Last May, we posted the above photo on Facebook. That’s me at the Dog House Bar in Elroy, Wisconsin, weighing in my turkey for their annual turkey derby.
The tradition of weighing turkeys at the bar began when you had to formally register your turkey carcass with the state. The bar served as an official check station, and it doubled as a great place to have an after-hunt brew. A few years ago, though, the state switched to a call-in form of registration. Now you’re no longer required to present the physical carcass of your bird when you register a kill.
But beer-flavored traditions die hard, particularly in Wisconsin, and so the Dog House Bar has kept alive the spirit of registration by maintaining their annual turkey derby. A hunter just needs to pay an entrance fee of 2 dollars before turkey season begins. Then, when he or she gets their bird, they take it to the Dog House Bar and weigh it. After all six of the 6-day turkey seasons have passed, the hunter with the heaviest bird walks away with the prize money. This past spring it totaled $84, or over five times the cost of a resident turkey permit.
Unbeknownst to me, I was an entrant in the Dog House Bar’s spring turkey derby while I was hunting in Wisconsin this spring. Kevin Biermeier, the brother-in-law of my host, Jerod Fink, had put up my entry fee. However, neither of these guys bothered to tell me about it.
So when I killed my turkey, I did what I always do: I gutted it. (This keeps the edible organs from spoiling.) As I was tugging out the innards, I remember Jerod saying something to me about needing to get the turkey weighed, but I didn’t make sense out of what he was saying.
Man, did I ever catch hell from the guys at the Dog House Bar. When I weighed my turkey, I came in just 8 ounces shy of the leading bird. Apparently a fella who’s not terribly popular around town had killed this potential winner, and it pained the local drinkers to think that I could have dethroned the guy if I hadn’t been such a moron and gutted my turkey. I explained that I had placed the heart, liver, and gizzard (minus the gravel) back into the carcass, but I didn’t really matter to them. In their minds, the turkey’s intestines would have weighed plenty enough to put me into the winner’s circle. Cries of scorn reverberated through the bar. All I could hear was, “He gutted the bird! He gutted the bird! Why the hell did he gut the bird?”
It only got worse through the coming weeks, as I held my #2 position on the roster and, eventually, lost to the unpopular guy. A month after the close of turkey season, it was still a major point of discussion at the Dog House Bar. “He gutted the bird!”
I plan on returning to Wisconsin next spring, and I’m already plotting my revenge. On my gear list, right next to the words “gutting knife,” I’ve written “fishing sinkers.” I’ll be bringing a couple pounds of them, just enough to fill a turkey’s abdominal cavity. Hopefully I’ll be walking away with $84, as well as the last laugh.