Taking My Son On His First Turkey Hunt

I keep this blog mostly anonymous so that I can share details of my life that I don’t necessarily want my friends and neighbors to know. For instance, until last month I have never owned a shot gun.

I know you’re thinking, “big deal,” right? But understand that in my rural, mid-western world admitting you don’t own a shotgun is like admitting you think Depeche Mode is a sweet band; it doesn’t necessarily mean that your gay..but c’mon.

I'm gonna go ahead and "Enjoy the Silence" at full volume!!

I’m gonna go ahead and “Enjoy the Silence” at full volume!!

In the last decade I have begun to experience the joys of hunting. But it is something I have had to learn on my own. I didn’t grow up hunting. In fact, I never held a hunting rifle until I was almost thirty. I have had moderate success in deer hunting on our property, but the turkey have always escaped me.

"Gobble Gob- Hey fuck you! I'm trying to get laid here!"

“Gobble Gob- Hey screw you! I’m trying to get laid here!”

It is a different style of hunting. In Missouri, we hunt deer with a rifle and turkey with a shot gun. You can also use a bow and arrow for both. On the few times I’ve attempted to turkey hunt, I’ve had to borrow a gun which is about the most unmanly thing you do.

But I am now the proud owner of a Maverick Model 88 twenty gauge shotgun. I chose this specific gun for one reason; even my 12 year old son can handle it.

"Colbalt blue steel, walnut stock, with a hair trigger, s-mart top of the line this baby retails for about $185, shop smart shop s-mart.... YOU GOT THAT!!"

“Colbalt blue steel, walnut stock, with a hair trigger, s-mart top of the line. This baby retails for about $185, shop smart shop s-mart…. YOU GOT THAT!!”

Which brings me to the point of this post. My son has started showing interest in joining me in hunting. Since I am not a die hard hunter, I didn’t have him out in the tree stand with me when he was five years old. Lots of guys do, but for most of them, hunting is a way of life. Which is great. Not so much for me though.

A good friend of mine moved back to town this year and he has a son the same age. He has already been introduced to hunting by his grandfather so we decided to get together and take advantage of youth turkey season. In Missouri, kids under 16 get to hunt one weekend, ten days prior to the start of the regular season.

This hunt was destined to fail from the beginning. My friend has never hunted in his life, which means he knows less about what is going on than I do. But we get decked out in our camo, the two boys grab their shotguns (which are nearly as big as they are) and we head out into the woods about 2:30 in the afternoon.

It went about as we expected. Two twelve year old boys make a lot of noise even when they are invisible. But I’m not sure we adults were much quieter. After about 15 minutes we all agreed that we were just there to hang out and hope we see something cool.

And we did. A small deer suddenly appeared in the field about 20 yards away and just looked at us as he meandered along. That would have been the highlight of the day except my neighbors herd of cattle showed up about 4:00 and hung out about 40 yards away for the next hour.

"We scared off all the turkey for you. No need to thank us."

“We scared off all the turkey for you. No need to thank us.”

The boys spent the whole time playing “what if” scenarios with the cows. “What if that brown one with the red tag just ran right at us?” “What if the whole herd suddenly turned to zombies.” There were no cow attacks though. They just sat out there chewing grass until the got bored and went home.

Then finally, we saw a lone turkey. 250 yards away. If you aren’t familiar with turkey hunting, your goal is to get them in to about 30 yards. The boys suddenly got very excited and very quiet. We tried calling it to us, but of course it paid us no attention at all.

So the hunt was a bust, but I learned a few things this weekend.

1. My son does not care that I know little about hunting.

At 12 years old, he was just excited to dress up, get to hold a real weapon, and see some wildlife. The fact that I suck at turkey hunting didn’t bother him in the least.

2. Kids love experiencing nature.

My son is not an outdoorsman. We have to kick him out of the house sometimes to get him away from the books, the legos, the television, etc. But he was blown away by the sight of a deer standing close enough to hit it with a rock.

3. An enjoyable experience is more important that results.

We didn’t expect to get anything. We went out to have fun and in that, we succeeded. It went well enough that I will have no trouble talking him into joining me again in a few weeks when the regular season begins.

As much as I’ve enjoyed learning these skills as an adult, I can’t help but wonder how much my life would be enriched if I were exposed to them as a child. When my son is grown, I hope he looks back fondly on these days. We’ll make fun of each other about how horrible we were and I’ll remind him that he almost peed his pants the first time he saw a deer.

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Apparently Deer Don’t Care If You’ve Got A Big Dick

I am not an experienced outdoorsman.

I did not grow up in a hunting family. I don’t think my father has ever been deer or turkey hunting in his life. Having no interaction with hunting in my youth, I didn’t miss it at the time.

Now I am an adult, living in a rural area with 40 acres of woods and they call to me.

If you are an animal rights type, I will take a moment to remind you that the coyote kill more deer per year than I do.

Okay, back to my story.

I don’t have a wall full of deer heads and antlers in my living room, but my success rate is pretty good. I first tried hunting five years ago. My very first shot dropped a young buck dead in his tracks. Two years later, I took another button buck and a 7 pointer. Three shots, three kills; not bad for a rookie.

Last year, I decided to try my hand with a bow. Much more complicated hunt and much more manly satisfying. Ugh, ugh.

On my very first shot with the bow, I hit a doe with a kill shot. Unfortunately, she ran out of our woods and into the neighbors pasture. I never found her.

I hate the idea of losing a deer. I’m hunting for meat. I go out, kill something, drag it home and eat it. Additionally, I’ve got guys coming out for deer camp in a couple weeks. Anything I lose now is one less chance to tag one during deer camp.

So, this last Sunday I am sitting in my stand at 5:00 in the evening. Down the trail comes a nice buck; full bodied, lots of meat. He stops 20 yards away and starts nosing around. He never sees me. I draw, I release. His front legs buckle then he takes off.

I wait about 15 minutes before climbing down to look for my arrow. I should have waited longer, but it gets dark quick in the woods, so I felt a bit rushed. I find the arrow, blood on the hilt. So a pass through shot.

I head back to the house to put my things away and go find the blood trail. My awesome 9 year old daughter wants to come help me. She helps me follow the blood trail until dark where it leads once again…..to the neighbors freaking field. 300 acres of 4′ high scrub brush and thistles.

Dark comes, we go inside. We feed the kids and then my wonderful wife says, “lets take the jeep out to the field, we’ll drive around and see if we can find it.” God, I love this woman.

We look until 11:00. No sign.

Big Dick? Ha! You shoot like a pussy.

Big Dick? Ha! You shoot like a pussy.

It’s not cool enough for the meat to last. Even if I find it the next day, I can’t salvage it. I went in dejected and almost guilty.

I shot a beautiful animal. It was a quality shot. And then I lost him. He’ll feed the coyotes and the buzzards, but I’ve taken him out of the breeding pool and I can’t take that back.

I’m done with the bow. I enjoyed it, but with an 0 for 2 success rate in retrieving the deer, it would be irresponsible for me to continue. Tracking a deer by myself is not realistic, so I guess I’ll wait until deer camp where I have three other guys to assist me.

Perhaps the day will come when I feel comfortable trying again. But sometimes, you just got to know your limits.