Into the Fold

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

he will center the silhouette.

Point out how many pellets hit the vital areas. Praise your child, and then put the shotgun away. Too much target practice with the shotgun, even with light loads, will lead to discomfort and flinching problems. Save the three-inch magnum shells for actual hunting. In the excitement of shooting at a wild turkey, your child won't notice the heavier recoil.

Hunter safety class comes next. For a kid, this is a big deal and involves lots of effort-and some worry. Hearts pound in little chests when those exams are handed out. With this important step completed, a gift to commemorate the achievement is in order. Consider something like a folding hunting knife with your child's initials engraved in the blade. Such a present will be a lifetime keepsake.

A couple weeks before the season, rent a few turkey-hunting videos. Watch them with your young turkey hunter. When the camera zooms in on the approaching turkey, have your child look carefully to see the turkey as soon as it is in view. This practice will help your child gain skill at spotting approaching turkeys. As the turkey closes in, have your child point to where he or she would aim at the bird. This will help train your child to concentrate on and aim at the wattles.

Your child is now ready for opening day. Locate a good turkey hunting spot and spend time scouting. If your child's first hunt is during the spring season, find a place where you typically hear several gobblers on a given morning. If your youngster's first hunt is during fall, scatter a flock of young turkeys shortly after they have flown to roost in the evening, and then return to that spot in the morning. Eager to get back together, young birds typically come to calls quickly.

While turkey hunting with your child, never forget what would have made the hunt fun for you as a child, as well as what might have spoiled it. For example, don't drag a kid out in bad weather, don't make him sit in one spot for too long, and don't walk him until he's breathing hard and flush-faced. To keep the hunt enjoyable, let the child set the walking pace.

Use a day-bag to bring along snacks and something to drink. Comfort is important, so bring a cushion for your child to sit on when you set up to work a turkey. Also, keep the duration of the hunt in line with a child's interests. An hour and a half is a solid hunt for most kids.

If a shooting opportunity develops, be conservative. Get a bird in close and in the clear for the best chance of a clean, one-shot kill. Sometimes, regardless of all efforts, a child will miss his first turkey. If this happens, your child will be disappointed, but make the best of it. Focus on what went right during the hunt. Tell your youngster that it was a major feat for him to sit still enough for a turkey to work its way into shotgun range. Praise him for that achievement. Share a story or two about turkeys you missed. Tell your child how proud you are of his efforts.

If your child kills a turkey, celebrate! Carefully lay that empty shotgun aside, then whoop and holler, high-five and jump around. This is a big moment in your child's life, so liven it up! Take lots of photographs and make copies for the grandparents. Call friends and relatives. Brag about your child's accomplishment. Invite family over for dinner when you cook the bird.

A kid's first turkey is a major event, one he or she will enjoy remembering for a lifetime, as will you.

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