Tomah 10-year-old bags 31-pound tom during WI Youth Turkey Hunt

Blake Champlin, 10, of Tomah shot a 31-pound turkey on April 18 during Wisconsin’s 2021 Youth Turkey Hunt. Contributed photo.

It was an early morning on Sunday, April 18 for soon to be 11-year-old Blake Champlin as he and his dad Travis headed out into the woods just south of Tomah before dawn for his second and final day of the 2021 Wisconsin Youth Turkey Hunt.

The young Champlin tells his story of bagging a monster 31-pound tom turkey with the ease of a seasoned pro hunter.

During his first day of the youth hunt, Champlin had passed up three jakes, determined to see a tom. His patience would pay off as that early Sunday morning the turkeys were active.

“They were gobbling right away,” Champlin said. “We had three hens come by us really close to our blind and then these three jakes came up. I wanted to shoot one.”

Champlin’s dad held his finger off the trigger, confident that it would be no time at all before a tom would find his way to their blind.

“I was holding his finger on the stock of the gun telling him to just wait, there’d be more coming,” Travis recalled.

Eventually, three toms circled around their blind. Champlin took his shot at about 30 yards with his Mossburg 410 that he had gotten as a birthday gift last year.

“I was shaking a lot, but I got it up, shot, I hit it. At first my dad didn’t think I’d hit it, but I knew I hit it because it flopped over and started rolling down the hill,” Champlin said. “We got out of the blind and ran down to it so it wouldn’t get away.”

When Travis picked it up, he initially thought the bird probably weighed about 25-26 pounds. The guys tried to take a picture of the bird only to find out Travis’ phone had died.

At 7 a.m. they returned home to wake up Champlin’s mom Erica. “I woke up with him in my face telling me he’d shot a turkey and that they needed my phone to take a picture,” she said.

The duo returned to the scene of the kill to finally snap a picture, where Champlin, who weighs roughly 75 pounds himself, couldn’t even lift the turkey.

“It was so heavy,” he said. “I’ll probably never shoot one that’s bigger.”

They next drove to Champlin’s uncle’s house to show off the bird. They got out a bathroom scale using the old-fashioned method where Travis first stepped on the scale alone and then with the bird and did the math from there.

“I knew it was really heavy, but I thought the scale had to have been off,” Travis said, adding that the scale indicated that the bird weighed 31 pounds.

They then went to Rosco’s Live Bait in Tomah where they weighed the bird again to get an official weight only to find out the turkey indeed weighed 31.0 pounds. It had a 10 ¾ inch bear with 1 ¼ inch spurs.

Domestic turkeys can get fairly large, but it is less common for a wild turkey to reach 30 pounds in weight.

“I asked him, ‘What’s the biggest turkey you’ve had come through here?’” Travis said. “He said, ‘A guy named Travis Champlin shot a 28-pounder 20 years ago.’ I took my sunglasses off and I said, ‘Yeah, I know that guy.’”

For the past 15 years or so, Travis has called in 99 turkeys for fellow sportsmen. He stopped at 99 because he wanted his daughter to shoot number 100, however she had no interest.

Last year, Blake shot number 100; his first turkey, which weighed 26 pounds. Out of those 100 turkeys, Travis said only about six have weighed between 25 and 28 pounds. “You just don’t hear of them getting that big,” he said.

Travis’ coworker Chad Schauf is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He did some research and discovered that the turkey tied for 30th place for total score for a Typical Turkey in Wisconsin and tied for 9th place for total weight.

Champlin says his favorite part of turkey hunting is enjoying the camaraderie with friends and family the night before the hunt.

Champlin, a student at Lemonweir Elementary School, will be turning 11 years old on May 3. His dad joked next year for his 12th birthday he’ll be receiving his turkey mount, which will take a full year to be completed.

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