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.
I always plan to hunt when I know the weather will be warm, and the children won’t get cold or wet. Today youngsters have so many video games, iPads, ball sports and television shows that you have to convince them that turkey hunting is one of the most-fun things they can do. You want your children or your grandchildren to really, really want to go hunting with you. Now getting the youngsters mentally prepared to go turkey hunting is much easier sometimes than getting Dad’s or Grandad’s mind right to go hunting, especially if the adults are avid turkey hunters.
If you’ve been turkey hunting for several years, you know how tense and excited you can get when you hear a turkey gobble, drum and strut; most of the time you have to do everything right to bag that gobbler. You know how upset you get if you make a mistake and spook the gobbler - or shoot and miss the gobbler. Therefore talk to yourself, and convince yourself that this turkey hunt will be different from any other hunt you’ve been on, and realize the youngster may sneeze, cough, fall asleep, spook the turkey or miss the turkey. Then when he or she does, you’ve prepared yourself not to be as upset as you will be if you’ve made that same mistake.
Don’t forget, this hunt is not about you and the turkey. This hunt is about the youngster and making sure he or she has a good time and wants to go turkey hunting with you again after the hunt ends, regardless of what happens while you’re trying to help the youngster take a gobbler. I believe that after a turkey hunter bags three gobblers, you’ll have a hard time teaching that hunter anything. Everything about your hunting routine will have to change drastically from the way you generally hunt to how you’ll hunt with your children and/or grandchildren. I can guarantee you there will be more noise than you usually make, you’re won’t be able to move as much when the turkey is fairly close, and you’ll have to take a blind with you or build a blind from natural foliage before you start to call to the turkeys.
Remember that you’ve invited the youngster to hunt with you. Since you’re won’t be able to crawl or move as quietly as you usually will when hunting by yourself or hunting with another veteran hunter, you have to mentally become a teacher instead of a hunter. Realize too you’ll be talking and whispering more than you do normally. For instance, when you hear that first red bird sing in the morning, you’ll probably tell the youngster, “That’s a red bird. He’s the first critter to wake up in the woods and let the other birds and animals know it’s almost time for them to wake up, too. Also, that red bird wants to get his breakfast first, because he or she spends more time on the nest than all the other birds do.” Then when you hear a crow call, you may whisper, “That’s the scout crow; he goes out looking for danger ahead of all the other crows.”