Determination creates turkey hunt for girl
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, April 10, 2011
6/01/12 at 8:09 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Amazing shot
Headlight glare from three vehicles idling side-by-side showed a windblown pre-dawn organized chaos. Three hunters and two parents shook off morning dreariness to gather gear and wrestle camouflage pop-up blinds flopping in 40 mph winds like dusty box kites.
A 15-year-old late to bed and early to rise only to be met with darkness and a dusty pelting, Kenzi Burnside wheeled from her family's van justifiably ruffled and a little grumpy. In a moment, though, Kenzi threw a spark into the pre-dawn chores.
When this girl smiles, it is a head-to-toe expression.
"Oh, she just lights up when she sees Hannah," said her mother Janet Burnside.
Hannah Lockhart is "Kenzi's idol," as her father, Mike Burnside, put it. On April 3, during Oklahoma's youth turkey season, the youngster had a little taste of the outdoors that is a huge part of her big buddy's life.
Lockhart, 23, is an accomplished outdoorswoman. Hunting since she fit handily on her dad's lap, she is a fishing, shooting, bow hunting, deer and turkey hunting, rattlesnake-catching Miss Huntress USA contestant. Kenzi, who was born with cerebral palsy, tackles life from her wheelchair, but is no less determined. She's climbed trees, conquered roller coasters, white-water rafted, is a Special Olympian and recently sang in her church choir for the first time.
They have been buddies since they first met at the Tulsa chapter banquet of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation nine or 10 years ago.
The morning was special for the hunting father. An avid outdoorsman, he often takes Kenzi's twin brother, Thor, on hunting trips, but it's difficult to take his daughter. "With Kenzi, to pull off something like this, it takes a lot of hands," he said.
Enter Hannah, her father Barry Lockhart, friend Eric Whaley and a little luck at the elk foundation banquet.
"Finally, after years of entering the raffles, Kenzi won a gun last year," Hannah said. "I was up on stage Â– I think more excited than she was, well, no one was more than Kenzi, but we were all really excited."
Surgeries kept Kenzi out of the field last year, but this spring she was ready and so was her support team.
Burnside helped Kenzi practice shooting with light loads in her 20-gauge Remington Youth Model 870 near their Talala home. He knelt beside her chair, wrapped her arm over the gun and devised a way for them to shoot as a team. He and Thor slapped in some turkey loads and patterned the gun at a range.
Whaley and the Lockharts scouted birds and came well prepared Sunday. They set the blinds where they could drive up next to a cedar tree in a corral by a meadow where gobblers strutted.
The plan even stood up against a wind advisory issued by the National Weather Service. Gusts created dirt-and-grass whirlwinds. Everyone had grit in their teeth but unable, to cover her face with her hands or rub her own eyes, conditions were truly miserable for Kenzi. Her parents tried to keep her as comfortable as possible. "I looked at her at one point and said 'Kenzi you look like you've been working hay,' " Burnside said. "She was covered in dirt."
They sat nearly four-and-half hours. Burnside said he had moments of doubt.
"I said, 'cook breakfast and they'll show up,' " Hannah said. "Sure enough ..."
As Barry Lockhart enjoyed the cook's first bite of last-person-to-eat eggs and a full-bellied Mike Burnside was starting to nod off, two crimson-headed gobblers appeared with some hens on the opposite side of the meadow.
A semi-groggy, nervous Burnside let the shotgun fall off its bi-pod with a "clank" as he tried to get himself and Kenzi into position.
The gobblers were alert but not alarmed, and somehow a 40-yard shot hit home, a 19 1/2-pound tom with a thick 9-inch beard and 1 1/8th-inch spurs hit the ground and Kenzi Burnside cried out "I got him! Mom! I got him!" - smiling, head to toe.
Kenzi Burnside, 15, (left) shares a laugh with her father Mike and friend Hannah Lockhart after her first turkey hunt during the Oklahoma early Youth Turkey Season. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World