"Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them" — Bruce Lee
I don't have any problem admitting I have made a lot of mistakes. My faults and vices are legion (that means I have a lot of them), and for some reason I don't have any problem confessing it to you. Maybe it is because I figure all of my shortcomings are so obvious to everyone, it's just better for me to go ahead and come clean about it.
The mistakes I am talking about have spilled into all parts of my life, including turkey hunting. If you have been reading these pages and paying any attention, you may have picked up on the fact that turkey hunting has been a part of my life for the past 40 or so years. I'm not really sure if that is good or bad.
While I am in the confessional here, I want to fully admit that when I introduced my son to turkey hunting, I did almost everything wrong. This was a few years ago, and it's probably true I hunted turkeys with a fervor akin to a crazed weasel. I was out of bed while the chickens were still snoring; in the woods in the dark; taking long, strenuous hikes; and spending lots of time sitting at the base of a tree while moving nothing but my eyeballs.
Sounds like a lot of fun doesn't it? Yeah, I know — my son didn't think so, either.
So to help some of you who will be taking young hunters to the turkey woods — and maybe to atone for some of my past sins — I have put together some tips for introducing kids to turkey hunting.
If you decide not to follow this advice, you do so at your own peril. Believe me, I wish someone would have told me some of this back then, assuming I would have listened.
Rule No. 1: It has to be fun. Newsflash: Kids may not see everything the way you do.
If you are a rabid turkey hunter, you are going to have to learn to chill a little. The young hunter you are guiding may not have the desire to become the super ninja turkey hunter you are, or at least not yet. Relax, take it easy and think about how to make this an experience the young hunter will want to repeat.
Is it really necessary to jog up the next ridge just so you can listen on the other side? If the turkeys are shut down for a while and not saying anything, maybe you just want to look for morel mushrooms and deer antlers sheds or take a nap! Ask the young man or lady what he or she would like to do.
Remember, this is supposed to be fun. You do remember when hunting was fun, don't you?
Rule No. 2: Let them be part of the hunt. Kids (and all beginning hunters) want to be part of and participate in the hunt. Too often, many of us know-it-all hunters want to do everything for the beginner.
Give him a box call or a slate call, teach him how to use it and let him be a part of the process.
It's not hard to learn a simple yelp on a friction call. If you let the new hunter call to a gobbling turkey and the bird answers, your hunting partner will be thrilled. Now I know what you turkey professors out there are thinking — you only trust your wonderful calling to bring in a gobbler. Sorry to burst your bubble, but turkeys often sound pretty lousy themselves, so a simple yelp from a kid on a slate call may bring him strutting right down the gun barrel.
The new hunter would rather do some of it on his own at the risk of making mistakes than have you do it all for him.
Rule No. 3: They don't have to suffer. This is not about being tough. You are not as tough as a wild turkey on your best day, so we don't have to prove anything here.
Plan a little ahead of time and bring some things so the young hunter will be comfortable in the woods. Let him bring a small day pack or stow these things in his turkey vest if he has one. Cookies, crackers or whatever they like for a snack is absolutely necessary. You get hungry, don't you? And if it gets cool, an extra pair of gloves or another jacket might be good.
I have mixed feelings on this next thought. You will have to decide if you want your young charges to bring their electronic devices to the woods. But if you are going to spend a lot of time in a ground-blind situation, simply watching for a gobbler to show up, you may want to let them play a game or be on a smartphone. I'll leave this up to you.
Rule No. 4: Use equipment to make things a little easier. Again, we are here to have fun and have a good experience, so what can we do to make this happen? For starters, don't saddle a 10-year-old kid with a 12-gauge shotgun some NFL linebackers might be leery of shooting.
Invest in a 20-gauge turkey gun and look at some of your ammo options. If your young hunter is big enough to handle a 12-gauge, you may want to look at a 2 3/4-inch shell such as the Federal Ammunition Heavyweight line (federalpremium.com). They are available in No. 7 shot — and are also available for 20-gauge shotguns — and I have found them to be very deadly.
You don't have to arm yourself with a nuclear shotgun capable of taking turkeys out at 65 yards. You may want to set your limit at 25 to 30 yards to start with.
A ground blind (primos.com) makes it easier for a young hunter to sit and watch and not worry so much about moving and fidgeting. Turkey decoys (hunterspec.com) are a good bet to keep the gobbler distracted so the novice hunter can get lined up on him a little easier.
This may not cover everything, but hopefully it will help you and your youngsters.
And maybe my son can forgive me for some of those days I wore him out in the turkey woods. I hope.
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.