Man by his very nature, is a Hunter, a predator by design. To deny this fact is to be dishonest with ones self. Though the desire to hunt is instilled in all of us to varying degrees, the ability and knowledge of how to hunt, must be learned.
Starting your young hunter on the right foot is critical to their development and future as a hunter. Hunters above all and by far carry the majority of the burden for care of the wild places and the creatures that reside there. The recruiting of young hunters into the sport is very important to its future and thereby also, the future of the wild places.
Adventures in the Outdoors!
I can’t say that I have any real memories of my first hunts with my dad and grandfather. They were more than 40 years ago now. However, they served as the foundation that so many futures adventures would be built upon. What those experiences accomplished was to instill a love for the outdoors that I will carry with me to the end of days.
Dad couldn’t leave the house to go hunting or fishing without me, and it was a rare occasion when he did. There wasn’t any adventure in the outdoors that we did not embark on and we were in the woods or on the water on almost every day that he was not encumbered by work. We hunted anything that would run, trapped coons and wild hogs, ran trotlines, cut bee trees, gigged flounder, crabbed, cast netted mullet off the beach at night, fished both salt water and fresh, stayed out all night gigging frogs, shrimped, you name it, we did it!
All of these experiences served to instill a great appreciation for all things wild. I have hunted from the mountains of Idaho to the swamps of Florida and seen sights that no hand and canvas could match. I’ve have witnessed wild creatures embroiled in their most secrete of habits and of course, learned of both life and death. All experiences that I would not trade for the world!
If you are reading this article I guess I really don’t need to sell you on the benefits of spending time in the outdoors with your son or daughter. You should already have a handle on that, as well as the rewards that are to be gained. Though hunting may not necessarily be a skill we now need for survival, a more grounding experience you will not find. I do not feel that people that grow up involved with hunting and fishing have questions of what life is all about.
It should also be evident that I have a special passion for turkey hunting. The point of this article is to give you some tips that may help you plan a successful turkey hunting adventure that you can share with your young son or daughter thereby passing your knowledge to the next generation.
Hunting is an experience which has no end to what can be learned. The following information covers most of the basics and some advanced ideas in both gear and “how to” that will help to get the novice hunter started off on the right foot in the sport of turkey hunting.
What Is An Appropriate Gun For A Young Turkey Hunter?
Most young hunters will not be able to handle a full size shotgun. For very small hunters I would recommend a single shot 20ga shotgun in 3” magnum. They are some of the lightest weight style guns and have a simple action which are both equally important qualities for the novice.
Magnum turkey loads can kick like a mule! If the punch from a magnum load is a concern, a high brass 2 3/4″ shell could be used. For that matter even a low brass game load in 2 3/4″ could be used, however you should shorten the shot range accordingly based on how your gun patterns. I would start at 20 yds and advance until the the number of shot in the kill zone dropped to less than 5-8 pellets. That would be the guns max effective range.
For the mid-sized hunter a semi-auto or pump action 20 ga, in 3” magnum may fit and carry with them for a number of years. The semi-auto produces a little milder kick due to the gas operation which is a welcome result.
I would recommend practicing with 2 ¾” #8 dove shot but hunting with 3“ magnum in #5 or #6 shot. In the excitement of shooting a turkey, the extra kick from the magnum load shouldn’t be noticed but it surely will be at the range!
The gun should be a youth model gun with the shortest barrel length available. The extra weight of a longer barrel is difficult for most youths to handle. The shortened butt stock is typically mandatory also. Most Youth stocks have a LOP (length of pull) of 13” but most could be altered if necessary.
My 10 year old daughter went on her first turkey hunt this year and since I had neglected to deal with the long stock issue of her weapon until the last minute, I had to build a cut down stock to fit her Remington 870 from a piece of 2X8 yellow pine I had in the shop. I could not bare the thought of cutting off the walnut original. I robbed the softest butt pad I could find from another shotgun and the job as complete. The little 16 ga. Pump fit her like a glove and she downed her first turkey within an hour of the coming of daylight, on the opening mornings hunt.
