Appealing to youth

April 6, 2010

Faith Outdoors

The wild turkey hunting season for me kicks off this Saturday. More accurately, it kicks off for my son, William, who recently turned 12 and is going on his first turkey hunt — and his first hunt, period. He will hunt in Wisconsin Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday during the state’s youth hunting weekend. I will serve as his guide, which means I’ll have the fun of, hopefully, calling in a gobbler for him.

For several years, Wisconsin has been offering special youth hunting weekends for both turkey and deer. Both take place before the regular season opens and are for youth only (ages 12-15). Two years ago, my son, Andy, took part in both and was fortunate enough to harvest both a turkey and a deer.

And, it come at a reasonable cost. For just $77, you can buy a junior conservation patron license good for both spring and fall turkey and deer, both archery and gun, not to mention the aforementioned youth hunting weekends.

It’s well worth the money for me. I’m very happy to see states like Wisconsin targeting youth (pardon the pun) for involvement in hunting. As I have learned with my oldest son, Joe, now 18, you have a very brief window of a few years to recruit kids into the sport. If you don’t take advantage of it during their teenage years, they may never take a firearm into the field.

I’m happy to say that both of my oldest boys are still hunting and enjoying it very much. And, William said he is excited to go on his first turkey hunt. We did a little practice shooting recently and I’m going to take him out one more time before Saturday.

I came up with a little target-shooting trick that seems to be working for him, and may work for other kids. A few years ago, I heard someone suggest that, when you’re taking a youth out shooting, be creative with the kinds of targets you use. Standard paper targets with a bullseye are OK, but kids may enjoy things like balloons even more.

I thought of using a pop can. It’s big enough for most kids to hit, it’s easy to see and you can tell where the pellets hit. Plus, it’s about the same size as a turkey’s head and neck. So, if someone can hit a pop can, they can kill a turkey.

I was encouraged that William was able to hit the can all three times he tried from about 15 yards. That does a world of good for his confidence. I bought a box of target loads and we’re going to go back out to do it again. We’re going to use the target loads instead of the turkey loads for two reasons: 1. They’re much cheaper, and, 2. They are lower in recoil.

This is a great year to go on the youth hunt. The weather has been unseasonably warm and will continue that way at least through the weekend. That always makes the birds more active, so I’m optimistic we’ll at least hear toms gobbling in the morning. Hopefully, we’ll see the birds as well as hear them.

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek