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Youth Turkey Season Draws Closer
It’s amazing the amount of changes that have occurred to this world due to Covid 19. We are now way past 500,000 dead and losing more people every day. Since we are observing the one year anniversary of the news that rocked this world, I had to reflect on what my family was doing a year ago. The whole family was in Orlando at Sea World drifting down a man-made lazy river. Sea World would shut down the day after we left, as would Disney World, and when we flew home I noticed a couple masks being worn. They seemed out of place, much like a bare face does now when you go into a public place. On the way home from Florida, I wondered if Covid would cost me a bear hunt in Saskatchewan the first part of May – it did, and it looks really doubtful for this year. It’s also cost me a safari this May, but compared to the loss of human life and suffering it means nothing. I told my grandson McCabe last year that if I was forced to stay home he and I could at least turkey hunt. When we arrived home, my daughter Amanda had an in-service day for teachers and McCabe would not be back in his classroom for some time. Because she is a very protective mother, which is a good thing, my grandson and I would not participate in the 2020 youth turkey season because we didn’t know much about Covid a year ago. It seems that we still do not! This year McCabe and I are thinking and talking about resuming our pursuit of the wild turkey.
I am sure that many of you have noticed that spring arrives on the 21st and that it’s here and it couldn’t get here soon enough. With time slipping away, we should be taking that youngster out and practicing with the shotgun they will be using. To make the young hunter feel more confident in keeping that shotgun steady, I like to have them practice with shooting sticks. I also like to have them practice as they would if they were hunting, which means practice shooting out of the window of the hunting blind. It matters little what gauge of shotgun they feel comfortable with. The most important thing is that they feel comfortable shooting the gun. You do not want to have a young hunter so terrified of recoil that they flinch when they pull the trigger, and possibly miss the bird or worse yet – cripple it. Whatever your young hunter’s effective range is with their shotgun must be remembered and decoys should be placed within that range. I remember very well that we wanted McCabe’s 1st turkey to be within 15 yards in order to get an effective harvest with his Mossberg 410.
I had placed my Ameristep blind up in a fencerow that served as a property boundary line, and when I placed the Avian X decoys out I set the jake decoy up after 11 steps. Between the jake and the blind I put one alert hen and one breeder hen. I remember thinking when I looked back at the blind that they seemed awfully close.
Perhaps twenty minutes into shooting time two toms came in. At the time of their first gobble, they may have been a couple hundred yards away. Their next gobble they were in the same pasture we were and perhaps sixty yards away and closing the distance fast. McCabe had been lying across his mother’s lap covered up in order to keep warm as it was only 14 degrees that morning. We quickly got him on his feet and over to stand between my legs and in front of my chair. He was moving a little slow and I whispered that he needed to speed things up as I could see the toms doing that “mad” walk in, where they were in about half strut. There wasn’t time to set up the shooting sticks, so instead we laid the little 410 out the window, and laid it on the bottom of the opening. This made the window a little larger than I would have liked, but the toms had other things on their mind and didn’t see us at all within the blind. The boss bird pulled up to a stop as though he had hit his breaks and stared at the fake jake decoy for a few seconds. From there he slammed into it and knocked it partially over. I could see the muzzle of McCabe’s shotgun shaking as he put the bead on the tom. I had no doubt that McCabe was both cold and nervous. I knew that because I was both cold and nervous! I whispered to him, “Are you on him?” He answered back to me in the affirmative and I replied, “Then pull the trigger now!”
The 410 is a pump and I only put one shell in it when we’re hunting for safety reasons. I had extra shells in my coat pocket, but more than likely there would only be one chance to take this tom. At the shot, the tom merely wilted and when he collapsed he thrashed his way even closer to the blind, but he was out of the game and the flopping didn’t last but a few seconds. With that, we forgot about how cold we had been, and after a quick prayer we snapped a few pictures in order to hurry home and share the story with his dad and grandma.
I would like to take some credit for the success of the hunt, but really I deserve very little. I had called sparingly and had known that birds had used the pasture in the past. The truth was that the success for the hunt went to the Ameristep blind, as we could sit three people in the blind along with coats and gear and even snacks in case the hunt lasted into the afternoon. We could also move freely without being seen, otherwise we would have never gotten by with all that movement. So if you do not already have a turkey hunting hub blind – get one. Your child can sleep, color, or play games on your phone without getting spotted and the turkeys will pay no attention to it. Sometimes you need to stick and stay in the woods and young hunters can get bored if nothing is happening, so make them as comfortable as possible and a blind will allow them to move. I mentioned snacks and although we never had time to get into grandma’s cookies, we did eat them on the drive home. It’s important that you have a pop or two, as well as snacks that do not make noise like cookies or jerky. I leave the bags of chips at home.
To help fill their time and to make them be more a part of the hunt, let them learn how to use the locator calls like the owl and crow. Also teach them how to use the calls. While they will not be perfect, I have heard my share of hens that sounded pretty sickly as well. Besides, while they are calling it allows you to listen for a response. The final tip is for the adults, not the kids: be patient. You’re making memories out there. Make sure they are good memories. That success has little to do with a dead turkey!