The 2006 spring turkey season had begun a couple of weeks earlier and I had already bagged a nice jake on the second Saturday of the season. I planned on hunting again on another Saturday morning and was messing around with my gear in the garage when my oldest son came out and asked “Whatcha doin’?” I gave him that “here’s your sign” look and then realized he was actually interested in what I was doing. I started showing him my gear and calls, which resulted in answering multiple questions. I found myself having a fun time teaching my young son all I could about my limited experience in hunting spring turkeys. One question led to another and then the grand daddy of them all; “Can I go?” My first reaction was to say no because I knew there was no way my little guy could sit still AND quiet for 20 minutes, let alone for hours and hours. But then I reconsidered my thought process and decided that this spark of interest was exactly what I needed to start teaching him what I knew about hunting. So, I told him that he could go and he immediately grabbed a call and started trying to figure it out. We spent the remainder of the week going over our game plan.
Saturday morning finally arrived and I woke him up at 4:00 AM to head out to our spot. Surprisingly enough, it only took me one time of whispering his name for him to be on his feet and getting on his hunting clothes. We made the hour or so drive to where we going to hunt which was filled with a repeat of all the questions and answers from the previous week. Once we arrived at our destination, I got out and started getting all of my gear on and the gun out. I noticed that Trevor stayed in the truck while I was getting ready so, after everything was ready, I went to his door and told him it was time to head in. It was then that I learned my first lesson in patience. He was afraid to walk in the unfamiliar woods in the dark! I tried to console him with the reassurance that I was there with him and that nothing was going to happen to him but, he started to show his fear even more. It was then that I succumbed to the fact that if this was going to be an enjoyable hunt, we were going to have to wait until we could see a little before we headed in. I hopped back in the truck and we sat and talked until we could see a little gray light start to appear.
Finally, we were on the path would lead us to a big meadow that I knew usually held turkeys. By the time we got to the edge of the meadow, it was getting close to fly down so I told him to pick out a spot for us to set up. He picked what I thought was a pretty good spot so we started getting settled in. Ten minutes after we had settled, we heard a couple of gobbles to our right. The birds were across the creek but not that far out. Trevor immediately said that he wanted to move to the right side of the meadow so we would be closer to the gobblers. I tried to tell him that the birds would eventually work their way towards us and that we would have the best opportunity if we stayed put but it was then that he replied, “I thought you said that this was my hunt and we would do what I wanted”. My first reaction was to remind him that I was trying to teach him how to hunt these birds but then I decided that success or not, it WAS his hunt and I did tell him that we would do whatever HE wanted to do. So, we picked everything up and started skirting the edge of the meadow on our way to his new spot that he picked out. We reached the far corner of the meadow where we had to make a hard left and were under some nice oaks when all of a sudden I heard the sound that we didn’t need to hear. Swoosh swoosh swoosh! We had just flushed several turkeys out of their roost tree right above us.
After a few seconds, my blood pressure returned to normal and I reminded myself that this hunt had nothing to do with me. I used the experience to teach him about the roost and the timing involved with hunting turkeys in the morning. We stood there for a few more minutes and started back on our way. About 20 more yards of creeping through the timber and you guessed it. Swoosh swoosh swoosh!!! We flushed even more turkeys out of another roost tree. We didn’t even stop this time. After finally reaching our new spot, we got settled in and I started showing him the areas that we needed to concentrate watching. Of course, I knew that there was not much chance of seeing anything now that we had just sent two small flocks into the next county.
We spent the next several hours watching all the critters that made their way into and around the meadow. We saw a couple of deer and Trevor practiced shooting them with a stick that he pretended was his gun. Eventually, he decided that he was officially bored and wanted to leave. We packed up and started exploring on our way back to the truck. I showed him the tracks of different animals and started quizzing him on what they belonged to, which way they had traveled, and whether he thought they were fresh or not. We were just having a good old father/son time in the woods. It probably took more than an hour to reach the truck but it was still relatively early to go home. So, I asked him if he wanted to drive around the back roads and try to see some more wildlife. He said yes and off we went. The area we were hunting has a lot of private land that hunting isn’t allowed so there is usually a lot of game to be seen. This day was actually one of the best I had witnessed; we saw more deer and turkeys on our drive than I probably ever had before.
After a couple of hours of driving around and taking pictures game on private land, I asked him if he was ready to leave. He said yes but he wanted to drive by the meadow we had hunted in before we left. We made the drive back to a spot where we could see the meadow and there, right in the middle of the big meadow, were three deer. I could tell that one of them was a nice buck so I immediately grabbed the binoculars to take a closer look. The deer were standing in some pretty tall grass and after watching them for a couple of minutes, all of a sudden, turkey heads started popping up around them out of the grass! One of them immediately fanned out and let out a gobble!!! I looked at Trevor and asked him if he wanted to try to sneak back in. Suffice it to say, we wasted no time racing the truck back to a parking area and getting our camouflage back on. We started stalking back towards the meadow and I started telling him our plan of attack. After reaching the edge of the meadow, I noticed that the deer had meandered off and I, at first, couldn’t locate the turkeys. I figured they had heard us and boogied out as well. Trevor asked me to try to call so I broke out “The Freak” and scratched a couple purrs out. We got an immediate response and unknowing to us, they were only 30 yards in front of us behind some bushes. We dropped down to our knees and just as we regained our composure, the big old tom stepped out in the open. I whispered to try to cover his ears when I raised my gun on the count of three. 1, 2, 3, BOOM!!! The turkey rolled over dead! We jumped up and hugged and high-fived and relished in the moment! I was so happy that, somehow, even though we didn’t do it the “right” way, we had just bagged a nice spring tom.
I learned a lot that morning about hunting with my son. First, when you take a young child on a hunt, you have to really pack an extra supply of patience. Second, you have to do everything to make the hunt about them. Third, you just never know what is going to happen if you just get out there and hunt! And finally, sometimes a little luck is all it takes to make everything come together.
Take a child hunting!