A little backstory first...
This past fall was my little man's first "full" hunting season going with me pretty consistent. The previous year he went a couple of times but not regularly as he did this year. It was to the point that I was told, "You cannot go hunting by yourself." When I inquired as to why I cannot hunt by myself I was informed that "You have to take me with you."
Christmas came and we bought him a little .22 and he'd been shooting that quite a bit. He also was talking and asking questions about wanting to shoot a deer and turkey and when he could try. Like and reasonable parent I told him he could shoot one as soon as he could prove to me that he could accurately shoot a gun. He's been pretty spot on with a .22 and, much to my surprise one weekend, he was shooting a 4" cube @ 50-60 yards out of a tree stand!
With the constant questions I asked if he wanted to try to take a turkey this spring. His immediate response was 'YES!' so we set out to make that happen. We started with borrowing a .410 from TeamOutlaw and practicing at 15-20 yards on paper targets with 2.5" #8 loads. Little 'foo is a truly "little" guy. At 6 he only stands 3'6" and only weighs 44lbs so his first shot was a bit of a surprise to him and actually ended that days shooting session. But, like a trooper, he got back on the saddle a few weekends later and did a bit more shooting prior to season.
Even with the #8s at 20 yards he would have been killing a turkey, but that's not what I had in store for him to shoot come "game time". I got into hand loading Tungsten shot for turkey loads as a collaborative effort between 3 of us. I did the math, we all split the costs on supplies and we now have loads for 16, 20 and .410 shotguns. The .410 shoots 13/16oz of #9 shot. Some of you might think, "#9s? That's a bit small for turkeys!" but if you follow the 'heavier than lead' trend, this stuff is the most dense shot out there (lead is roughly 11g/cc where tungsten is 18g/cc). I killed my 3 birds last year (one in GA and two in KS) at 45, 20, and 20 yards last year. TeamOutlaw killed them around 20 and then a bird this spring at 55. My 3 were all dead where they stood, no flopping, no kicking. TeamOutlaw's bird this year "Looked like his head wrapped around behind his fan and he went straight to his back with his feet paddling in the air". No flopping bird. So it is truly nasty stuff (if it wasn't so expensive, a 1oz load of #9s could be an interesting small to medium duck load at decoy range!)
The Florida Youth season comes and goes without much to mention. Some gobbling and little sign.
We returned this past weekend for a second attempt, in a different location, to see if we could wait out/call in a bird. Saturday morning was beautiful. Cool, calm, song birds opened the morning up as we walked in to the blind. After I got some decoys out and got him in the blind, I own hooted once. We were answered by two birds - both a long ways off, one on the property (and possibly on the wrong side of the creek) and the second off the property. One more time for good measure, and to make the birds gobble for him and to elicit that smile I was looking for. That might have been the downfall of the morning as the bird on our property never opened his mouth again. Opposite that was the bird off the property that didn't shut up until after 10AM and he would gobble to everything in the woods, including me on occasion. We sat until Noon when I asked what he wanted to do and he said he was ready to go home. On the way home I asked if we were going to hunt tomorrow and I got a big grin and a"Yes, sir!" answer from him.
Sunday morning was the complete opposite to Saturday. The fog hung low to the tree tops, although not completely on the ground. The loud mouth bird off the property only gobbled 4-6 times on the roost and never said a word after. The bird on our property never opened his mouth, at least within earshot of us. Overall, the woods were eerily quiet and void of the usual song birds, owls, crows, hawks or wood peckers that notify that morning light has arrived.
It didn't take long before it was "iPad time" as he was fidgety without any further morning talking from our traditionally tumultuous feathered friends. Previously I had been instructed to inform him when I was going to call so he could listen too. This morning was so quiet I didn't even bother as I got into a routine of switching calls every 15 minutes and expecting a non-response.
He played on his iPad as I called and this went on until around 10AM when the woods suddenly seemed to "come alive". The wood peckers became vocal, the song birds started to sing and those pesky crows became extremely boisterous - enough so that they got a bird to gobble shortly after my calls!
