Youth turkey hunts, taking place soon, are designed to give young hunters a chance to get out and enjoy one of the most exciting events for hunters across the nation. The gobbling of a big old Tom turkey rocks the woods from the lowest valley to the highest ridge. The faint sound of a far-off bird or that big unseen Tom coming in to your calls gobbles so loudly that trees shake. Shivers shoot up your back. Youth hunts are also meant to bring kids into the hunter fraternity.
Hunting and its fraternity were and are still a way to put food on the table, begun by our earliest settlers, through the growth of our family farms until today. It’s a rite of passage to be able to carry a gun and follow a father, mother, older brother, sister or grandparent into the woods. Today’s single families with time and financial constraint struggle to meet today’s kids’ real needs. Instead, electronic games and television stunt kids’ brains and overly organized youth sports leave many kids over-controlled, unable to communicate with peers or family, evidenced by them walking city streets with their eyes glued to their phones.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children under 2 should not watch any TV at all and children older should be limited to no more than two hours a day. Studies at the University of Washington have shown that a child watching too much TV show more aggression at home and in school. Even educational TV does not make them smarter. A recent University of Texas study observed that watching too much TV cuts back on reading time, which has long proven to accelerate learning skills.
So, what can you gain on a youth turkey hunt besides a turkey dinner? It’s a great way to bond and become closer. From the time you step out of the car in the dark, an outdoor classroom is in session, opening a child’s mind. It starts out with your ears as you hear the environment waking up. Owls are still communicating from their nighttime conversations as they and other predators get a head start on nesting. Cardinals usually begin the bird songs, followed by chickadees, blue jays and crows. Waking hen turkeys will fit in with yelps from their tree roosts. About that time a loud gobbler will announce his presence to the world and any hen in the county.
That first gobble will set off a series of gobbles from the next closest Tom in a tree to others on that ridgeline, on down through the valley and into the distance. I’ve often wondered how long that chain can run when spring gobblers are in the mood as they set up their territories and gather their harems. They are also saying that any other gobbler coming too close will have a fight on their hands.
The spring turkey woods is a classroom alive with new growth, blooming wildflowers, baby animals, rivers flowing, insects hatching and tree buds ready to burst. It’s a classroom that opens minds, asks questions, stimulates thinking, tests skills and causes conversations. It creates concepts, ideas, stirs cognitive growth and provides exercise. It shows us that we are just a piece in the grand scheme of things and not the ones in control.
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org