The alarm blared off at 4:30 am. It was still another hour and a half before daylight but the adrenaline was already kicking in. A windy and clear March day was forecast for the Georgia turkey woods but this day was different. Today I would not be chasing my old feathered friend with my shotgun but rather I would have the privilege of taking a young man turkey hunting for his first time in his life.
After a quick shower and a shot of caffeine, I put on my old hunting shirt and I was ready to roll. I couldn’t help but notice my anticipation was that of a child on Christmas Eve. Introducing anyone at any age to the outdoors can be a significant point in their life. For many it changes them forever. It did me. I still can remember when a selfless man took the time to take me hunting. It changed my life for the better and I will always remember Dick Bishop for that. I could only hope today might have that type of positive influence on this young man’s life.
The headlights hit my driveway and in a few short moments, Steve and his 14 year old son Daniel were in my house. I’m not sure Daniel had any idea what he was about to be a part of. What I did know was with the brisk wind, finding a talking tom was going to be a hefty challenge on this spring morning. The goal beyond being in the outdoors on that crisp morning was simply to have Daniel hear his first gobbling turkey. Anything beyond that would be bonus and a blessing.
We walked about a half mile in the dark and reached our first calling point just as day broke. After twenty minutes of observing and calling with no response, it was evident the brisk March wind had the turkeys locked down and silent. After an hour of walking and calling we still had not seen nor heard Daniel’s gobbler. Frustrating as it was, I realized it also showed our teenage hunter that it’s not always as easy as it looks on the Outdoor Channel.
We jumped in the truck and off to the next tract of land that a friend of ours had offered up when he learned Daniel had never been turkey hunting. After nearly two miles of walking up and down hills, a lone hen appeared far off in a field. Daniel got his first look at a wild turkey while on the hunt and it encouraged us to keep after it. After another half hour of hunting, there was still no sign or sound of El’ Goblero, so breakfast plans were in order. Some days the birds just don’t cooperate but we all had the satisfaction of just being outdoors.
On our way back to the house, Steve was giving son Daniel the “it ain’t easy” talk of encouragement. I decided to make one final stop before we waved the official white flag. I had planted an acre of chufa I got from the NWTF along a gas line on my property. This gas line was visible from a county road with a good pair of binoculars. I stopped the truck and glassed the line. Sure enough four hundred yards away were multiple turkeys feeding in the chufa patch. I checked my watch, ten a.m., the hunt had just begun. At that moment, I don’t know who was more excited in that truck, the teenager or the two grown men.
The stalk was on but it wouldn’t be easy. We belly crawled through a thicket up to the gas line. Daniel was in stealth mode and I could tell he was really enjoying himself. Papa Steve was coaching up Daniel for the anticipated shot. We set up hoping the turkeys would follow the gas line until they crossed within shotgun range. They were 75 yards away. Two large gobblers strutted in the morning sun while rest of the flock scratched in the chufa. After a long twenty minute wait it finally became apparent the birds would not come within range, so plan B was in order. We circled around the thicket and belly crawled again up to the gas line, but this time much closer. We got Daniel positioned just in time as the first hen passed at 40 yards. At that moment the flock began easing back into the wood line away from our ambush point. I tried a few small clucks on my slate call to entice their curiosity. It worked and as the one curious hen came searching, a nice jake followed behind her. At that moment Daniel fired off a shot that echoed down the gas line. His aim was true and the jake dropped in his tracks. We all jumped up in a dead sprint of jubilation and met at the turkey. Daniel’s eyes were as big as softballs. There was a look of excitement in his eyes that words just can’t explain. He just stood there grinning too young to understand the measure of what he had just accomplished on his first trip turkey hunting. I don’t know who was happier, Steve or myself but what I do know is Daniel was hooked for life.
Turkey hunting is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. But take a kid hunting for the first time and the experience can be one of the most satisfying experiences of your life. It was for me. I can only hope twenty years from now Daniel will be somewhere in the turkey woods introducing another kid to the great outdoors. Nothing compares to the Outdoor Lifestyle……..Pass it On.