How to Ensure Kids Have a Great Experience Turkey Hunting

How to Ensure Kids Have a Great Experience Turkey Hunting

Over the past four seasons, I’ve taken my now-12-year-old daughters turkey hunting. There have been many highlights, including a total of seven toms and jakes flopping their way to the great strutting grounds in the sky. There have also been plenty of lowlights, which, as most hunters know, teach you more than the good times do.

Taking youngsters turkey hunting can be an absolute blast or a total trainwreck. How it breaks is up to us and, often, is a direct result of our own shortcomings. Sure, you can mitigate a lot of the difficulties if you have primo ground and the birds cooperate. Even that might not be enough. The holdup is usually what we want out of the hunt and not what the kids want.

youth turkey hunter

Step Back And Let Them Enjoy It

The hardest thing for me to do when I take someone turkey hunting is to not put tons of pressure on myself to ensure success. All this does is transfer the pressure from me to them. With young or new hunters, this is always bad.

Two years ago, on opening day, we had one of those sits where the birds were just suicidal. The bad part was that my daughters totally fell apart. We ended up with nine empty tungsten shells on the ground in our blind and one wounded jake to show for it.

There were tears. I think I invented a few new swear words. Even though we managed to tackle that wounded bird and get a tag wrapped around his leg, it was rough. And it was entirely my fault.

The girls had a bad day. It had never happened to them before and hasn’t happened since. It was just a colossal meltdown that resulted in us having to totally reset our turkey-hunting future. It was honestly one of my most shameful moments in the outdoors. A result of me wanting them to succeed so much that they fell apart.

youth turkey hunting

Firearms Comfort Is Key

One of the problems with the meltdown sit was that the girls were shooting a .410. There’s nothing wrong with a small bore for turkeys, but bigger is generally better if they can handle it. The girls didn’t want to upgrade to a 20- or a 12-gauge, however. Their hesitancy came from shooting a youth 20-gauge when they were eight, and it left a mark.

Eventually, through a lot of coercion, bribery, and light trap loads, they relented. Adding in a heavy Bog Pod to hold their gun (and reduce the recoil) sealed the deal. Now they shoot a 12-gauge, and any toms that walk within 25 or 30 yards of them are in real trouble.

Adults, especially adult men, who have hunted since boyhood, tend to forget what it’s like to be uncomfortable with firearms. I have a serious addiction to upland and waterfowl hunting, so handling a shotgun is very natural.

For my daughters and most youth hunters, it isn’t. Do what you have to, not only to get your kids comfortable with the safe operation of a turkey gun, but then set them up for easy shots. I honestly think the fear of handling a gun is one of the biggest impediments to more people getting involved in hunting, which goes way beyond youth.

youth turkey

Part Of The Team

I don’t need to run trail cameras to kill turkeys, but it sure makes it more fun in the lead-up to the season and throughout the spring. It’s also an excuse for me to load up my daughters and take them out to scout and maybe set up a few blinds.

The thing we often do wrong with youth hunters is we make them a part of the actual hunt but nothing else. It’s hard to love something you don’t work for. Instead of doing all of the scouting and setup work yourself, get your kids involved. Get them out before the season to listen for gobbles or glass. Walk field edges looking for tracks and signs of activity. Have them help brush in the blinds. Make them a part of the whole process.

This is not only essential for appreciating the pursuit and falling in love with it, but it also helps them understand what they are getting into. Instead of leading them through the dark to watch the world wake up through a blind window, they know why you park where you do and walk where you walk. They understand why you chose the spot and why you’re using the decoys you are. During the hunts, have them call if it’s possible. Let them use your binos to scan around.

Then listen to them. If they are tired or have to go to the bathroom, use some judgment on whether they are just bored or there’s something a little more urgent going on. Remember the hunt is for them, but also, that your job is to help them earn a turkey. Don’t make it so militant they don’t want to go again, but make it clear that for an animal to die at their hands, there has to be some level of buy-in on their part.

Even if they complain a little about a lack of action or getting up at four in the morning, they’ll forget all about it when a full strutter spits and drums his way into your spread. Then you just have to cross your fingers and pray that you won’t witness an expensive, emotionally draining meltdown.

If you’re in need of some fresh turkey hunting gear, click here for some great deals.

For more turkey hunting information, check out these articles: How To Tag Team Pressured Gobblers, How To Kill A Tom in The Rain, and How to Turkey Hunt in Big Woods.

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