Developing New Hunters Highlights Season
It takes age and experience to grasp the old adage, “It’s better to give than receive.” Parents try to convince children of this concept, but all kids can think about is tearing open the next present. Yet, once the joys and benefits of giving are felt, it is hard to ignore the truth behind the lesson.
My turkey season has been a rollercoaster. It started with the completion of a dream trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, where I killed a coveted ocellated turkey. During youth season, I guided my nephew to a gobbler on his first hunt. It was a storybook experience.
Opening day was real windy. I heard a turkey gobbling in a woodlot across the property I was hunting. It sounded like he was on the opposite side of the woods from me, so I started to sneak down an open logging road to close the distance. Turns out, the bird I thought was 400 yards away was only 200 yards away. I bumped him off the roost. It was a rookie mistake.
A couple of days later, I set up on a turkey gobbling furiously on the roost. This time I made sure to leave enough space between us. After an intense 20 minutes of firing him up, I watched as he pitched down with at least a half-dozen hens. I knew it would be tough to lure him away from the ladies. I decided to move so I could cut him off as he made his way up a draw. As I was slowly making my way into position, calling every few minutes to ensure his location, my confidence continued to grow. The plan was really coming together. Then, BOOM, a shotgun blast exploded a mere 50 yards from me. Another hunter had set up in the draw and the bird was his.
After such a great start to my season, now things weren’t going so well. I decided it was time to change things up. A few months ago, a business acquaintance, Mark, said to me, “I am really concerned with where my food comes, and I think I would like to start hunting, but I don’t even know where to begin.”
I told Mark if he would pass a hunter education course and buy a hunting license, then I would take him turkey hunting this spring. He did what I asked, so I kept my promise. I took him on his first turkey hunt.
Birds were gobbling all around us as the sun began to creep above the eastern horizon. I thought the deal was going to come together right off the bat, but it didn’t. We moved quite a bit throughout the day and at one point had a coyote stalk to within 20 yards of us. Mark had never seen a coyote in the wild before. It was exciting for him. Mark identified a number of bird species by sight and sound, and I found his hunting skills to be far superior than I expected. He attributed his ability to sit still to being an avid bird watcher. I was impressed.
Mark didn’t end up shooting a turkey, but he did learn a lot about hunting. He learned how challenging it is and how rewarding a day afield can be without pulling the trigger. He’s now capable of going on his own and pursing a hunting lifestyle, and he has expressed to me that he plans to do so.
This time of year, it’s hard for me to escape the question, “How’s your season going?” Answering is easy. It’s going great, even though I am still holding four turkey tags for multiple states. Even if I don’t fill any of them, I have played a significant role in helping two new hunters join our fold. I have felt the joy of giving the gift of the spring turkey woods. A greater trophy does not exist in my book.
See you down the trail…