The two gobblers stood head to head in the plowed field. They purred aggressively as they positioned themselves for the fight. With a flapping of wings, they wrapped their long ugly necks around each other and kicked up the dust as they collapsed.
I picked up my 4-Play box call and cut really loud. The toms stopped fighting and started running to the sound of the vocal hen. “Let them come,” I whispered to Spencer, my second son-in-law. “Shoot the big one,” advised Caleb, my son and Spencer’s half-brother. Caleb had killed a 23-pound gobbler two hours before this fight broke out.
Twenty paces away, Spencer ended the run, the fight, and his chase with a single blow. A second 23-pound spring gobbler lined up for our stove, and as Spencer’s 21-pound bird companion circled his collapsing buddy, I filled my tag by adding gobbler number three to this incredible 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 guiding a youngster on a spring turkey hunt. I would like to take a few minutes to discuss these issues today.
Not to do
Let’s first look at some things to avoid that make spring turkey hunting unpleasant for children. The first deterrent is the alarm clock. Opening day may not be a factor, but if it takes several days to get your young hunter closer to a gobbler, a better plan to start later in the morning might be your best bet.
You need to locate a strut area in the late morning and build a natural blind. Let your protected sleep until 7 a.m. or even 8 a.m. Get into position between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and let your lures and calls do the work. As turkey hunting veterans, we know that late morning toms can be very aggressive and give a youngster a real chill. This method will help prevent “sleepy hunter burnout.”
Don’t sit your new hunter under an acacia tree or in a multi-floral bush. Please take a comfortable seat and take a few extra seconds to ensure they are not sitting in an awkward or awkward position. Also remember that your shooter is much smaller than you; make sure they are seated high enough to see and hit their target when it arrives.
My final “don’t” tip is to not expect too much from a young hunter. Their pace and fun should be at the top of your priority list. If packing a 25-pound tom with an 11-inch beard is the only way to measure success, then take your child 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 at flight time, then let it be. We must seize every opportunity to make children fall in love with hunting.
Spencer Dietrich, along with Mike and Caleb Roux, had a hell of a morning as Mike showed his boys the fun and excitement of the spring turkey hunt. (Photo by John Caldwell)
Now, for some things, be sure to do when the kid, the gun, and the gobbler all come in the same morning. First of all, insect repellent is a must. There’s nothing that gets me sick faster than scratching bug bites while waiting for the perfect shot. Children are worse; they look for reasons to fuss, and insects are their best excuse. Spray everyone well and hope they stay seated.
A good tip anytime you are taking a child away from the comforts of home is to pack plenty of snacks and drinks. Even if you only drive a few minutes to hunt and don’t plan to be out more than a few hours, snacks will make the kids’ day and keep them in the field longer by providing them with a few comforts.
Sometimes a spring hunt can be hot. If you’re in a fabricated blind and/or wearing a head net, the heat can be sweltering. Keep your child cool by building natural cover shades, which are more open and airy, and use camo face paint instead of netting. Face painting can be the best fun you have all day.
I can also recommend pretty much the opposite on good days. Often the spring weather can be cool and wet. That doesn’t mean the gobblers go inside, but you sure can. These are days when a manufactured awning is perfect for warmth and keeping you dry. On a bad day, the right awning can give you many more hours of comfortable hunting, and every minute you can stay in the field increases your chances of filling both their tag and your stove.
These easy-to-understand tips are just a few of the things we can do to help pass on the tradition of spring turkey hunting to the next generation. We have to thank those who have guided us through this process. The best thank you we can give is to ensure that our children learn to appreciate what the Good Lord has given us and to manage these resources properly. Hunting is one of these means.