His First Turkey Hunt.
As soon as my kids were born, I began thinking about their relationships with the wild places and things I love so much. How would I introduce them to all the experiences and responsibilities that go a long with the outdoors? How could I make hunting and fishing part of them for a lifetime?
I still don’t know all the answers to these questions. What I know is that as I begin to introduce them to various activities, they gravitate back to them. They say things like, “Dad, when will we go fishing again?” or “I miss that place.” It’s music to my ears.
A Journey Begins
When I introduced my son to hunting, things went very smoothly. We hunted whitetails in Missouri for one day during the first portion of the Missouri youth hunting season in 2018. That evening, we came out of the field with his first deer. I made him take part in every aspect of the hunt, from setting trail cameras to the butchering. It was almost too easy.
Nevertheless, his hunting journey began. He experienced what it was like to harvest an animal for the first time. He experienced the responsibility, albeit minimized, of handling a firearm. He did great with all of it.
Adding More of the Experience
This spring, I wanted him to struggle a bit. I wanted him to understand that hunting isn’t always as easy as what he had experienced the fall before. So, I didn’t set up a comfortable blind. I didn’t spend any more time scouting than my work and family schedule would allow.
I admit, in some ways, I wish I would have spent a little more time putting a game plan together. I want him to enjoy the hunt, and let’s face it, the most enjoyable part of any hunt is going home with what you went after. But I never want my kids to take the privilege to hunt for granted by making things too easy. The challenge of this turkey hunt needed to have additional layers added to what he knew of hunting before.
The Missouri spring turkey season is two days long. It rests comfortably two weeks before the regular turkey season. Each youth gets two tags for male turkeys but is allowed only one bird during the youth season. Each hunter is allowed to hunt from sunrise to sunset on those days as well, which is a change from the 1:00 PM cutoff time during the regular season. Our schedule allowed us to hunt one morning and one evening that weekend.
The first morning, the turkey we were after didn’t roost near us. It was a slow morning. We got to hear lots of gobbling, but because the toms were still with a good number of hens, any calling simply pushed the hens away. My son sat still and quietly the entire time. I was proud of him. It’s hard when turkeys are gobbling all around you but won’t come to your calls.
After church on the second day, we loaded up for an evening hunt. When we arrived at our spot, we sat down and got settled in. A few minutes later, I made a call and a tom gobbled just a hundred yards to our left. I thought things were going to be a chip shot, but three hours later, he still would not come to us. We tried a few other calling locations that evening, but to no avail.
What We Learned
At dinner that night, I asked, “What did you learn about turkey hunting this weekend? He responded quickly. “I learned that turkey hunting takes patience. I learned that you don’t always get one every time you go out. I learned that turkey hunting can be harder than deer hunting.”
After the went to bed, I had to ask myself the same question. What did I learn from this hunt? I learned that Go made little boys to be resilient. Even when I had to stop and wait for him to catch up as we scaled the hills and draws of the farm, he never said “let’s go home”. I learned that being a dad, to some degree, means putting your kids in controlled situations that allow them to exercise patience, self-control, and heavy responsibility even when they are very young. This helps them develop virtues that are so important. I also learned that I shouldn’t be surprised when I’m impressed by the extra effort he puts forth just to try to keep up with me.
The Sun Will Always Set.
That evening, as the sun was going down, he laid his head on my lap. He was tired. The turkeys had flown up for the evening. There, on a wooded Missouri ridge top, his first turkey hunt came to a close, and a young boy became a turkey hunter.