Again I went silent on him and, again, 5-10 minutes passed before the crows solicited another gobble - this time close enough I handed him the gun and told him to get ready, he's coming. For the next 5-10 minutes he hangs up on us down there, 40-50 or so yards away, just out of sight on a mowed path leading to a ladder stand. I went silent on him, yet again, waiting on something to happen - him to make a mistake and show himself in the decoys that are 15-20 yards in front of us. 5-10 minutes go by with no bird showing out in front. He can't be far! He was closing fast! Where is he? Why hasn't he shown himself...???
As an aside, It's at this point that I'd be a little amiss to not point out the fact that our (mine and his) levels of communication, as well as our woods skills, are still not in sync with each other and we don't have enough woods time together...yet. While reminiscing on the events that played out, I am brought back to the fact that I was told that "I saw the bushes moving". It is, quite possible and highly probably, that he caught a glimpse of this bird moving through the bushes during my current silence waiting on the events to play out.
It's at this point the pesky crows have returned to be obnoxious or, more accurately, quite the helpful assistant with this bird as they once again got him to gobble. Unfortunately the bird has now moved from due south of us to a wonderfully HORRIBLE location directly behind and left to our NW! There couldn't be a worse place for him. It's thick. We can't see him (although he can't either see us or the decoys) and he's positively within shooting range of my 20ga that's neatly tucked away in the corner. There is only a door to the blind out of the back. No windows I can open to shoot through. Nothing - just the door that is closed by two bungees and buckle...
It is from here, over the next hour, that the bird mostly stayed. At one point getting close enough that I could see white head and a tail fan moving up and down at 30 yards. I just knew that he was going to finish, walk right by us, and be killed at 15 yards in front of us. Unfortunately that wasn't the case and we conversed over the next hour. My soft calls were answered halfheartedly. My hard cuts at him, on the other hand, kept him fired up. I'd call and he'd stay close. I'd go quiet and he would start drifting away. I finally put the calls down and gave him room to decide how this was going to play out. 5-10 minutes goes by in silence and a crow has him gobble again probably close to 75 yds.
*CRAP* I'm losing him with silence. I roll my mouth call over, grab my box and proceed to throw both of them with the hard cutting between the two of them at the same time. He immediately triple gobbles at that!
Got him back!
A couple minutes go by and a crow has him gobbling, back around 50 yards. I hit him hard again with both calls and I'm immediately cut off before I go silent again.
Again minutes go by and a crow makes him gobble again, this time CLOSE!
I turn to my little window to see behind us and see him in full strut in the pine row next to us. He's guaranteed to be strutting into our pine row, which is mostly open, at any point. It was at this point that I went into scramble mode! Closing my camp chair and putting it to the side. Grabbing the shooting stick, grabbing the gun, watching the bird, getting lil 'foo around and to the back, whispering to him about what's about to happen and what I'm about to do.
I get him around, gun cocked and on the stick. I've got one of the bungees unstrapped. I've got the door buckle in my hand and telling him that when I open it he needs to find the turkeys head and shoot, quickly. As I unclick the buckle I turned it just right to have the strap fall out of the buckle and the bottom of the door drop straight to the ground! I watched him go from strut to upright, in a perfect shooting pose, although not completely alerted (his head was still red/white/blue and had not gone to alert red).
I'm whispering "shoot him". I'm looking at him out the window and I can clearly see his head and it's PERFECT for the shot - straight up high!
"I can't see his head".
"I can't see through the bushes. Wait, I can see it now. I can't see the waddles..."
*NOTE* our discussion on where to shoot turkeys have revolved solely around the waddles. There has been no anticipation that, as is usually the case with turkey hunting, nothing go as according to plan *END NOTE*
"Can you see the white on his head?"
"Shoot him in the white"
"You need to hurry up and shoot him...shoot him!" (3 or 4 times)
*Boom* and the turkey goes to flopping!
The biggest sense of relief followed by the biggest sense of joy finally comes washing over me. I open the door completely and let him loose to go do the obligatory stand on his head moment! I quickly followed him out the door to congratulate him on his mighty accomplishment at his age!
To say I was proud is an understatement as I've told most everyone around the office that turkey hunts, and a few that don't, and showing plenty of pictures.
Congratulations to both of you.
"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole of the law. The rest is commentary."
Rabbi Hillel (c20 BCE)
For they always bring me tears
I can't forgive the way they rob me
Of my childhood souvenirs"... John Prine
Super pictures as well, get them framed for his bragging rights.