Editor’s Note: The greatest trophies a turkey hunter ever can take won’t be mounted on the wall, kept in a shoe box or put on display for all to see. The greatest trophy that a turkey hunter ever has is the memory of teaching others how to hunt and take turkeys. Philip Mailhiot of Westminster, Massachusetts, a Mossy Oak pro for 6 years, was the first person to ever be awarded the title of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Mentor of the Year. Mailhiot serves on the Massachusetts State Board of the NWTF and holds several positions with the Central Massachusetts Chapter, including committee member, JAKES coordinator and Education Director. According to the NWTF, Mailhiot is a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman who is so passionate about his turkey hunting lifestyle that he makes it a priority to share it with others. Prior to the spring turkey season, he coordinates and teaches numerous hunting-education and turkey-calling programs and spends the majority of his hunting season each year mentoring new hunters - both youth and adults.
I’ve mentioned earlier this week that one of the biggest reasons most turkey hunters don’t teach others to hunt turkeys is that they're afraid the people they’ve taught how to turkey hunt will go onto that same property and try to take the same turkey they’ve planned to take. However, this is the reason I hunt public lands, primarily state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). When I find a turkey and start working that bird, if I'm mentoring a new hunter, my philosophy is that location where I’ve found that turkey is not my spot, but rather it’s “our spot.” If I come back several days later, and the truck of the person I’ve mentored is where I want to park my truck, I just go and hunt another turkey.
I know my family isn’t going to starve, if I don’t take a turkey every day I go turkey hunting. I don’t have to take home a beard and spurs every time I go turkey hunting. For me, the sport of turkey hunting is hunting the turkey –locating him, calling him and getting him within gun range;or, finding him, teaching someone how to call him and letting him or her get the bird within gun range. When a gobbler is at 30 yards or less, who pulls the trigger really doesn’t matter to me.
For the most part, men don’t mind teaching children to turkey hunt, because more than likely, they'll never return to the same spot where we’ve heard a turkey gobble.We don’t mind teaching women to turkey hunt, because they're much more hesitant to go and hunt the turkey you’ve showed them. Women are much-more sensitive and don’t want to hurt their mentors’ feelings by shooting the gobbler he’s found for them. But with men, it’s all about taking the bird. A man is much more likely to have his own truck and go to that same spot in the woods where you’ve showed them a turkey. But so what. You’ve helped make that person become a successful turkey hunter. If you only have one turkey to hunt, then you haven’t done a very-good job of scouting before and during the season in the past 2 years.
I've harvested nine turkeys, and I’ve only pulled the trigger once. All the other turkeys I've harvested, the trigger has been squeezed by the person I was mentoring. Those eight trophies (the person I've mentored taking their first gobbler) are far more rewarding and are better trophies to me than the beard and spurs I took from the one gobbler I shot. So, I really don’t mind helping another hunter find a turkey to hunt. If they take that turkey that I’ve taken him/her to, we’ve bagged a gobbler. Having created a new turkey hunter is a much-greater trophy to me than a mounted bird, beard and spurs. This is the way I calculate what a turkey hunting trophy is for me.
Mossy Oak is the official camouflage of the NWTF.