Apr 19, 2011

Youth Turkey Hunt Success - My Daughter's First Turkey

This past Saturday was the first of 2 spring turkey youth training day's here in CT and my daughter had been promising me she was ready to accept the challenge.  Not the challenge of the hunt but the challenge of going to bed at a decent time and getting up early which she is not very good at, as can be said for most teenagers, but she had promised and even practiced.  Ofcourse the deal for some new camo clothing helped as well, but first she had to prove she can get up and hunt on a regular basis so Saturday's wake up was her first test which she passed with flying colors.

The field during last Sunday's scouting trip

We had been doing our scouting both on state land and private land and have been seeing and hearing birds on pretty much every scouting trip, so we knew we had a good chance of getting into some birds on her hunt but the events of the entire day where totally unexpected and filled with so many new experiences, trials, failures and success that it just made her first turkey hunt that much more memorable and has definitely fueled a new passion in her.

Another shot from the lower field

Our hunt started out on a small piece of state land near our house that up until Friday had looked like a lock.  I went out Friday morning before work to listen for birds and there was not a turkey sound anywhere which made for a long day at work.  My daughter, Busch Pilot and myself went out Friday night to roost the state land spot and the only birds we heard was a gobbler down in the road and a car honking at him - not a good sign.   What seemed like a great game plan was turning into a not so good one fast, but we knew the birds were in the area and felt we could find them and if not no big deal we head over to private land where we know the birds will be.  We worked the state land area from sunrise until about 9:30 with not a single peep but we did cut plenty of turkey sign so we just need to figure out when they will be back.  We left State land and headed for private but first we need some sustenance because the pop tarts and Gatorade we had earlier was not cutting it.

Busch Pilot and Kaleigh taking a break during our State Land hunt
Busch Pilot trying his best to locate some birds on State Land
 After Breakfast it was off to a piece of private land that we have been hutning for years and all our kids have taken their first birds off this piece of land so we had high hopes for our midday hunt.  The game plan was to setup on the edge of the upper field and see if we couldn't call a few birds out from the woods.  As we were heading up the field we caught movement across the field 6 birds stepped out of the woods and into the field.  We dove for the ground and decided to watched them instead of work them as we were out in the wide open field.  They worked up the field and into the woods and once out of sight we made a mad dash along the hedgerow and up to the upper field.  We were standing there contemplating where to setup and had decided to setup on the far side of the field.  Before heading across the field Busch Pilot decided to scan the lower field one more time and when he did he noticed 2 toms working up the field towards us, pretty much exactly where we just came from.  It was a full out scramble to get the blind setup and ready for a shot and the 30mph wind gust made it that much more of a challenge as the blind ripped out of my hands and was headed to the open field when my daughter grabbed it for me.  Good thing she has cat like reflexes like her father.  Disaster avoided!

We were all tucked in the blind and in our haste forgot to put out the decoys.  DANG!  No decoy no problem right, well maybe not.  We knew the birds would come right past us if they stayed on course but would they be close enough and if not how would we pull them in.  When that longbeard cleared the hedgerow and gave us a good look we lost focus that my daughter was all new to this and started whispering orders to her like she was a seasoned veteran.  To our surprise stayed composed and handle the request well and she already had a bead on him and was just waiting for the signal to shoot.  Busch Pilot let out a few clucks and old Mr. Tom gobbled and it was enough to stop him and get him to stretch out tall looking across the field and has he did we told Kaleigh to shoot and shedid and missed completely.  We barked the typical orders to eject and get back on him and when she did the gun jammed.  She stayed calm and cleared the jam and had another round in the chamber ready to go but it wasn't to be as we just watched these two toms slowly work across the field out of range from the 20 gauge.


After they left the field I crawled out the blind and across the field to setup the decoys and then wormed my way back into the blind.  It wasn't long until we had two toms pop out across the field and start working toward us but they were a little leery and taking their time and that was when I noticed 3 more birds pop out from the same spot about 75 yards behind these two and the chase was on.  Those 3 jakes started running towards the two toms and they blew by us heading back down the field.  Just as the 3 jakes cleared the wood line,  3 more jakes popped out and joined the chase.  Now we had 6 Jakes and two toms running around the lower field that we couldn't see and with the wind blowing we even struggled to hear them.  As Busch Pilot put it "Oh MY!  We have a situation".  Yes we did.  Every now and then we would hear a gobble that let us know they were still down the field but we still can't see them.  All of a sudden a 3 Jakes come running right by the blind and my daughter rushes a shot only to miss by a mile.  It caught us off guard somewhat but she was on top of things for sure.  We continued to be patient and wait for the other 5 birds and sure enough they come back into the upper field out of range and headed across the field and back into the woods from where they had just came.  The count is now 0 for 2 on  and we are working hard to get ourselves under control and to come up with a game plan.  One thing for sure is we need more shells as we only had 5 with us so I made the call and had an Air Force C130 drop a box of shells into our location.  Okay so it wasn't a C130 it was Bubba who ran a box up the field to us and thank goodness he did.

