My Favorite Turkey Hunt

Smoke Armstrong

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It was five years ago when I took my 9 year old son turkey hunting for the first time. He had been deer hunting with me since he turned 7 years old. He would fall asleep in the blind. I’d wake him up when a deer, turkey or fox came by.

When he turned nine we decided to have him take the hunters safety course. Here in Maryland the only requirement to start hunting is to have successfully completed the hunter's safety course. He passed the test and was ready to start his hunting career.

We started with the youth deer hunt. He was fortunate to knock a doe off right away. Although we saw a few bucks that year they were always out of range.

Next came his first turkey hunt. Maryland has a youth hunt a few weeks prior to the start of the regular turkey season. If you haven't done it before there is whole different approach used when turkey hunting with a 9 year old. Locating and moving in on birds is a bit difficult, your mobility is significantly decreased and you are pretty much relegated to hunting from a blind or spot that you will either be able to call birds to you or is a natural travel route.

I’ve been hunting this property for quite a few years and hunting the natural travel routes seemed to be our best bet. We took our chairs and his gun to a corner of a field where I’ve seen turkey pass by on a consistent basis.

I didn't anticipate how much longer it would take for a 9 year old to get his gear together and walk the distance it normally took me 15 minutes from truck to setup. It took almost 45 minutes for my son and me to get from the truck to the setup.

As luck would have it birds were gobbling while we were making our way to the spot. I wasn't too concerned, I new it would be a while before the birds flew down and started to do their thing.

We listened to birds gobbling all around us for about an hour. All at once it was like a switch turned them all off. I made a few calls and got a couple responses off in the distance but no activity in the field as of yet.

Another 15 minutes had passed by when a couple of birds popped out in the field about 100 yards away. My son had spotted them first. This really started to get his blood boiling. I had to remind him not to move and that turkey's eyesight is their best defense. Now I really had to figure out how we were going to get this done.

My son was using a 20 gage pump shotgun that he needed a shooting stick to hold up the front of the gun. I promised him when the time came I would talk him through the shot.

Not that I was pessimistic, I think I was being realistic that a 9 year old on his first turkey hunt might get to see some birds at a distance but in no way shape or form was I expecting him to get a shot.

I glassed the first two birds that came out on the field. They were a couple of hens eating in the field. I made a few more calls with no response. Next we saw three jakes all the way across the field. At this point the hens were making their way towards us and the three jakes were keeping their eyes on the two hens. I would call and the jakes would gobble one after another. They were putting on quite a show.

The hens continued to walk our way until they pasted through the hedgerow we were setting in at about 25 yards. I could see my son's grin from ear to ear through his face net. I new it was only a matter of time after those hens disappeared until the jakes would make their way down the same path. This went on for about a half hour until another hen popped out on the field between the three jakes and us. My initial thought was that this hen may have just cost us a shot at one of these jakes.

What I didn't realize was there were two toms to our far right watching all of this take place and weren't having anything to do with these three jakes moving in on any of these hens. They were only about fifty yards away but were so preoccupied with the hen and the jakes they had no idea my son and I were there.

At this point I slowly and quietly got my son turned around into position to make a shot should the birds head our way. I think my blood was boiling more than my sons.

As the three jakes make there move toward the lone hen. The two toms start walking towards her at the same time. They are walking side by side and getting closer to us with every step. I tell my son to get ready to take the safety off and pull the trigger when the two toms separate. These birds are now at thirty yards and closing.

Although my son is using a pump I only put one shell in because he's not as proficient with working a pump as I would like him to be.

The toms are directly in front of us at twenty five yards and one begins to walk faster than the other. As they separate I tell my son to aim and slowly squeeze the trigger. The 20 gage goes off; one of the toms hit the ground and starts flopping around. I grab the gun from my son and eject the empty shell and reload one more shell should he need to finish it off.

At this point the field is cleared of all the birds with the exception of the one my son knocked down. We get on our feet and start walking towards the bird. I’m carrying the shotgun. My son is moving at a pace much faster than the one he started with this morning. As we approached the bird we stopped about fifteen yards from the bird. I gave the shotgun to my son and told him to shoot the bird if he tried to get up and run or fly away. I knew neither was going to happen based on the shape of the bird. The bird expired within a minute or two and now it was time for my son to put his hands on his first turkey. He was much more excited about this turkey than he was with bagging his first whitetail. I don't know how many times he said did you see that or how cool this was. I had to explain to him that what had just happened doesn't happen very often and in fact there are men and women my age that haven't bagged a turkey let alone one as nice as this one. The tom weighed in at 21 pounds with a 9 ¾ “ beard with 1” spurs. For some this is a bird of a lifetime, for my son it was his first. This bird hangs on our wall to this day and every time I walk by it I remember my favorite turkey hunt.

Posted by Smoke Armstrong under Turkey Hunting on March 23, 10 07:07 AM | Permalink

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