This article is from the 2002 Spring edition of Mossy Oak's "Hunting the Country" magazine; Fox Haas had a regular column in this magazine called "Wisdom of the Fox."
Fox Haas passed on his love of hunting to Toxey, who, as seen in this picture, continued to pass it on to his boys Daniel and Neill.
Written by Fox Haas
The first thing that comes to mind about getting kids started turkey hunting is that the fella getting them started needs to be a pretty smart guy. He has to recognize the difficulties involved in keeping children still, yet at the same time making it fun for them.
I've seen folks get an early start. Toxey was almost 7 when he killed his first turkey. He was a good-sized young fella, and Lord knows he was eager.
We were hunting during a fall season, and that morning I had located some turkeys in the Piney Woods. I sat him on the ground, between my legs. I prefer having kids set up that way, rather than next to me, when they're that age because I can help them more easily. When they're seated in between my legs it's easier to teach them to sit still, which way to look and how to communicate at a whisper. When they're that close I can whisper, point and guide them in what to do without any unnecessary motion or racket.
Normally on a fall turkey hunt, I would have busted the floc, then called to them as they regrouped. But I didn't bust the flock that day, and I don't know what made me decide to back off. The turkeys were in a Greenfield about 300 or 400 yards out. I backed up and started yelping and squealing like a young turkey, and they came running.
As luck would have it, they came straight in. It was one of those deals when everything went right. Toxey was lined up just about right as they came into the Piney Woods. When the gobbler went behind a tree I had him get his gun up, a 12-gauge Remington 1100. When the longboard came out at 35 steps, Toxey whacked him. His first turkey was in the bag.
A young Toxey Haas with one of his first turkeys. (This was, of course, pre-Mossy Oak camouflage days.)
Have Fun, But Be Practical
The real key to taking kids hunting is to get them comfortable clothes, plenty of water, a snack or two, some mosquito repellent, and something comfortable to sit on. Regardless of what you're hunting, though, you should be prepared to sit on the ground for convenience and safety.
Remember to make it fun. As an adult, you can sit down by a tree and not wiggle for 30 or 45 minutes, but you can't expect kids to do that. Try to look at the hunt from their perspective. If it's cold, bundle the kids up in warm clothes. You might also want to bring along a sleeping bag for them to wrap up in and something hot to drink. Kids also like to watch things on their own; bring along binoculars just for them.
Talk Them Through It
Whatever you're doing, make sure the children are involved in the hunt, and not just along for the ride. Talk to them about all the different things you love about the woods. You'll be surprised at how much all of you enjoy the trip, whether you see any game or not.
If you're turkey hunting, explain to the kids how the birds live, their sleeping, feeding, and nesting patterns. Tell them about how wary turkeys are, how well they see and hear. Talk to them about the different calls they make and how they interact with each other. Explain some of the different turkey-hunting strategies and what you hope to do on your morning or afternoon hunt. You might think a lot of that kind of stuff is over the kids' heads--and it might be--but probably you'll be surprised at how much they'll retain. Kids are smarter than you think, and if you include them in your strategy they will enjoy the hunt all the more.
Whatever happens, don't be too critical. Be understanding. They're kids, after all; they're going to make more noise than you would. It's not like survival or starvation hinges on the outcome of your efforts anyway. But your approach to teaching them and your response to their behavior will make all the difference in whether or not you train up a lifetime hunting partner.
"Whatever you're doing, make sure the children are involved in the hunt, and not just along for the ride. Talk to them about all the different things you love about the woods. You'll be surprised at how much all of you enjoy the trip, whether you see any game or not."