Things quieted down for about an hour, so Busch Pilot and Kaleigh took a nap while I kept vigil scanning the field and woods and calling every so often.  I had to wake them up twice as birds popped out of the point and into the field only to head back in.  Around 2pm we had a hen pop out of the woods and into the field and then another.  We watched them for a bit nowing that the boys would show up soon.  Sure enough like on command, two toms pop into the upper field and work down to these hens and you could see the beards swinging as they waddled in.  One of those toms put on a great display trying to entice the hens and worked hard to keep the other tom from getting close.  Busch Pilot did his best to pull the hens across the field but the wind was just not helping.  We could barely hear the gobbles so I'm sure they had trouble hearing us. 

Kaleigh taking a nap in the blind
As we watched this wonderful display of courtship I noticed some more birds pop out in the same spot the two toms had come from and they turned out to be those 6 Jakes again.  They stayed on top of the field and had a good scrap going on as they jumped up in the air sparing with each other for a few minutes and when they stopped they were headed down the field towards the two toms and those lone hens.  It looked like a scene from a roller derby movie as they headed down the field bumping each other as they ran.  We were enjoying every minute of this, but definitely getting frustrated and my daughter was cold and tired and probably ready to go home but we stayed with it.  All the birds finally headed back up the field and into the woods but would pop back out every once and while to scan the field but we just could not get them to come to our setup.  It could have been the wind as it was definitely making our blind rock.

We decided it was time to leave our setup and head for an open landing near where all the birds had come and gone for the past 2 hours.  The problem is that we had to get through the open field and into the brush without being seen.  We scanned the field over good and with no sign of birds we made a mad dash across the field to the wood line.  We scrambled over rocks and through the prickers and set up on the hedgerow that these birds kept walking down.  We had two hens out across the field just feeding but I just didn't like the setup.  We were limited in our shot area and would never see the birds coming until they were right on us making any adjustment out of the question and I was tired of the unexpected and wanted more control of the situation.  So it was back into the woods and through the prickers to get to the open landing that was just inside the woods off the field.  We got there with a few minor scratches and cuts and started looking around for our next setup but had to move fast as those birds were in and out of this area so much we didn't want to be standing there in the open next time they popped out.  There wasn't much at all for good setups but we made do with some old logs leftover from the logging they had done.  It wasn't ideal but this would work.

I was laying on a log with the video camera shooting through some brush as I was trying to make myself as small as possible which is not an easy task.  BP hit the call and we had a gobble instantly.  Holy heck, here we go again.  It wasn't long before a hen walked right across the landing and headed to the field.  BP called some more and we had multiple gobbles this time which meant those crazy jakes where on the way again.  They came into the landing and then popped into the woods, we called they popped back out but stayed on the far side.  BP gave Kaliegh the green light to shoot and she did and once again another clean miss.  For the life of me I had no idea what was going wrong because Kaleigh can shoot and the gun patterns very well but with my head buried in the video I had no idea what she was doing.   BP gave them some more calls and they stayed on the far edge of the landing, some strutting, some looking around but clueless that they had just been shot at...Again!

Busch Pilot then broke out with a round of kee kee calls and they spun around and starting heading across the landing.  As those 6 birds started across, two more jakes came around the brush from the field and into the landing and they were close.  I could hear BP telling Kaliegh to shoot and her telling BP that there were to many birds behind them and she didn't want to take the shot, especially the way she had been shooting.  It was a comical exchange between the two but it was the right thing to do.  The birds separated just enough where Kaleigh was comfortable and not a word needed to be said to her because neither BP or I called for the shot but it went off and we just watched as Kaleigh's first bird hit the dirt.  I was stunned and lost for a momentum and BP was about to jump up and go get her bird but the other jakes wouldn't leave so I told her to shoot again seeing the limit is 3 and she thought I wanted her o shoot her bird again so the rest of the jakes got a free pass when she aimed for her bird instead of one of them.  We still had one jake decide to come back in and stomp her bird but she was out of shells and I had them in my vest so we just enjoyed show instead.


It was now 4:13pm almost 12 hours after wake up and after putting on almost 4 miles on state land that morning plus all the craziness around us on private land including a couple of misses, but success had finally come and the smile on my daughters face said it all.  Both Busch Pilot and I were so proud of the way she hung in there and fought through it all.  It was definitely the most beautiful jake that we had ever seen.  I didn't think her smile could get any bigger but it did when I showed her where he brother shot his first bird, just 75 yards down the logging road from where she got her first bird.  We took lots of pictures and sent one out over the cell and her big brother called back immediately and he was yelling and so excited for her which made for a perfect finishing touch on this hunt.

Kaleigh with BP for a hero shot - The logs was their hiding spot just minutes before

That smile is proof that hunting is good for the soul
For myself and the guys I hunt with we enjoy sharing the passion with others, especially kids and the days events made for incredible memories and the smile on my daughters face proves that we are doing things the right way.  I know she is hooked because we were out scouting again last night and she was arguing with Busch Pilot about who is going to tag "The Chief".  As my daughter put it, "I missed him Saturday but I won't miss him next time".  The bad news for Busch Pilot is that we have another youth training day coming up so she gets another chance at him before the regular season opens up but she is the back up shooter as we will have Bubba's son James out trying to bag his first bird.

I don't even what to guess at what next Saturday will bring but as Busch Pilot always likes to say "It's going to be an adventure." and I'm sure it most certainly will.


  1. awesome story!
    Kelly L-S

  2. Memories to be saved and talked about at family gatherings forever.

    Well done, all.

  3. Great story and congrats to your daughter.

  4. It doesn't get any better than that! Congrats! Great pics and story.