- Witnessing The Perfect Turkey Hunt | A Successful Turkey Hunting Mentor Story
Witnessing The Perfect Turkey Hunt | A Successful Turkey Hunting Mentor Story
By: Cindy Stites
Everyone has a different idea of what a perfect day in the turkey woods looks like, but there is one day in particular that takes the cake for me, and I wasn’t even the one with the shotgun in my hands.
Anytime you take a new hunter out, there is some pressure on you to make it a good experience, mainly because I think we all secretly hope that they will fall in love with hunting the way we did, and they’ll keep coming back once they do. A good experience certainly doesn’t mean they bag an animal, but rather they have fun, they learn something, and their interest is piqued just enough that they want to give it another go.
It’s no different when that new hunter is your kid, maybe there is even more pressure when it’s your kid because you hope that you will have many more hunts together down the road. So when I took my bonus kiddo, Cianni, who was 10-years-old at the time, out for a morning sit to try for her first turkey, my hopes were high. I had no idea, however, that this hunt would exceed any expectation I may have had when we woke up that Saturday morning of Indiana’s Youth Season.
I had been hearing and seeing some turkeys in my neighbor’s hay field and over in the tall, overgrown grassy field right next to it, leading up to turkey season, but in years past, they always seemed to end up somewhere else when I could actually hunt them. This year felt different; they had been more vocal and I could tell they were close by for the previous few days. Fortunately, they had stuck for youth turkey season this year, so Cianni decided she wanted to go for it.
Just before 8 am we walked southwest from our house, across the hayfield and into the tall grass. There were a few open areas in that field, so we picked one not far from the woods edge to place a couple of decoys, and then we sat down in front of a fat, native juniper tree with the decoys between us and the woodline. I gave Cianni my turkey chair so she could sit comfortably, and I hurriedly set up the short blind in front of us in case Cianni got fidgety and started moving around.
We had birds gobbling from the moment we started across the field from the house, which was exciting for Cianni. Every time she heard a gobble her eyes widened and she stopped in her tracks. Those gobbles continued after we got sat down. It sounded like we were surrounded by turkeys, it seemed like we could hear them from every direction. Come to find out, that was because we WERE surrounded by turkeys.
We had jakes walking along the edge of the hayfield to the north of us, a different set of jakes walking behind us to the east, both groups somewhere around fifty yards away, and then we quickly discovered a group of five toms and three hens to the south of us, or just over Cianni’s left shoulder. It was unlike anything I had ever seen while hunting turkeys. I had been hunting birds for six years and I had never had that kind of luck.
The toms stayed roughly 60 yards to our south for over twenty minutes, strutting and gobbling the entire time. Cianni had been turkey hunting with me and her dad before this sit, but she had never seen a turkey, so this was all new to her. She did an amazing job of sitting still and making very slow and deliberate moves, to watch those birds put on a show. Then, the hens were on the move and we had to get down to business.
The three hens made their way to the woods edge, and within a few seconds, two of the toms and a jake followed. We honestly thought all of them were going to walk straight into our decoys, but just before they got there, they veered off slightly to the west. The hens dipped into the woods and disappeared, although we could still hear them yelping. The three male birds paused for just a moment, and I thought that we may have an opportunity, but they just weren’t in range. They also headed off into the woods after the hens in short order.
I think Cianni and I had both been holding our breath during the entire time the birds were out in front of us, because after we lost sight of them, we both let out an enormous sigh. We looked at each other and just smiled like we couldn’t believe what we had just watched. We had to continue sitting still as could be though, because there were still jakes behind us and somewhere were three more toms.
After about ten minutes, I asked Cianni what she wanted to do. I knew if those toms were henned up, we may not see them again for a while, or at all, and I explained that to her. With her being 10, I never want to force her to stay and hunt if she is done. She quickly reminded me that the year prior, when we were hunting the field across the road from the house, we got up and left, only to have two toms walk right out in front of where we had been sitting, ten minutes later. She said she didn’t want that to happen again. So we stayed put, and I am sure glad we did.
Ironically, it couldn’t have been another ten minutes and I caught a glance of movement just inside the woodsedge. I whispered to Cianni to slowly get the shotgun up on the tripod and aim toward the decoys, because I thought the birds might be coming back out. At least that’s what I hoped was going to happen. Sure enough, the jake and one of the toms made their way out of the woods and straight to our decoys.
The tom went into full strut almost immediately, while the jake wandered around pecking at the ground. We watched the tom for what seemed like forever, waiting for him to give Cianni a shot. She had the shotgun pointed too far to the right and if she had moved it at any time, he would have busted us. She sat frozen. He strutted up to the hen decoy and I had a good feeling that he was going to circle it, so I whispered to Cianni to wait until he turned and his fan hid his line of sight to us before she shifted where she was aiming. And she did just that, cool as a cucumber.
As he circled the decoy, I reminded Cianni to aim just below his head and as soon as he gave her a clear shot to pull the trigger. Again, it felt like an eternity for him to make the turn and face us, but when he did, Cianni made a shot like a pro, and just like that, she had her first turkey.
I have to admit, I think I was more excited than she was, I was jumping up and down and shouting about how proud I was of her, meanwhile she was certain the turkey was going to get up and run away. I assured her that it was most certainly not going anywhere, because she made a perfect shot.
I don’t know that I will ever experience turkey hunt that will top that one. It’s an incredible experience to go out and harvest an animal on your own, it provides a sense of accomplishment and pride I suppose, not to mention meat for your freezer. But for me, there is no better feeling than when you get to bear witness to someone else’s accomplishment in the field. It’s even more special when you get to see someone take their first turkey, or deer, or squirrel, or whatever the animal may be, because that will only ever happen once, and you got the privilege of being there when it did.
But to watch your kiddo do it, well, I don’t think anything can top that.