The two gobblers stood face to face in the plowed field. They purred aggressively as they positioned themselves for the fight. With a flap of wings, they closed their long, ugly necks around each other’s, blowing dust as they dropped.
I picked up my 4-Play box call and hung up real hard. The toms stopped fighting and began to run to the sound of the vocal chicken. “Let them come,” I whispered to Spencer, my middle stepson. “Shoot the big one,” advised Caleb, my son and Spencer’s stepbrother. Caleb had killed a 23-pound gobbler two hours before this fight broke out.
At twenty paces, Spencer finished the run, the fight, and her hunt with a single shot. A second 23-pound spring gobbler lined up for our skillet, and as Spencer’s 21-pound bird mate circled his mate, I filled out my tag by adding gobbler number three to that amazing morning.
There are few things more fun and rewarding than sharing a successful turkey hunt with a young hunter, especially if that young hunter is one of your own. However, there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to leading a youngster on a spring turkey hunt. I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss those issues today.
not to do
First, let’s look at some things to avoid that make spring turkey hunting unpleasant for kids. The first deterrent is the alarm clock. On opening day, this may not be a factor, but if it takes several days for your young hunter to approach a gobbler, a better plan to start later in the morning might be your best option.
You need to locate a strut zone in the late morning and build a natural shutter. Let your protégé sleep until 7:00 or even 8:00 am Get in position between 9 and 10 am and let your lures and calls do the work. As veteran turkey hunters, we know that late morning bucks can be very aggressive and could give a young hunter a real thrill. This method will help prevent “sleepy hunter burnout.”
Don’t sit your new hunter under an acacia tree or in a multi-flowered bush. Take a comfortable seat and take a few extra seconds to make sure they are not sitting in an awkward or uncomfortable position. Also remember that your shooter is much smaller than you; make sure they are sitting high enough to see and hit the target when you arrive.
My final “don’t” tip is to not expect too much from any young hunter. The pace and enjoyment of it should be at the top of your list of priorities. If packing a 25-pound tom with an 11-inch beard is the only way to measure success, then take your kid to the zoo. Fun is the name of this game, and you do whatever it takes to make this experience fun for them. If that includes an hour-long nap right around flight time, let it slide. We must take every opportunity to make children fall in love with hunting.
Spencer Dietrich, along with Mike and Caleb Roux, had a great morning as Mike showed his boys the fun and excitement of spring turkey hunting. (Photo by John Caldwell)
Now, a few things to make sure you do when the kid, the gun, and the devourer all arrive on the same morning. First, insect repellant is a must. There’s nothing that winds me down faster than scratching bug bites while I wait for the perfect shot. Children are worse; they are looking for reasons to worry, and insects are their best excuse. Give everyone a good spray and hope they stand still.
A good tip any time you take a child away from the comforts of home is to pack plenty of snacks and drinks. Even if you’re only driving a few minutes to hunt and don’t plan on being away more than a couple of hours, snacks will brighten the kids’ day and keep them in the field longer by providing a few comforts.
Sometimes a spring hunt can be hot. If you wear a manufactured shade and/or wear a head net, the heat can be stifling. Keep your child cool by building natural deck shades, which are more open and airy, and use camouflage face paint instead of netting. Face painting can be the best fun you have all day.
I can also recommend just the opposite on the right days. Spring weather can often be cool and humid. This doesn’t mean gobblers get in, but you certainly can. These are days when a manufactured blind is perfect for both warmth and staying dry. On a bad day, the right blind can give you many more hours of comfortable hunting, and every minute you can stay in the field increases your chances of filling both your tag and your pan.
These easy-to-understand tips are just a few of the things we can do to help pass down the tradition of spring turkey hunting to the next generation. We must thank those who guided us through this process. The best thanks we can give is to make sure that our children learn to appreciate what the Good Lord has given us and manage those resources properly. Hunting is one of those ways.