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2018 Indiana Youth – First Time Turkey Hunter

There are daddy’s girls, and then there is my Morgan. Mo, as I affectionately refer to her, is a daddy’s girl to her core. Not everyone in her life is as thrilled about this fact as I am, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. However, there are times it is hard to tell the difference between what she likes because she likes it and what she likes because I like it. So, going into the 2018 Turkey Season, there was a small part of me that feared her desire to hunt was just part of the “going along with daddy” act. However, in the weeks leading up to the 2018 Indiana youth turkey opener, she showed more than enough enthusiasm for me to suspect her excitement was all of her own accord. Regardless, she wanted to give it a try, and I was more than happy to make that happen.

We started our preparations by getting her comfortable shooting a cross-bow. She wanted to take on archery tackle right off the bat, which I admired, but she wasn’t quite ready for that challenge. Instead, we found a happy compromise and got her set up with my dad’s old Stryker Katana. She took to it quickly, and in no time, she was shooting lights out. Next, it was time to start discussing shot placement. I used my wife’s Cricut Explore Air 2 to cut out a decal of the Stryker’s scope reticle and put it on a clear piece of plastic. This setup allowed me to give her real-time feedback as she “aimed” at turkey photos that we had downloaded online in hopes to put a clean and ethical kill shot on it. I was quite impressed with how quickly she caught on, and I had all the confidence in the world she was ready to take her practice in to the field. Fast forward a few weeks, and opening day of the 2018 Indiana Youth Turkey Season was upon us!

Our hunt started out as usual, an early morning with a lot of griping and complaining about how tired we were. Neither Morgan or I are much of morning people, though the allure of strutting toms did negate some of our fatigue. We got ready as quick as possible, and after my Dad wished us good luck, we made our way out to the blind. What was so special to me about this hunt was not that Morgan was excited to shoot a turkey, it was how excited she was to participate with all the preparation. I could tell that she really wanted to understand what we were doing and why we were doing it. She helped me set out the DSD spread. She helped me set up the camera gear. She even wanted to be prepared and know what to do in the event the turkeys gobbled too much?!? The latter, I simply explained, would never be a problem! In reply, she showed a toothy grin and shrugged her shoulders as if to say my answer was good enough.

Once we got settled, the waiting game began. Like most mornings at my dad’s farm, the birds were pretty quiet. They don’t gobble much on the roost for one reason or another, so we did not let that get us discouraged. However, the slow activity of the morning did remind Morgan how sleepy she was. I told her it was time I teach her my super-secret turkey killing tactic. We pulled our chairs close together, and we got huddled up under a blanket in an effort to fend off the early morning chill. Morgan dozed off, but it wasn’t long before a single gobble ended the silence. Morgan looked up at me with wide eyes! We did a quick in-blind shuffle to make sure we were ready to go in case this bird materialized, and then I let out a few soft yelps. I explained to Morgan that a quick reply would be indicative of a tom looking for love. Sure enough, I had barely let out the last note from my diaphragm call when two gobbles came back in quick succession. I turned to Morgan and told her to get ready. The smile she produced was all I could have hoped for. I did my best to start coaching her through the encounter I envisioned, but it became quickly apparent she was calmer than I was. So instead, I just offered her a few quick words of encouragement and turned my gaze to the field before us.

A few moments later, I let out another series of soft yelps, and a thunderous gobble came in reply, no more than 80 yards away. He was close! 30 seconds later, I saw him slipping through the timber about to enter the field. “There he is”, I told her, pointing to the bird about 60 yards away. But, at her Angle, she couldn’t quite see him. I sat patiently, waiting for him to start moving forward, suddenly Morgan exclaimed, “I see him!” For a moment, I was surprised, the bird had not moved since I first saw him, but then I saw it…another tom in full strut approaching just to his right. I gave her a nudge, “There’s two of them Morgan!” If she wasn’t excited before, she was excited then.

Both birds entered the field about 10 yards apart from one another. I told Morgan to get her cross-bow ready as it became very evident by their posture these birds were coming to the decoy spread. As they made their way towards us, the second bird began strutting. I could not have asked for a better encounter on Morgan’s first hunt. My heart started racing, again, I started running through all of the preparation we had done. I had her ready for this, I knew she could do it. I gently patted her back, “stay calm, you got this!” I wasn’t sure if I was telling her or myself, but either way, she listened. I instructed her to go ahead and look through her scope and find the birds. She said she could not see the toms, but she could see the “fake turkey”. That was great, I told her to keep her scope on the DSD Jake, I knew that any second, the birds were going to pop into her view. “OH MY GOSH DAD, I…GOT…THEM!” I took my eye off the camera for a minute and asked if she could see the bird on the right, as soon as she said yes, I clicked off the safety on her cross-bow. I could tell by the way she was acting, she was ready to go. She was calm, and composed. I was a little shocked, but also relieved! I looked back at my camera LCD to make sure I had both toms in view. “Ok babe, aim just under his red waddles and shoot him when you are ready”. By now, both birds were standing so close to each other they were touching. Morgan quietly asked me if the safety was off. Good girl, I thought to myself, she knew exactly what she was doing! “Yes,” I replied, “whenever you are ready.” I stared for what seemed like an eternity at that tom on the right through my LCD when all of a sudden, her bolt slammed home just below the waddles. He collapsed backward and the second bird jumped on him immediately.

“I killed a turkey!” Morgan’s voice was half yell have squeak! I was beside myself with excitement! I didn’t know if I should shout, or cry, or hug her! I settled on the latter, and the celebration began. In all my years hunting, I have never been so nervous, or so happy with the outcome of a hunt. We had worked so diligently at preparing her for this opportunity, and all the hard work had just paid off. We sat in the blind for several minutes, as the second tom showed no sign of wanting to leave. He strutted around, gobbling and drumming endlessly. It just added to the experience and put an exclamation point on an already awesome hunt. We let him do his thing for a few minutes, but we couldn’t wait any longer. I texted my dad and told him to head our way. And as soon as we heard the side by side approaching out location, we bailed out of the blind and walked over to meet dad and have a look at Morgan’s first tom. Judging by the spurs, he was only 2 years old, but WOW what a beard. I have killed a lot of turkeys since I started my hunting career, but only 2 of them have had beards as long, but not a single one has been so thick. Morgan took little time to ramp up her bragging game. But at 11 ½ inches, and thick enough to serve as a Wooster paint brush, her turkey’s beard was certainly brag worthy.

There is a lot of turkey hunting left to be done this spring, but I can tell you with a certainty, if I don’t see another tom all spring, my season will be the best I’ve ever had. There is nothing that can top the joy of sharing a first hunt with a child. Now, I can’t wait for Morgan’s little brothers to be ready for their first.

Morgan’s Gear:

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