I would also recommend having the youth hunter practice on a life sized target to learn what the sight picture should look like when the moment of truth comes. You can easily sketch out your own full size turkey silhouette onto a piece of cardboard or even purchase some pre-printed copies.
What Is The Best Choice In Camo Clothing?
Camo for youths is not as readily available as adult sized camo and is available in less of a variety of patterns.
Also, there are not a lot of camo patterns with a substantial amounts of green in the pattern for spring turkey hunting. Currently my personal preference is either RealTree’s – “all-purpose green” or Mossy Oak’s – “Obsession“. It can be a good idea to use a browner pattern on the upper body as this will blend with the trunk of a tree better. I personally like to miss-match my camo, using a different pattern on top.
Mossy Oak Obsession®
Realtree APG ®
Realtree Xtra ® Green Camo
Of course turkey hunting requires top to bottom total camouflage so you will need gloves and a head net that fits as well. I prefer a ¾, mesh type head net as a rule. I always prefer to cut the tips off the fingers of my gloves. At least for the thumb, index and middle finger’s. The others can remain and do not hamper your feel or use of your fingers.
If there is a thing I hate, it’s wet feet! A pair of light walking boots that are waterproof are mandatory in my book. I do not like rubber boots if I can avoid them but when hunting wet woods they are pretty valuable gear and beat wet feet. Rubber boots tend to also be heavy but the worst problem is stepping in to deep and over topping the boot! They don’t dry out.
Though I don’t personally give them a second thought…..snakes may be a consideration when hunting in the south. Turkeys here are typically associated with wet areas, particularly in the early season. A young hunter with little woods experience may not pick out that coiled moccasin before he steps on it. A pair of snake boots or gators might be worth the parents piece of mind.
The photo above is of a Moccasin I ran across while turkey hunting this year. This snake is more dangerous than the average as he is about to begin shedding his skin. Though difficult to see in this photo his eye is beginning to take on a blue hue and that is the first indication that they are about to shed. When this happens their vision is impaired and they are less apt to run. This is a snake that would let you walk right up to him and then strike with no warning.
I would also recommend a turkey vest for the young hunter. Having his or her own gear just like dad will go a long way towards making them feel a part of the hunt as opposed to just an observer. I guess there is a cool factor in being completely outfitted with all the necessities. Of course a dry seat is of utmost importance and a waterproof cushion is a must, at a minimum.
Which Turkey Calls Are Best Suited For A Young Hunter?
I would definitely recommend you purchase your young turkey hunter his or her own call. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had by mastering your own call. Also, it gives the young hunter something to do when trying to out wait a longbeard. Allowing the young hunter the ability to call affords him or her a larger more active roll in the hunt. A box call is probably best but a slate or glass call is also a good choice. I would consider some of the small diameter slate type calls to fit the youths hands better. One of my favorite box calls is the Lynch box. The smaller single sided, Fool Proof, model 101 call would be a great choice that he or she would never out grow.
Children have a heightened ability for learning and if your son or daughter expresses the desire to learn to use a diaphragm call that would be an outstanding achievement and worth the effort. However, they should master all the basic calls on a box or slate call first so they have a feel for not only the sound they are trying to mimic but the cadence as well. The diaphragm call is an advanced and much more difficult call to master but comes with some real advantages.
If you decide to give a diaphragm call a try, depending on their build, you may need to select a small frame type call made for women and youths. I would start out with a simple, single or double reed type call. They typically have little rasp to them and are a clear sounding call but easier to learn on. I can’t tell you how many turkeys I have taken with a standard twin reed call! it’s a pile!
I would also recommend outfitting them with an owl and crow call. They are easy to learn to use and there is nothing like hearing a distant gobbler respond to your call from his roost. Even if they cannot quit get the turkey call down in time for their first hunt they can at least experience the excitement of fooling a tom into a response with a locator call.
