Skip to main content

Tips I've Learned from Mentoring Turkey Hunters

Mailhiot_day5Editor’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.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I learn as much from mentoring new turkey hunters as I teach. For instance generally, when we’re teaching women to turkey hunt, they're much-more detailed in the questions they ask, and the things they do than men are. I took a lady, Shiloh, out this last fall on a fall turkey hunt. I told her, “We’re going to get the turkeys in really close. When I say, ‘Have you got them?’ that means do you see the turkeys, and are you prepared to take the shot? Then when I say, ‘Shoot,’ you shoot, and I’ll shoot.” 

If you're a seasoned turkey hunter, you know that 90 percent of the time the turkey won’t do what you think they're supposed to do. On this hunt, I looked to my right, and a turkey was walking past us. I looked to my left, and a hen was right in front of us. In the fall of the year in Massachusetts, hunters are allowed to take a hen. So, I whispered, “Shiloh, shoot that hen.” She whispered back, “I can’t shoot that hen, because you didn’t ask me if I was ready to take the shot.” I said, “Shiloh, go ahead, and shoot the bird.” She shot her hen, and when a second hen stuck her head up, I took the second hen. That showed me that Shiloh had paid attention to every word I said, and she wasn’t going to take the shot until I asked her if she had the bird and was ready to shoot. 

With children, I've found that the children pay more attention to me and are more willing to do what I ask them to do than they are with their parents. My kids never listen to me, but they always listen to their uncle. So, I try to be like kids who hunt with their favorite uncle. The one thing I'm conscious of is allowing children to fail. When we’ve got a bird coming in to the call, I’ll say to the youngster, “Don’t move. We've got a turkey coming to us. If you'll sit really still, you'll get the shot.” If the child moves, and the turkey walks away or putts and runs off, he’ll look at me and ask, “What happened?” Then I say, “What did I tell you not to do?” He’ll say, “Oh, yeah, I moved.” Then I say, “That’s the reason the turkey ran off.” I can feel the disappointment,but also I realize that I've taught the child a very-important lesson in turkey hunting.Then I say, “Hey, don’t worry about it. We’ll just go find us another turkey to hunt.” I’ll laugh. That way, I've taught the young hunter a very-important lesson in turkey hunting, but I haven’t made it a big deal. Too, I haven’t really shamed the youngster. This is usually what happens when I'm taking a teenager on his first hunt.With younger children, I’ll usually take a portable blind, and I’ll sit right beside them. I know they’re going to move, and the blind helps to hide their moment.

My son and I went turkey hunting a few years ago. Every time we’d go out, something would happen, and he wouldn’t get to harvest a bird. One time I had left my cell phone ringer on when we had a big gobbler coming.The phone rang, and the gobbler ran. Another time I was sure my son would be able to take the bird that was coming straight to us, but a bobcat spooked the bird before he got within range. Another time we had a gobbler coming in, but I knew he had to be at a dentist appointment that morning.We had to leave before the turkey got within gun range. Anything that could happen to mess up a hunt always happened when I was guiding my son. I took him one morning before school. We had a flock of jakes coming to us, but all of a sudden, they turned and ran away. I knew exactly what had happened. My son had moved. My son looked up at me and said, “Dad, I told you that I was bad luck.” I smiled and said,“No, you’re not bad luck. You just moved when the turkeys were looking at you. You can’t move when turkeys are looking at you.”

Later on in the morning, we found another group of jakes in another location, and they were coming to us. But just before the jakes got within shooting range, I looked to the right of my son, and a big longbeard also was coming to us. I quietly whispered that there was a closer jake off to his right that he needed to go ahead and shoot. I lied and told him the longbeard was a jake, so he wouldn’t get too nervous and miss the bird. When he squeezed the trigger, that longbeard dropped stone cold dead at 20 steps. He was so excited. I told him the same thing I tell all my children when they play hockey. If you don’t learn to lose, you'll never truly understand what a great feeling winning is. 

I've really got some great hunts and seminars lined-up this year. I'm going to Nebraska this season to hunt with a young boy who has cancer. I'm really looking forward to helping him get a bird. I go anywhere I can anytime I can to guide and teach turkey hunting. I used to think that turkey hunting was the greatest sport in the world, and I still believe that, but I've learned, at least for me, that there is a higher level of turkey hunting called mentoring. For me, mentoring other people in the sport of turkey hunting is my highest and most-rewarding form of gobbler chasing.

Mossy Oak is the official camouflage of the NWTF.

Day 4: A Turkey Hunting Memory That Lasts for Two Lifetimes

Latest Content