This weekend marks an important date for the youth of our area. Saturday and Sunday are the dates for the youth only turkey hunt. The youngsters are able to have the woods to themselves and try to spend some time bagging a gobbler with their adult mentors or parents.
As awesome as that is for the kids, hunting with youngsters can be a challenge. To make the most of your weekend you need to plan ahead. I know that can be a tall order for most guys. For me personally, I think and plan about five minutes in front of my nose. The thought of actually being organized and planning several days out is a daunting task. If you want your youth hunt to go smoothly though, it is a must.
The first thing that I would do for a youth turkey hunt is to setup a ground blind. This first item on my list is not a necessity, but it does make things easier. I have hunted with kids before without a ground blind, but I always appreciate when I do have one.
Turkeys are incredibly adept at picking out movement. They have busted many a hunter by the slightest twitch of a finger or movement of a gun barrel. These birds also have an extraordinary sense of hearing. You take these two finely tuned senses and balance that with trying to keep a youngster still, and there is the potential for a blown hunt. This is where a ground blind really helps. It hides some movement and muffles a little sound.
Also make sure that you bring a few things along for a kid to do. I have brought books, a hand-held video game, and binoculars. The video game is my last choice, but it you are going to be sitting for a long time it doesn’t hurt to have it as a backup.
The binoculars are a particular favorite of mine because most kids love to mess with them. They also feel like they are a part of the hunt which is critical to getting them to want to come back.
I have also brought along simple box calls and had kids mimic the sounds that I make on my call. Once again, this is where planning is needed. If you want your young hunter to participate with the call, then the two of you should practice a bit before you actually take to the woods. Like the binoculars though, when a child is using a call they feel like they are in the hunt and partly responsible for its outcome.
If things work out perfectly, none of this will be needed because you will have gobblers thundering on the roost and flying down to your decoys. This doesn’t always happen, but we can hope. When it does happen though, every kid I have ever hunted with is 100 percent locked on and fully focused on what is going on around them. It is an experience they most likely haven’t witnessed before.
The first time my oldest son actually saw two gobblers a few yards from him gobbling was a monumental moment. He was sitting in my lap, watching me use a slate call. The birds were really cooperating that day and striking off at all my calls. I would whisper in his ear and tell him what the birds were doing, where they were approximately located at and what I thought they might do. I also would explain to him why I would call at certain times and what calls I was trying to imitate.
He was totally engrossed in what was going on. When those two thunder-chickens blasted out a springtime gobble right in front of him he nearly jumped off my lap and into the tree branches above us. It was an amazing day that he still talks about.
Hopefully, you have the chance to go to your local sporting goods store and grab some youth turkey tags for this weekend. It is the opportunity to spend some time with your kids or grandkids in the outdoors. The days slip by us quickly, plan ahead and schedule it on your calendar now. I think that you will be glad that you did.
• Steve Rogers is the outdoors columnist for the Morris Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org