We peeled into my father’s driveway with less than two hours of daylight. After a six-hour road trip to his farm in Wisconsin, a dead sprint to the turkey blind with my 5-year old son in tow felt refreshing … and loosened up the joints.We far exceeded the weight limit in hauling gear. Our vests were overloaded with calls, binoculars, decoys, ammunition and groceries, lots of ‘em. It was all necessary of course.
Somehow, we two humans fit comfortably in the tiny camouflage blind that grandpa had set. We got to work. Zip up door. Unzip windows. Arrange chairs. Locate shells. Position shotgun. Find snacks. Peek out window. This is it … ‘we are’ turkey hunting.
This first adventure with my son more than 10 years ago now was all about making the hunt, ‘fun’. Since then, I have experimented countless times with my three kids. Mistakes. Mishaps. Sunrises. Sunsets. Bitter cold. Blazing heat. I have put them through it all. The best part, they want more.
If you have children, or know one or two who might be interested in turkey hunting, (or, hunting in general), here are some thoughts to keep in mind before you load up and head out.
- Get organized. I learned that taking my kids hunting or shooting is like prepping for a backcountry elk hunt, or, trip to Disney. Make a gear list. Sort out what you have/don’t have one week prior (at least). Pack accordingly.
- Take it in stride and adjust on the fly. Far too many times the hunt plan I had in mind just did not work out. But, I have learned that youngsters really have little concern for a plan anyway. The more spontaneous it seems, the better. Make it fun. Have fun. Enjoy the outdoors … dirt, creeks, wildlife and snacks (don’t go light on the snacks).
- Book it. The first few times hunting with my kids, I expected too much. Sitting still. Being quiet. Staying alert. Kids and adults struggle when it comes to demonstrating hours of patience. A few good books stuffed into the backpack have helped pass the time on many outings.
- Talk the why in hunting. No matter what type of hunt experience you share with your kids, ducks, deer, turkey, etc., it is important to help explain the why. Decoy set ups. Calls. Morning hunts versus afternoon hunts. Share experiences you have had in the field and field as many questions as possible.
- Range time. Properly introducing youngsters to firearms and ammunition is incredibly important. Take extra time at a shooting range before the season and cover off on what firearm they will be shooting and what ammunition. If they are new to shooting, start slow with proper form. Get comfortable and ease into shooting targets at a safe distance. Range time can build tremendous confidence before heading afield.
That one day in the turkey blind turned out to be our experience to remember. We were stationed on a fence line staring at a chisel-plowed field that turkeys liked to frequent in the afternoon. Our decoys were stuck in the dirt fifteen yards out. I put the box call in my sons hand and continued arranging the messiness, our gear, in the blind.
He ripped off some high-pitch sounds, a few which actually sounded hen like, but mostly not. His interest in sound making waned quickly so we made a trade. Box call for a bag of chips. I yelped some but was interrupted by a hard charging tom that ended up stopping dead center in the decoy spread. We took extra time walking home that day. With a gobbler draped over the shoulder, junior had a story to tell. He told it like it happened … ‘he’ called in that bird and I could not, nor would I ever disagree. His version of the tale is the best version … always has been, always will be.