Editor’s Note: The sport of turkey hunting will continue if each of us dedicates ourselves to teaching the next generation (including our children and our grandchildren). Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, vice president of Mossy Oak Television and Video Production, says, “Turkey hunting trips with my grandchildren are some of my best turkey hunts ever.” To understand why, we asked Cuz to tell us all how he’s training his grandchildren to turkey hunt. Cuz always has been a turkey hunter and has hunted the birds for 45 years. He also has filmed turkey hunts for Will Primos and the “Truth Series of Turkey Hunting” videos. When Cuz came to work for Mossy Oak, he filmed television and video shows for Mossy Oak, he did much of the calling, scouting and setting-up for the people in the videos, and he guided customers and the press to turkeys. Cuz may have hunted and called in more turkeys than anyone else ever.
One of the first things I do before I go hunting with my grandchildren is make sure they: have camo pants and shirts that fit them; have a quality pair of comfortable boots; look at themselves in the mirror and know they look good, like a turkey hunter should; and have guns that fit them. Youngsters want to have everything you have, so I always make sure I have a gun that will fit them. One time I bought a .410 shotgun from a pawn shop. I took that gun to a gunsmith and had him cut off the stock and the barrel to make it easier and lighter for a youngster to maneuver. As I remember, we cut about 4” off the barrel and about 2-3” off the stock. Then I had the receiver drilled, tapped and mounted with a base and rings and bought a 2X scope to mount on top of the gun. I had the gunsmith put an extra-full turkey choke on the end of the barrel. I probably didn’t spend $200 to get that little .410 tricked out, but I learned that gun was priceless. My grandchildren fit that gun and could practice targets and shooting without much of a recoil as they got ready to turkey hunt.
As they grew bigger, I decided to buy a youth model 20 gauge turkey shotgun and match that gun up with dove loads in either No.7-1/2 or No. 8 shot shotgun shells. Once again I had an extra-full choke put on the end of the barrel, because I didn’t want my grandchildren to shoot at a turkey out at 30 to 40 yards.
One important key in teaching a youngster to shoot and hunt is that you don’t want them to become scared at the sound of the shotgun firing. You don’t want them to shoot a shotgun with a heavy recoil. Now before we go hunting, I decide that I’m not going to let the youngster take a shot at more than 20-25 yards; and I know they can harvest a turkey with a dove load 20 gauge shell and an extra-full turkey choke. After a youngster shoots his first turkey, he or she will forget all about the sound of the gun, and whether it kicks or not. Too, you know you always won’t get a turkey to come to within 20-25 yards, and turkey hunting helps teach a life lesson.