Big tom turkey a memory of a lifetime for one youth hunter

Among a small group of waterfowl hunters, of which I am a member, we have a young partner named David. He is now in his mid-20s, but he started hunting with us as a young teenager.

David had lost his father to cancer when he was a child, and another member of the “waterfowl gang” had first brought him along to share a hunting episode because he knew the boy’s family, and this young person’s budding passion for hunting.

From that point on he grew as one of our gang members, learning how we hunt waterfowl, as well as other species of game. He is now a well-versed hunting companion, one who we “older guys” welcome enthusiastically because of many reasons. But undeniably high on that list is his youthful legs and the exuberance that defines early life.

Because our group gladly welcomed this young man initially, he in turn has performed much the same good deed by taking his 9-year-old nephew for mentored youth hunting of deer, and just this past year the boy filled his first anterless permit.

Now David’s brother-in-law, the boy’s father has gotten back into hunting himself. But the child’s desire to hunt spring gobblers on the mentored youth turkey hunting Saturday, and his father’s total lack of experience hunting springtime toms, brought David once again into the equation.

When that Saturday arrived, David took the boy, Codey, and his father to a property he has permission to hunt, a chunk of land that has turkeys roaming, at least on occasions.

With no time to scout the area, they took a chance that coming here may pay off. And in that magic hour when daylight neared, a pair of gobblers began sounding off within the woods where the small grouping sat along the tree line of the forest as it unites with a big field of grasses and weeds.

David related that the turkeys gobbled frequently on roost, but not that close to where they sat. Then the gobbling stopped. They waited a few minutes and David then offered a few yelps on a slate. The birds responded from the field, but at a place they could not be seen by the hunters, apparently having flown there from their roosting trees.

David moved the whole group further back into the woods and again made some calls on his slate, but there came no response. After some more calls without a reply, David assumed the birds to still be in the field, either strutting or merely feeding.

He kept his nephew and the boy’s father at the same spot, but he snuck about 40 yards further back and repositioned. Here he changed his calling mechanism to a box call, and hoped that his moving would appear to the gobbles of a hen becoming disinterested and moving away.

That strategy paid off as the birds began once more to gobble, and now closed the distance to the hunters. The two gobblers first became visible at about 50 yards from the position of the boy and his father, and the boy — showing great patience and stillness —  waited until the lead bird reached about 30 yards distance before he fired, which was at 7:30 a.m.

Both turkeys were mature specimens, and the one that remained flopping on the ground was retrieved with a 10¼-inch beard, ¾-inch spurs and pushing 20 pounds.

David relayed the boy’s excitement, his smiles and genuine happiness at his first turkey. David himself told of his own excitement and pleasure he found in helping his nephew score such an impressive tom on the boy’s first-ever spring gobbler youth hunt.

I, too, enjoyed the thought that David was merely giving back to some other young person that which he had received when we “older guys” took him under wing and showed him the joys of being afield, learning the nature and behavior and habits of the creatures who live within.

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