tree where the birds had roosted.

“We were set up fairly close, but when the birds flew down they went the other way,” Leon said.

“After nearly an hour with no action we heard a couple gobbling up on a point. We scooted around the pinnacle and came up on the backside of the ridge, behind the birds.”

“I knew he’d find a way to make us climb a hill,” one of the boys complained.

Leon shook the gobble shaker and immediately two birds gobbled back.

‘We worked the mouth call for about 10 minutes and over the hill they came, both strutting,” Leon said. “One of the birds hung up, but the other kept coming straight at us.”

On another hunt Seth had aimed at the gobbler’s head but missed, with the shot going over its head.

“This time I told him to aim just below the head, to put the red bead on the barrel’s end right on the neck.”

The bird was only about 10 yards away when Seth pulled the trigger on the 12 gauge.

The BBs hardly had time to scatter. Seth dropped the bird where it stood. He had put a hole in the turkey’s neck, with the shot and most of the wadding behind it passing through.

“I picked the turkey up by its head and the head came off in my hand,” Leon said.

He looked at Seth and said, “Son, you are very coachable. Very coachable.”

The gobbler weighed 27 pounds.

As Leon took a photo of the two boys with the turkey, Tim heard another gobbler, gave a few clucks on the mouth call, and soon had killed his tom.

Leon got his two on later hunts.

“When I hunt with the boys, I concentrate on calling – helping them score, not hunting myself.”

He has a 12-year-old grandson and a 10-year-old granddaughter. The grandson is already into turkey hunting.

Some days Leon goes into April’s woods armed with just a camera.

“I love watching the world wake up,” he said.

Hart ended a 40-year teaching/coaching career when he retired about four years ago from the Ashland School District, where his duties included coaching the Tomcats’ varsity football team.

He said he gave up teaching and coaching because he wanted to spend more time with his ailing father. He died in the fall of 2013 after a seven-year battle with leukemia.

“I got to spend his last nine months of his life with him,” he said. “That was wonderful for me, that I was able to do that.”


Ohio hasn’t yet posted its 2017 turkey harvest totals. Last year’s kill was 17,805 birds. And that, wildlife officials said, is within 1 percent of the average annual kill over the past five years.

Northeastern Kentucky’s county-by-county kill, with the number of birds taken by bow and arrow in parenthesis, showed:

Lawrence 248 (1), Greenup 242 (4), Boyd 147 (3), Carter 368 (7), Lewis 389 (3), Elliott 174 (0), and Rowan 278 (4).


By G. Sam Piatt

PDT Contributor

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.