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Local Sports

April 21, 2012

Pass down the rush of turkey hunting to your kids this weekend

Turkey season opens May 1 for most of us, but younger hunters get a special weekend in April. This year's Youth Turkey Hunt runs this Saturday and Sunday.

This can be a wonderful experience for kids as they go on their first hunt. Sure many have tagged along with their dads, but hunting your own turkey is really something special.

I remember seeing my first wild turkeys back in the very early 1970s. A nice tom and three hens crossed the road near Arnolds Lake State Land one day as I was driving down from Wells. Several years later, I harvested my first turkey from probably that same flock, no more than a half-mile away.

A big, long-bearded tom was strutting in a field, courting a hen early one morning. I didn't disturb him that day, but I was up on the ridge waiting for his first gobble before dawn the next morning.

As dawn broke, I heard a gobble not too far away. Using a Lynch cedar box call, I softly yelped a response. The stillness of the morning immediately was shattered by a loud gobble just over the bank, fewer than 100 yards away.

I looked around and sat down, leaning against the closest tree. Suddenly, the big tom appeared. My heart was pounding in my chest as he approached. The old boss bird was all puffed up with his tail fan fully open. He dragged his wings on the ground as he spit and gobbled and showed off his stuff.

This bird was hot, and he was making a bee-line to my exact location. Excitement surged within me as he came into gun range. This was my morning. In a few moments, this beautiful creature would be mine.

Just as quickly as it started, it was over. My 12-gauge roared, feathers flew and he was down. He was a magnificent old gobbler, weighing more than 23 pounds with a 10 1/2-inch double beard as wide as a paint brush. As I look back at it today, he was the biggest turkey I have ever taken, and the memory of that hunt will live within me forever.

You can help make memories such as that for your kids. As many of you know, there's a rush of excitement that engulfs you as that big gobbler comes strutting in. Adrenaline roars through you like a freight train as he purrs and purrs in full display just a few yards away.

Turkeys are not as easy to harvest today as they were when I started hunting them. They have become very wary and sometimes, they are difficult to call in. For a bird with such a small brain, they're pretty smart.

They've learned that a few yelps from some hunter along the highway is not a love-hungry, good-looking hen. It's just some guy in camouflage with a scruffy, early-morning beard. They're difficult to fool, but that's part of the game.

So take the kids hunting this weekend and help them experience that same adrenaline rush. You'll plant the seed for their future of hunting. They'll always remember their first turkey, and they'll look back and remember that special time they had hunting with you.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.

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