Let me back up. I had this dream back on Nov. 14, 2007—the day my son was born. I committed to never pressure any of my children into hunting or fishing. I realize the intensity I have for both pursuits is not a regular occurrence, and the last thing I want to do is make them hate something I'm passionate about.
Last spring, while we still lived in western Iowa, I took my son, Tommy, out a few times during Iowa's spring youth season, but I couldn't produce a bird for him. He enjoyed himself, as did I, but I still wanted him to experience why we were out there…
After we moved to Minnesota, those hopes began to fade as I couldn't locate a spring turkey season that allowed kids under the age of 12 to get out. Thankfully, someone sent me a link where Minnesota makes it possible for a kid of that age to hunt with a licensed adult—for free!
Being new to the state, I really didn't have a place to start, but I recalled a good friend of mine, Ross, often talked about a fair number of birds he saw around his place. Being a professional walleye angler, he rarely had time in the spring to hunt these birds, and he invited me to bring my son down.
My 6-year-old son Tommy sent a few boxes of shells through his Mossberg Youth 20 gauge getting ready for this year's spring turkey season.
I was all over it!
My son is 6 years old. Yes, he's young, but we have spent a tremendous amount of time practicing with his shotgun and going over—time and time again—gun safety and awareness. I'm more confident in his ability to correctly handle and control his shotgun than I am with many adults. In short, he was more than ready to shoot a bird—it was up to me to get one in front of him.
The IC2 Co-Witness offers young hunters and mentors a chance to become more confident with target control and shooting form. Plus, it helps increase success rates that encourage new hunters to return to the sport again.
Sidenote: For kids in this day and age to successfully contract the fishing or hunting bug, they need to experience success early on in their pursuit. There are tools out there that can—and do—provide an advantage during the learning phase of their development.
In the process of getting Tommy set up, I learned about a product I'd like to recommend. The IC2 Co-Witness is a "scope adapter" that attaches via a third scope ring and positions an additional scope(red-dot is my preference) at an angle that allows the mentor to make sure the young hunter is on target. The shot is still completely up to the young person, but this just adds confidence and a little bit of shot-placement assurance. Check it out—I think you'll love it!
Back to the hunt. On our drive down to Ross', we passed a field a mere 2 miles from his front door. In that field, one strutter and two additional longbeards were working a few ladies as they headed to roost with only a few minutes of daylight remaining. I remember thinking: "It would be nice to hunt that spot in the morning; surely they'll be back out there right away."
After explaining the location of those birds, Ross smiled and told me he'd just received permission for us to be out in that very spot first thing in the morning. I was elated! With soaring confidence, I knew something special was about to happen.
Tommy and I were in the blind by 5 a.m. the following morning, and the mud was amazing. I've hunted in some "sticky" situations before, but this mud was nothing short of epic.
Typically, I'd set the blind out in the middle of the field, which is precisely where I expected the turkeys to eventually end up, but that was just impossible. So, we backed into the timber's edge and popped the blind up with a front row seat to the day's sunrise. It's not a good practice if you're trying to avoid being illuminated by the bright morning sun, but we proceeded—confidence still high.
By the time I had the DSD Jake placed, the first bird sounded off. At first I was a little surprised because he wasn't anywhere near where the birds I watched the night before were headed. In fact, he was in the opposite direction. But, I knew we were still in the right position.
Let It Commence
After 5 solid days of rain, the birds were ready to do some singing, and sing they did! The group of birds I had seen the evening before was roosted behind me with some hens, and the first bird that gobbled was in front of us, gobbling his fool head off. Every 20 seconds he'd gobble—it was incredible and my boy was eating it up!
With legal shooting time beginning at 5:33 a.m., I knew we had time, but the bird in front of us, obviously a little put out that his hens roosted with the other three gobblers, wasn't about to waste an opportunity to get with a few that were down early and calling—which was us!
With the camera rolling, he hit the ground at 5:35 a.m. and began putting on an amazing pre-sunrise display that had us both in awe. He pirouetted, gobbled and strutted in our direction as if he'd read the script. I had Tommy on my knee, the shotgun on the monopod and we patiently waited for what seemed like a slam-dunk. It was simply beautiful.
As the bird neared his final few steps, Tommy positioned the crosshairs on the bird's waddles and squeezed the trigger. The gobbler's head snapped backward and he began the upside-down bicycle routine, which made it clear that my son had succeeded. Tears dripped from the end of my nose across a gleaming smile as he feverishly celebrated his triumph. We did it, and it was 5:48 a.m.
Passing The Torch
Tommy was able to shoot his first turkey by 5:48 a.m. It was a hunt that neither father nor son will soon forget. The Author managed to capture the entire hunt on film so they can relive the event for years to come.
I have not experienced a greater pride thus far in my fatherhood. Tommy's excitement told me that the illness had been successfully transmitted—he was "ate-up" with it!
After our celebration, he spent a few minutes examining the dead bird, as any curious little boy would, checking each feather, spreading its beak and pulling the tongue out as I packed up the blind, chairs, dekes and other assorted gear. I literally couldn't stop my saturated corneas from wetting my cheeks, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. My dreams had come true, but in the midst of that I realized this was his time in the sun—not mine—but I was still grateful. My son was a real turkey hunter, as he so eagerly pointed out.
I know he'll want to go next year, as will his younger sister, but you won't hear me complain about that at all. I've been blessed with a truckload of turkeys over my 15-year career, but this one takes the cake and I can't wait to see him shoot another.
Don't Let It Pass You By
Sharing the woods or water with a loved one is simply infectious, and I just can't get enough. Torch successfully passed? You bet. Get your kids outside to experience the annual spring serenade—it's charming. And, don't wait until next year or the year after that; life offers no guarantees. Take advantage of each day we are blessed with, especially with those little versions of us who will eventually be the recipients of our outdoor heritage.
Caption: Tommy's bird ended up weighing 22 pounds and carried a 10-inch beard and 1-1/8-inch spurs. A great bird for a seasoned hunter, let alone a young gun!