Take the Kids Along
I do not have kids yet (thank God!), but when I do, I am going to struggle with not being able to take them hunting until they meet that magic age and maturity level. It is going to be hard to not take them out right off the bat and throw them into the mix. I am already struggling with not being able to take my niece and nephew out. My niece is getting close though and therefore I can not wait to get her out to accompany me for her first hunt. But just because it is not the best idea to take a five year old out hunting for themselves, who's to say that they can't attend hunt camp and at least have those experiences that make us who we are.
Last spring my Dad and I made it a point to get the young ones out for the spring turkey hunt. Only one was old enough to actually accompany us on the hunt but the others ended up having a blast in camp and got exposed to hunting for the first time. They all got lines wet at the fishing pole and one of the little tykes, a family friend's daughter, even caught her first fish.
The hunt took place in southern Colorado and the weather was perfect for the little guys. The morning of the hunt we set out half an hour before shooting light to try and call in a gobbler for my dad. I had already taken my bird earlier in the season and therefore I was on calling duty. Jason, our little newbie to the game, accompanied us. We set up in a pop up ground blind that we had strategically set up the day prior near a known roost. Ground blinds are great tools for introducing young kids to hunting. Kids love tents, forts etc. and the ground blind affords that vibe. The little ones can sometimes get a tad bit fidgety but with a ground blind concealing their movement, all is well in the turkey woods. As the sun started to come up, you could see the anticipation on Jason's face. He kept asking me why I hadn't started making the "turkey noises" that I had shown him the night prior around the campfire. Little Jason got his first lesson in the practice of patience while hunting.
Jason was asking for the umpteenth time about calling when all of a sudden, a teeth rattling gobble slammed the side of blind. Jason's eyes got about as big my turkey load pattern at 60 yards. He was pleased when I promptly started my calling sequence. I can't imagine what was going through the little tyke's mind when the tom sounded off again but from a closer location. I think he was envisioning a tyrannosaur approaching our position.
The intensity in his expressions was priceless. He had a frog in his throat and he was so nervous that he was having a hard time asking me questions. I explained to him the particular calls I was using and what I was trying to simulate. Jason caught on quickly. The tom ended up hanging up on the other side of a hill about 90 yards out in front of the blind. He was hot and would gobble at every cluck, purr or yelp I threw at him but he didn't want to budge another foot. I instructed Jason and my dad to stay put in the blind. Jason was about to get his first taste of more aggressive tactics. I slowly crept out of the blind and headed for the scrub oak behind our blind. As soon as I was out of sight I started calling again. When the tom answered, there was a new sense of urgency in his voice. I crawled further and further away, calling at minute intervals. I couldn't see the blind or the hill, let alone the turkey and I just kept crawling and calling. I knew it had worked out when I heard my dad's 3.5 inch Remington 870 growl. The shot was followed by high pitched screams of delight and I knew that we had connected. I jumped up and ran into the clearing just in time to see Jason on a flat out sprint to the deceased tom.
We went back to camp to gather the little troops. They were all wide-eyed and busy-tailed. They had heard the shot and it was quite the chore for my mom to settle the kids down and wait for us to come and get them. On the way out to the site of our earlier success, Jason proudly told the whole story over and over to his little buddies. The excitement in the air was electric. When we got to the bird, the kids couldn't keep their hands off of it. They were captivated by its beard, its fan and its funny looking jelly head. We dressed the turkey and none of the kids were shy about it at all. I gave them a biology lesson by cutting open the crop to inspect what the bird had been munching on. Their curiosity was insatiable.
This hunt, although short and fairly easy, is one of my most memorable. It was an amazing experience to expose these little ones into our hunting heritage. I will never forget their expressions and smiles. Some elk camps are too strenuous and dangerous to bring the little ones to. Some deer camps are too vulgar and tobacco filled to be appropriate for young kids. But the turkey camp can be designed to suit young hunters perfectly. So this spring, find a "half-pint" and take them out to the turkey woods. Their smiles will be forever burned into your memories of hunt camps past.