Youth turkey season gives kids first shot

Growing up in Northwest Indiana in the 1990s, there were no wild turkeys. The southern half of the state had some birds, but up north, they’d been extirpated a century before. Fast forward to today, and Hoosier hunters harvest around 12,500 turkeys each spring. With over 100 killed annually in the county I grew up hunting. A county devoid of turkeys just 20 years ago. The restoration of the wild turkey is a remarkable conservation story. 

Now, because of the efforts of dedicated conservationists in the 1980s and 1990s, states across the Midwest have strong enough turkey populations for fish and wildlife agencies to offer a special Youth Turkey Season. This year, the dates of Missouri’s Youth Turkey Season are April 1 and 2.   

Hunting is a key to successful conservation efforts. If it were not for hunters clamoring for the restoration of wild turkeys, there’s a good chance my home county would still be without these amazing birds. If conservation advocates of similar ilk are to emerge in the coming generations, we must develop some of today’s youth into hunters. There is no better time to do this than during youth season. 

A youth season hunt is special because it’s all about the kid. You have a chance to paint the perfect picture of a hunting experience to a youngster without them feeling pressured to compete with experienced adults. Use these special seasons to teach the youth hunters about more than pulling the trigger. Teach them about the importance of habitat, about the biology of wildlife, about traditions, but also about paving new ways. Put a box call in their hands and let them make horrible sounds. It’s how they learn. 

Both of my daughters have shot turkeys during youth season. I messed up a little with my older daughter, by taking her before she was ready. She killed her first bird at seven years old. What she remembers most is how hard the shotgun kicked her shoulder and made her cry. It took another seven years before she shot another one. My younger daughter didn’t shoot a turkey until she was 15. Now a 16, she is anxious for the season to begin. There is no rule of thumb. All kids are different. But don’t push them. 

This isn’t easy for me to say, but you should let them play with their phones. I know. I get it. That sounds counterintuitive. Take them out in nature, but let them play with their phone? Yes. You have to because these phones are so integral to their everyday. If you forcefully keep them from their device, they could quickly and adamantly turn against the idea of going hunting again and being forced to be device free. Instead, turn their phone into a tool. Ask them to check the weather. See if they can use an app to identify a plant or a tree. Have them research answers to questions you pose about turkeys and wildlife. Maybe you’ll get lucky, and they’ll put the phone away. If not, don’t stress. Just roll with it. 

Youth Turkey Seasons are set to take place in every state across the Midwest Region. Illinois’ is early. Their split youth season is open across the North and South zones March 25 and 26, and April 1 and 2. Indiana is April 22 and 23. It’s no joke; Kansas kicks off youth season on April 1. Ohio is later with youth season on April 15 and 16. Visit your state game agency website to learn about Youth Turkey Season in your state. 

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler

Pic: Special Youth Turkey Season gives young hunters opportunity before adults take to the woods. 
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