photo by Author Photo.

November 01, 2016

Ninety-year-old Don Boulanger from Crystal Falls bagged a trophy turkey on opening day of the fall season, but he ended up in the hospital as a result. The big tom he shot got back at Boulanger before it died. This is the second time in the same year that turkey hunting has caused medical issues for the senior hunter.

“This spring Don won a new 20 gauge shotgun that he planned on using to hunt turkeys,” friend Jim Butler explained via email. “He used 3-inch magnum loads to sight the gun in. Those shells packed such a wallop that they knocked him down and injured his shoulder. The gun beat him up so bad with those magnum loads that he could not hunt this spring.

“Fast forward to this fall and he thought he would try the gun again. He switched to 2 ¾-inch shells and it worked fine.”

Happy with the gun’s performance, Don made plans to hunt on opening day of the fall season, which was September 15. Friend Dave Peterson invited Don to hunt with him opening day on a farm where turkeys had been seen regularly. Don set up in a chair within shotgun range of where the birds were normally seen, but that day they failed to show up after three hours.

Later that day, Don decided to do some scouting for other areas where he might connect on a turkey with his new shotgun. One of his stops was at a house that was under construction and is owned by friends Pat and Chris Sommers. Chris was working in the garden when Don stopped there and she invited Don inside the house to show him the layout.

Chris was showing Don the view from her kitchen window when Don spotted four toms about 75 to 100 yards away.

“Would you mind if I try to shoot one of the turkeys?” Don asked and Chris gave him the go ahead.

“My gun and shells were in the car so I had to leave the house by way of the back entrance and hunker down low to the ground so the birds could not see me,” Don explained. “I quickly loaded two shells into my new 20 gauge over-and-under Stevens shotgun. Since I was well out of shotgun range, I had to almost crawl on my hands and knees behind some sand and dirt piles to get close enough to them without being seen.

“When I thought I was close enough, I stood up to see if they were still there. They saw me and my first shot missed, but I was still able to get a good aim in on one as it was running away. I fired and it dropped into the long grass and I couldn’t tell if I had hit it or not. I hurried into that area and at first I didn’t see it, but after a few more steps I saw a big black spot in the weeds. I had knocked the turkey down!

“I soon knew that the bird was not dead though and it tried to run and fly away,” Boulanger continued. “I was faster than the injured bird, however, and was able to catch it and hold it down with my foot. As I stood there with one foot on its head, it furiously flapped its large wings, which banged again and again against my right shin. When the big bird finally died and stopped flapping, I pulled up my pant leg and found that the turkey’s wings had hit me so hard that it raised a bruise the size of a large egg that was black and bloody.

“Upon hearing the commotion, Chris had run out to see what I was doing and I showed her my leg. She said, ‘Oh, Don, that looks terrible! You are going to have to get that looked at.’

“She knew I was hurting badly so she offered to carry the big bird up to the driveway so I could pick it up with my car as I left, so that is what we did.”

Don ended up in the emergency room at the local hospital to get his injury cleaned and bandaged. He ended up with what is called a Sub-Periosteal Hematoma in medical terms.

“In layman’s language, it means that I had a build up of blood between the fibrous membrane and the shinbone or ‘a bone bruise,'” Don explained.

Don weighed and cleaned his turkey after he got home from the hospital. The bird weighed 23 pounds. It had an 11-inch beard and spurs that were over an inch long.