Things to Consider When Planning a Youth Hunt!
Another very important consideration when planning to take a young hunter afield for their first hunt is to remember that they have a shorter attention span than an adult. They will not have developed the drive and enthusiasm for the hunt that you may have. A 3 hour stint in a turkey blind with nothing to do may seem more like an endurance test than a enjoyable adventure to a beginning hunter.
When afield, it is important to not just take the prospective hunter hunting, but to make an adventure out of the entire occasion, teaching them everything about the natural world that you can. The average person knows little of the world that exists in the woods and on the water and therefore can never really understand or appreciate the love for the outdoors a hunter develops over time. Doing this will keep their mind occupied and fill the day with interest.
It is also important to remember that your son or daughter does not have your stamina for a 5 mile prospecting adventure. It is best to start off with relatively easy hunts and preferably in a dry area.
Keep in mind the comfort of your young hunter. This is another important aspect that will make the hunting experience a failure or success. Of course, if you are hunting from an enclosed blind you will need chairs to keep you high enough to see out and shoot. You may be there a while…..get a chair with a back and avoid stools. A prolonged and uncomfortable position could ruin the hunt.
A compact pair of binoculars can also be a big plus. Searching for game with his binoculars is a good way to pass the time. Also, there is usually almost always some kind of bird or animal activity to watch, even if only a fluttering redbird.
How to Close the Deal – Taking the Shot!
This is one place where you can make or break the new hunter. You want to stack the deck on his side as much as possible. Hunting a location with few turkeys is not the best way to start off. You want them to be entertained and see as much game as possible.
Consider their shooting limitations. Set your hide for a relatively close shot when possible, 20 yds is ideal. From your target practice, He should already have a good feel for the sight picture he will be looking for.
One thing that can make a big difference in the enjoyment of the hunt and the success is an enclosed blind. A blind affords the young hunter the ability to move a little without scaring off the turkeys. Little things like being able to thump a mosquito when necessary helps keep the hunt from being more like a torture test.
A shooting stick can also be a big help for smaller hunters that have difficulty with the weight of the gun. As a rule, the gun may have to be held in shooting position for some time before a shot at the turkey is offered. The young hunter can’t be rushed on the shot.
One last important thing to consider when turkey hunting is how to actually sit during the hunt!
Unless you have some physical limitations that prevent this, you should always sit with one knee up, the left for a right handed shooter, with the gun resting on your knee. Of course this does not apply if you are in an enclosed blind. For a right handed shooter you should sit so that the birds approach is left of center. Sitting in this manner provides for the least amount of movement prior to the shot. Hunter movement is the number one reason for missed shot opportunities when turkey hunting.
If you are hunting with a very young hunter you shoulder consider having them sit between your legs. You can whisper instructions readily and even help them with the gun a little if necessary.
Last, but one of the most important issues with this sport is SAFETY! Hopefully your young hunter comes to love and appreciate the outdoors as much as you and these early trips afield will shape how they handle themselves and a weapon, probably for the rest of their life. It is extremely important to teach them all of the aspects of both gun and personal safety. I find that the best way to accomplish this is with repetition. Each time your son or daughter handles a gun you should be reminding them what to do or quizzing them with questions. For example, just before they pick up their gun I like to ask…..o.k., what’s the first thing you need to do when you pick up a gun? Then comes….Where should your barrel always be pointing? Eventually gun safety will become second nature and done without need for thought.
With some preplanning and a few tools of the trade your son or daughters first hunts can be an enjoyable experience that will provide memories for years to come.
Passing on the knowledge and love for the outdoors is the best way I know, to ensure that our hunting heritage is preserved for the future.
If there are any questions or advise you need help with that I did not cover here, don’t hesitate to contact me using the contact form. I’d be glad to help in any way that I can. Any comments that you may have are greatly appreciated as well.
Best of Hunts,