When I became a father for the first time, I rationalized it was my moral obligation to make my daughter a turkey hunter. I arranged a father/daughter spring trip to the “Six”, my friend Chucks property. Emma was 7 at the time. In preparation the night before, I had packed my Primos portable blind, chairs, and small NWTF cooler with drinks and snacks. My wife made sure Emma’s hunting trip also included a fleece blanket, her Nintendo DS, and a stuffed animal; all in her Spongebob backpack. We departed our home at 4:15. Upon arrival at 5:25 and with sunrise rapidly approaching, I realized I might be in trouble. Numerous items to carry in, and numerous tasks to setup for a hunt with a small child in tow. With a “horn of plenty and a half” of equipment to haul, and, guiding a 7 year for the first time in the dark by holding her soft delicate hand, this might be challenging. Somehow I was able to transport this mass of impediment, including child, over the scant 300 yards we had to walk from the barn. It wasn’t easy. I heard the first gobble at 5:45 as I was setting up our blind. I was selfishly wishing the seven year old and her supplies had stayed home. Peace, tranquility and rapid mobility were a mile out reach. Once all setup, however, all inconvenience was forgotten I thought. Emma was settled in with her blanket, drink, donuts, and Nintendo. As the morning gobbling session played out, I would tell Emma that there was a boy turkey gobbling and pointed in the direction. She smiled and asked when he was coming…I said soon. At 6:45 a single gobbler presented himself 150 yards across an open field. I yelped, he gobbled on the ground, then proceeded to strut for my hen decoy, but not budging an inch. I told her repeatedly that she needed to be quiet and sit still, more for practice than anything. I gave my binoculars to Emma several times so she could see the turkey better. Well by 8:30 a.m., the gobbler had long since presented himself on a tree stump and kept strutting. I heard the first “I am bored and want to go home”. I knew this statement was coming, but was in a state of denial. The child had become restless, talkative, and bored. I wanted a shot at this turkey. By 9:00 a.m., it became apparent. It was time to quit. Defeated, I gathered my horn and a half of plenty and broken pride which weighed nearly as much, and headed to Chuck’s house. Emma and Chuck’s daughter met and hit it off. That was good to see. This day was nearly five years ago. Ever year I ask Emma if she wants to turkey hunt with me. She smiles, and says no. I will keep asking, but realize it may never happen.
So what are the lessons out of this first turkey hunt with a kid? Be prepared. Obviously having equipment to make the hunt comfortable for the kid is important. A blind and chairs is almost a given. A child simply can’t hold still for more than a minute or two at a time, and their attention span isn’t much longer. As much as I hate to admit it, allow the kid to bring an electronic device, game, book, or whatever to enjoy themselves. When the child fidgets or talks, try not to over correct a lot and do so in a cheerful manner. Remember you are her dad and father figure first, and turkey hunter second. Put those selfish tendencies on the back burner. We hunters simply can’t drill Sargent kids into hunting and outdoor adventure. That will turn them into non-hunters. Give it time…..keep asking….find something else the child might like. Fishing seems to be Emma’s potential outdoor interest. Luckily my mother has a small pond we can catfish in. A few weeks Emma caught a nice bluegill and channel catfish. Her brother and sister also caught fish. Besides hooking fish, the child may get hooked on the outdoors…for life! That is the goal.
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God’s Blessing this Independence Day!