Pennsylvania turkey seasons are for kids of all ages

The statewide youth spring gobbler hunt was held last Saturday, April 22, and as always, it was a treat to see so many social media photos of smiling kids posing with birds they harvested during the special one-day season.

While the young lady and father I was planning to guide unfortunately had to cancel last-minute due to a rescheduled State Cup soccer match, I still enjoyed living vicariously through friends and their children, who took the time to share field pictures online.

I think it’s great that we’ve established special youth-only seasons for our up-and-coming generation of hunters. Sure, it might mean educated gobblers (and fewer turkeys) for the rest of us the following week, but it’s worth it. As it should be, the youth hunt gives kids the first crack at unpressured birds and decent odds of hearing some gobbles, even if it doesn’t all come together in the end.

I still remember my first turkey hunt. It only took a few heart-pumping minutes of listening to “timber thunder” to hook me for life. If youngsters can get just a small taste of that, we are doing our part as mentors to preserve the future of our sport.

At least one young hunter, Kayla Hoffer, got hooked a few years ago, when she took her first turkey with a crossbow at just 10 years old. That moment launched a genuine commitment to the sport, which led to many more hunts, as well as a competitive archery career, at which she has become extremely successful.

Last year, Kayla impressively arrowed a mature tom with a 9.5-inch beard using her compound bow, and I covered the hunt in a weekly outdoors column for another publication. But this year, in her final season as a junior license-holder, she topped it by repeating last year’s success, only this time without the use of a ground blind.

Her dad, Tim, sent me the cell phone video he took of Kayla drawing back her bow and drilling the strutting tom as it ran into their mating pair decoy spread. The excitement was clear in this memorable father-daughter moment, as Tim’s shaky footage shows him unraveling during Kayla’s composed shot from shaded cover.

But that’s what it’s all about: Having the opportunity to pass it on and share special memories afield with those we love; there truly is nothing better.

I’d like to wish sincere congratulations to all the young hunters who had the opportunity to seal the deal last week, and great big kudos to their mentors for taking the time to expose them to the outdoors.

Here’s to a safe, successful statewide gobbler season for all the big kids, too. May the timber thunder be plentiful and your aim be true — enjoy being a kid again.

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