U.S. Navy veteran Drew Rose and hunting pal Jason Conrad show off a turkey haverested back in April.
U.S. Navy veteran Drew Rose and hunting pal Jason Conrad show off a turkey haverested back in April.
After hunting turkeys for nearly 18 hours over the course of two days, U.S. Navy veteran Drew Rose and his hunting party were just about ready to give up.

They had seen a couple of big gobblers throughout the day, but it was April 4 — early in the season — and the turkeys just weren’t acting right.

They found one just before lunch, around 10:30 a.m., but Drew couldn’t get the right shot. They found another one around 2:30 in the afternoon, but he disappeared from the field near the Linwood community before they could get set up to catch him.

It wasn’t as if they didn’t have the expertise. Chas McClain, the 33-year-old Philadelphia funeral director who had organized the hunt, — a charitable donation for one lucky U.S. combat veteran — has been hunting turkeys since he was seven. 

His friend Wesley Spears, a 37-year-old Linwood native, is in his 28th turkey season. The fourth member of the party was Jason Conrad, the two-time world champion turkey caller.

“I wanted Drew to get a turkey more than anything,” McClain said. “At that point, we were all kind of thinking we weren’t going to get one that day, and would have to come back the next morning.”

At 4:30 p.m. and with no turkey in the bag, Spears left to make plans to scout locations to continue the hunt the next morning.

But about an hour later, as Conrad, Rose and McClain were in the process of calling it quits, they spotted the perfect turkey about 100 yards off the road in the middle of a field.

“My phone said we had walked about 14 miles since we started at 5 a.m. that morning,” McClain said. “We weren’t about to let that one get away.”

Conrad and Rose took up the perfect spot on the edge of the field next to a log that Rose used as a make-shift tripod to steady his shotgun. With Conrad using his calling skills, they coaxed the big gobbler to about 50 or 60 yards out.

Finally, Rose had a shot he felt good about, and he took it.

“It was such a thrill,” Rose said. “I grew up deer hunting, but had never had anyone in my family or friends group who turkey hunted so I never got into it. I learned more in two days that I probably would have in three years of figuring it out for myself, but it was worth it. If we would have killed the first turkey we came across that morning, it wouldn’t have been as rewarding.”

For Rose, it was a dream come true. For McClain, it was the fulfillment of a plan he hatched a couple of months ago.

“It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while, but just couldn’t get it together for whatever reason,” McClain explained. “I was sitting there in February thinking of ways I could give back to a veteran. You can’t take him out for a nice meal at the moment, but you can take him turkey hunting in the woods.”

So that’s what he set out to do. He called and got Spears and Conrad on board, then secured donations from the Neshoba County Co-Op, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Philadelphia Gun and Pawn, Williams Brothers, Southern Bound Outdoors in Canton, David Dyess Taxidermy, Woodhaven Custom Calls and Shane Simpson from CallingAllTurkeys.com.

“I could not have done this without help from those sponsors,” McClain said. “So they deserve a special thank you.”

After securing the sponsors, McClain posted a note on Facebook asking for help in connecting with a military veteran who might enjoy a turkey hunt, and two days later, he was messaging back and forth with Rose, who served during Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Iraqi Freedom from 2007 to 2012 before receiving an honorable discharge.

The Mississippi native had since used the G.I. Bill to earn a RN/SN in 2015. He currently works as a nurse technician at Fusion Vascular in Cleveland and picks up several night shifts a week at a local in-patient drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Grenada.

The original plan was for Rose to bring his wife and five daughters to enjoy an all-expenses-paid weekend at Pearl River Resort while he went hunting. That part of the plan didn’t work out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the hunting was never in doubt.

“We were determined to get him a turkey,” McClain said. “When I set this thing up, I called Jason and Wesley because I figured between the three of us, we could make it happen.”

And make it happen they did.

The hunt was so successful that McClain aims to make it an annual event.

“I think the best experience from the whole thing was getting to meet Chas, Jason and Wesley,” Rose said. “We were fast friends and within an hour we were talking to each other like we’d known each other for years. These days, you don’t see many people doing selfless acts like that just to do it. That’s special. Those are definitely friendships I intend to keep.”