DJ Randolph | Mossy Oak Regional ProStaff Manager
As I’ve mentioned in my other “Pass It On” articles, sharing time in the field with new hunters is a very rewarding experience. It’s a time to share your love and knowledge of the outdoors with them and make some wonderful memories in the process.
However, there will come a time when you have to let them step out on their own. I think this is best done in controlled circumstances that give them some freedom but also is safe and not beyond their current skills.
I usually will setup a blind for the novice hunter and then go hunt a short distance away myself, usually not far out of sight. They are comfortable knowing that you are nearby but they also get the experience of being on their own. Nature seems like a completely different place when you are on your own. The sights and sounds are much more intense. You become much more aware of your surroundings. These experiences really build their pride and self confidence without ever putting them in danger.
A few things to go over with them before their solo adventure:
- Do they have proper clothes with them?
- Do they have water and a snack?
- Do they have the proper licenses and tags?
- Make sure they know where you will be located and when you plan on coming back for them.
- Go over what they should do if they shoot something. Wait a certain amount of time, call or text to come get you.
Last fall, I decided it was time to give my 12-year-old, Matt, a little freedom. I had been with him as he had killed 5 turkeys and 2 deer. We had spent many hours in the field and I thought he was ready. There was a flock of turkeys coming to my corn plot every morning. So, at daybreak, I took him down to a blind and got him setup. Even though I knew he was ready, it was hard to leave him there and walk away. I had been gone less than an hour and I got the phone call that his sixth turkey was on the ground. Seeing how proud he was to have done it himself was awesome. We had a great photo session as he told me the story of the flock coming in and waiting for one to separate off so he could get a clean shot.
This spring, it was time for the next lesson in the life of a young turkey hunter. I got a box of Avian-X decoys and Zink calls in the mail. We immediately put in the instructional DVD and started practicing calls. If there was one he didn’t get, we backed up and went through it again. He had seen me do this many times so he caught on really fast. As the weeks went by, occasionally we would hear him in his room practicing. With busy schedules and sports, finding the time to get out was a challenge but finally a perfect evening came together.
My 15-year-old daughter, Mariah, had never killed a turkey before. Her little brother was much more excited about getting her one than getting one himself. I decided that I would let the two of them try this without me. We setup a blind in a travel area along the river. We set out two sets of decoys on either side of the blind. Then, after some encouraging words and safety reminders, I went to scout another area. A few hours later I get the text “I got one!”
By the time I got back to the house, my wife had already gone to take pictures and pick them up on the ATV. It was incredible hearing the two of them tell the story. Matt said that he called several times and finally the turkey surprised them with a gobble from about 60 yards behind them. They got setup and he started some light calling. The jake answered several times and finally came into the decoys in full strut. He then told Mariah to take him and she put her first turkey on the ground.
Only once in a lifetime does the brother get to call in his first turkey and only once in a lifetime does the sister get to kill her first turkey. This night they got to share that experience. These are the memories that the outdoors provide us with.
When we pass our outdoor heritage on to the next generation of hunter, we give them a gift. It is the gift of memories we share together and the gift of anticipation of the experiences to come. In return, we get to see the pride on their faces and hear the excitement in their voice. We feel the pride of knowing that the traditions that are a part of us are now part of someone else. We know that we have left the future in good hands. And if we are really lucky, some day when we are a little older and a little slower, they might just take us out hunting.