Youth Hunt, Another Lesson

“How long will we sit here?” asked little Mason Nevis.

“Until the turkeys come,” I replied.


I wondered what the little guy thought of that. Maybe a tough reality, but I didn’t want him to think we were going to give up easily and start bouncing from tree to tree or attempting to sneak up on turkeys. In my world that is not real turkey hunting.

I believed his no-reply was an endorsement of my statement.

We waited another hour and I continued my sporadic calling. A tom appeared in a flat about 200 yards to our right and slightly down hill. A second and a third followed him across and opening.

I continued to call and they gobbled. I could still see one of them and he turned towards us and sprinted. “Get ready,” I told Mason.

We had done some dry firing with the H&R 20 gauge single shot, but he had not fired  live rounds from this borrowed shotgun and I knew that he was at a disadvantage.

The turkeys gobbled again, closer and I knew they were near, but couldn’t see them any more. We waited and waited, but they failed to show. Most likely they’d been intercepted by a hen turkey and led away – following what males in heat follow.

We waited some more. Now it was time to retract my statement.

“Let’s move down to the spot where I saw the turkeys,” I announced. We were on our feet stretching, gathering decoys and I’m certain both Mason and his father, Mike, were happy to be moving.

We carried our gear about 300 yards down the gradually sloping hill past the area where the toms had stood an hour before and I looked for a spot to set the decoys up where they could be seen and we could hide against a reasonably large oak. Mike hid beside a log out of the line of fire.

About 75 yards in front of us, the canyon dropped off steeply and that’s where most of the turkey calling was coming from.

We placed the strutting tom decoy and receptive hen twenty yards in front. The distance was important as it was the distance at which Mason would shoot the gobbler.

Sitting behind Mason, who was left-handed, gave me a good view of his sighting. Unfortunately, I had not brought shooting sticks, which would have helped his aim by supporting the weight of the shotgun as he waited. I was concerned that the ten-year old, who weighed about 75 pounds, would have trouble holding the gun up as the birds slowly worked their way to the decoy.

“Maybe one will come running in,” I wished to myself. But that seemed unlikely for toms still following flocks of hens.

In position, I made a few soft yelps with my mouth diaphragm. Deep yelps, of a boss hen. And, an answer came from the canyon.

Another deep yelp. I responded in kind.

Then a gobble and several back-up gobbles. Things were heating up and the birds were only about 100 yards away – just over the drop off.

I continued the yelping and the responses were positive. We were about to have action.

Turkeys rose up from the canyon. First a bright read head stared in our direction.

“I can see one,” I told Mason. “Stay still.”

The tip of a tail fan appeared and finally four gobblers, one in full strut. Their heads were like neon signs. The sun glistened off the tail fan of the dominant bird.

Later Mike said it was surreal, and he was right.

The four gobblers and a hen turkey approached. The hen veered to our left and the gobblers could now see the big strutting tom decoy. The three jakes were leery of the big intruder, but the dominant strutting tom was well aware of the challenge – but not sure whether to stay with the hen or defend.

His head jerked up as he spotted the squatting hen decoy. Now he was mad – no sex allowed for this intruder. He approached directly towards the plastic gobbler. I whispered to Mason to cock the shotgun. The target bird was at 25 yards and getting closer. 

“Wait till he reaches the decoy and then shoot,” I whispered while making yelps which seemed to keep the toms gobbling and distracted. At 20 yards, I coaxingly told Mason, “Shoot.” 

Shifting slightly to line up the barrel, the birds caught sight of the movement. Now they were all staring.

I felt like a discovered burgler. My head was spinning. It was all up to Mason. I waited and watched the barrel make circles around the gobbler’s head. Now the strutting bird turned and began to slowly move off – floating away. I felt helpless.

I didn’t want to put pressure on Mason, so I said nothing. Then, just as it appeared he was about to pull the trigger, the big bird stopped directly in front of two jakes. I’d seen this before and I didn’t want three turkeys dropping at once.

“Wait,” I whispered. “Three are lined up.”

Mason must have got the message, because he held off – impressive.

As the birds moved apart, still at 25 yards I said, “OK, now.”

Watching the circling barrel, I wished for a dead bird. The little 20 gauge popped and the gobblers walked away. I could see no obvious damage.

I was dizzy and disoriented, I could have thrown up.

It was a wonderful, but painful.

That wasn’t everything that took place on Monday. We tried again after lunch and had another close call, but Mason didn’t take home a turkey.

We all experienced a bunch of the good stuff that comes with hunting and it will be with us for a while. For me, it was one of my most exciting hunts ever.