Tennessee teenager wins spot in Governor's Turkey Hunt

Heading home - Addy York, center, won an essay contest to participate in the Governor's Turkey Hunt in El Dorado. Her guide was Noel Pile, right. Her father, A.Y. often takes her hunting near their Tennessee home.
Heading home - Addy York, center, won an essay contest to participate in the Governor's Turkey Hunt in El Dorado. Her guide was Noel Pile, right. Her father, A.Y. often takes her hunting near their Tennessee home. Michael Pearce

BUTLER COUNTY — Addy York paused but a split-second before attacking a towering creekbank in Saturday's pre-dawn darkness.

Grabbing fistsfuls of leaves, dirt, tree roots and brush, the girl pushed and pulled her 4-foot-something frame to the top in less time than it takes to tell.

"I swear that young'un's been in four-wheel-drive since she was born," said her father, A. Y. York, as he held her hunting equipment.

Addy York was in El Dorado because she'd won a national writing contest for a place in the Governor's Turkey Hunt.

The bluff she scaled Saturday was a tiny pimple compared to some of life's mountain's the Cookeville, Tenn., girl has conquered in her 17 years.

At birth, the girl's spine was so misshapen her shoulder and heels were almost touching.

Her first hour of life saw her first surgery, as an exit for her bowels was created. Thirteen spinal surgeries followed.

Her torso is twisted several inches but there's never been anything wrong with her mind and legs.

"I have the gumption I can do anything," she said during a break in the hunt. "If I put my mind to it I can do anything."

To that her parents can attest.

Despite frequent surgeries, she was walking barely past 1 year old. Her father tells of a few months later when Addy decided to climb the family Christmas tree.

"She rode her down when it fell and just kinda rolled out from under it and was off again," he said. "She was always on the go. For everything that young'un went through it's pretty surprising what she's done."

Living in the Tennessee hills, he and his wife Audrey taught their daughter the importance of self-reliance and family helping family.

A.Y. York also instilled a love for the outdoors. His oldest child was still in diapers and drinking from a bottle when he began taking her to the woods.

When Addy began walking, she began tagging along on hunts. She was 10 when she shot her first of five deer, and has killed four turkeys plus assorted doves and squirrels.

She made a perfect between-the-eyes shot on a big wild hog that had chased three friends up trees.

She loves hunting enough to miss her junior prom to come to Kansas.

At the urging of a high school teacher, she entered a writing contest sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation's youth program.

Mark Elliott, a regular member of the Governor's Hunt, paid for the Yorks' trip. It was the girl's first time to fly.

Joel Pile of Rose Hill guided the pair Friday and Saturday on properties he'd regularly scouted since mid-February.

In Friday morning's rain, they sat in portable hunting blinds as A.Y. York worked his calls. Turkeys were plentiful. Tom turkeys were not.

Both morning and afternoon, hens and yearling jakes came to calls and decoys. The girl held her fire hoping to take a big tom.

Well before Saturday's dawn she made the half-mile walk to a broad field where they set the blinds, placed a tom decoy, watched a gorgeous sunrise and listened to dozens of gobbles.

Eventually three turkeys came into range. All were jakes and she didn't shoot. She and Pile then agreed the next male turkey, no matter how old or big, would be taken.

But it didn't happen.

At the next spot a flock of toms passed within sight but not within range. Pile's hottest location fizzled and the hunt ended.

She hopes to hunt more near home in coming months. Bigger things are on her horizon.

"I want to go hunt elk and after that I want to go hunt moose," she said. "I'm not sure what I'll go for after that."

A.Y. York said his daughter will probably find those wanting to help her reach her hunting goals.

With lively eyes, a contagious smile and southern drawl so thick and sweet it could almost be spread on a biscuit, the girl makes friends with other hunters quickly.

"Whoever she meets usually just takes right up with her," A.Y. York said. "All she has to say is 'I want' or 'I'd like to' and it's a done deal. She's got a way about her, that's for sure."

And she has a lot more of life's mountains to climb.

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