I've hunted turkeys most of my life. I've guided, videoed someone else hunting turkeys or hunted turkeys for my own pleasure. But, here’s the big thing turkey hunting does for me.It gives me an excuse to be out in the woods during the spring and be able to hunt. I've often been asked, “Pat, what has caused you to become so obsessed with hunting turkeys?” I've been around turkeys my entire life. I’ve made a part-time living trapping turkeys, relocating turkeys and releasing turkeys. Then, after college, I made a living guiding for deer and turkeys.When I guided for H.S. Strut, I made a living photographing hunters, photographing turkey hunts and beingon camera hunting turkeys. Now that Nicole and I have our “Driven” TV show, I'm hunting and filming turkeys for that show. Another reason I became bit by the turkey bug is the long and short of my life - I love being out in the woods.So, since turkey season occurs in the spring, I've got another reason to be out in the woods where I love to be.
I remember the first time I went hunting for spring turkeys. I was walking around in the woods during the spring with a gun in my hand, and it felt like I was doing something illegal. Because up until that time, when deer season was over, hunting season ended. So, even though I knew I was legally hunting, because I never had been able to hunt in the spring before, I kind of felt like I was doing something illegal. Remember spring hunting had been completely off-limits all my life until that point.
I learned so much the first time I went turkey hunting. But when hunting with legendary turkey hunters like Eddie Salter and Matt Morrett, I truly learned the fine points of how to hunt turkeys. They taught me how to be much more aggressive than I ever was before. I met them, and they made me a better hunter. Also, having the opportunity to film turkey hunts really increased my knowledge of turkeys - what they did and why they did it. It taught me when I could move and couldn’t move. I learned how and where to set up on turkeys. But most importantly, I learned how to read a turkey. Understanding the body language of a turkey and learning what he’s planning to do before he does it is one of those fine points of turkey hunting that I learned when I was hunting and filming for Hunters Specialties.
I'm often asked, “What’s your favorite turkey hunt?” Every turkey season I seem to have a new favorite turkey hunt, but last season was really special. I took my 9-year-old daughter, Isabelle, hunting with me. The state of Minnesota now allows children 9 years old or older to go turkey hunting with an adult. The NWTF was very instrumental in helping to bring that regulation about in Minnesota.
We were fortunate to call in a really-big longbeard. I relived all the emotions I felt when I went on my first turkey hunt. As I watched Isabelle get nervous, and the end of her gun barrel move around and go in circles, I remembered how nervous and excited I was when I saw my first wild turkey gobbler so many years ago. I still get a shot of adrenaline every time I call to awild turkey, and he answers and starts getting closer to me. Then finally I get to watch him strut and drum.Being there with Isabelle to relive those moments from my first hunt was really fantastic. Watching Isabelle make a perfect shot made me feel that my life and my hunting had come full circle, from the timewhen I first started turkey hunting to bringing the joy and the excitement I felt to one of my children. Now three of my children have bagged wild turkeys, and three out of the five are hooked for life on turkey hunting.
When I take one of my children or another young person turkey hunting, I always want to make turkey hunting a positive experience for them. I do everything I can to make sure they have fun. I don’t take youngsters out to hunt in inclement weather - when it’s cold or rainy or when we’re won’t have a good opportunity to see a turkey. I try to make sure that I've scouted enough to have some gobblers roosted. Then, I know where to set-up andthat we a good chance of at least hearing, seeing and possibly taking a gobbler.
Many times, when I'm taking a youngster turkey hunting, I’ll use portable blinds to be mobile but stay better concealed. Youngsters don’t know how and when to move when a turkey is coming, and ablind drastically reduces the chances of spooking a gobbler before the youngster can see the bird or possibly take the bird.
When I'm taking a youngster turkey hunting, I use a Thompson/Center Encore single shot 20 gauge shotgun, because it has a short stock.It will fit a young hunter better.I put an extra pull choke in the barrel, and I've got a really-nice recoil pad on the butt of the gun. Although this 20 gauge has very little recoil, I want to reduce the recoil as much as possible for the youngster. I’ll also take a Caldwell deadshot shooting system. The youngster can rest their gun in that shooting system, and the gun is as steady as it will be on a tripod to prevent the youngster from having to hold the gun at the ready position for a long time. Then I get behind the shooter and the gun. I help steer the gun. Then when we’re ready to shoot, I know that the sight is on the neck and head area of the gobbler. To increase the youngster’s ability to aim, I've mounted a Nikon turkey scope 1.5x4 on the 20 gauge. On the inside of the scope, the youngster can see a circle reticle with a crosshair in the circle. Then when the youngster sees the head and neck area of the turkey in that reticle, all he or she has to do is squeeze the trigger to make a clean kill. So far, we've had zero misses with that gun out to 40 yards.
Because I've seen the work that has been done by the NWTF in helping to provide more turkeys for all of us to hunt, I strongly recommend that you join NWTF, to learn more about turkey hunting from the information the organization has available.