John B. Sammis — most call him Jack — has lived something of a charmed life.
He served in the U.S. Navy from 1944-46, fighting in World War II: “I didn’t get shot at,” Sammis said. “I consider myself a lucky guy.”
He’s called in more than 500 gobblers, some of which were for injured soldiers: “I’m not in the class of the great callers. I’m just a lucky caller.”
He’s won 14 guns at NWTF banquets and other events, some on the same night: “It just helps to be lucky.”
Sammis, an NWTF member for 30-plus years, killed his 50th longbeard earlier this year in Tennessee. He called it in using a box call, while sitting in a blind by his lonesome. He turned 90 years old a few months prior to that hunt. “Clean living,” he says of the secret to youth. “That’s what I tell everybody, but I just say that to be a wise guy.”
If it’s not that, then it’s got to be Sammis’ luck. Or maybe he’s learned a thing or two along the way. That’s certainly a possibility, especially when it comes to hunting gobblers.
“He’s like the Energizer bunny,” said Ron Raboud, founder of Wounded Warrior Outdoors. “He’s such a die-hard turkey hunter.”
Raboud enlisted Sammis as one of his volunteers and guides for wounded soldier turkey hunts his nonprofit puts on each year in Kentucky. Sammis was 80 when the first hunt went off in 2006, and he has helped call and guide for the past decade.
Wounded Warrior Outdoors takes active-duty injured military personnel on hunts nationwide to help service members heal in the wild. Candidates are selected by hospitals for therapy reasons, and hunting with Jack Sammis is the sort of therapy few hospitals can provide.
“All our callers are veterans from previous conflicts, but Jack is the only one from World War II,” Raboud said. “The other warriors love being around older guys from different conflicts. During a hunt in 2013, the guys were fighting over him. He called in five birds for five different warriors.”
Sammis grew up with Raboud’s father, also named Jack, in Long Island, New York, and Sammis cut his teeth on deer hunting in the Catskill Mountains. In the early 1980s, Sammis was deer hunting from the ground when he nearly stuck his hand into corkscrew-shaped scat. He didn’t know what it was at the time.
“Come to find out, it was turkey droppings,” Sammis said. He then had to know more about hunting the wild turkey, beginning a long love affair with the greatest game bird. It’s a passion he’s enjoyed sharing, introducing Jack Raboud to turkey hunting and later calling for wounded warriors.
“Ron (Raboud) has these fellas come up for their first turkey hunt, and it helps these wounded warriors know they aren’t finished in life,” Sammis said. “There are plenty of things they can do like hunt, fish and make a life for themselves. I just like to give a little back.”
Sammis may not be able to drive to Kentucky this year to help call for injured war heroes, but he still plans on hunting with friends in Tennessee if he’s able — “That’s up to the man upstairs,” he said.
Sammis is still sharp as a tack at 90 and, better yet, he’s “still perpendicular,” as he likes to say.
“That’s the thing that counts. And I still enjoy the hunt.”