KEVIN TATE: Teaching and learning go hand in hand in turkey woods

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Brad Jones, of Smithville, is quick to tell you he’s made lots of mistakes and finds himself still in the learning phase of turkey hunting – conditions I’ve found seem to be universal with all turkey hunters no matter how many seasons to their credit.
“I’ve messed it up every which way you could,” he says. “Unless you’ve got blood kin who are turkey hunters, you just about can’t get anybody to show you how to do it. My dad squirrel hunted but didn’t turkey hunt, so I’ve covered a lot of extra miles in the learning process.” Along the way, he’s definitely done one thing absolutely right, though.
Having dabbled in the world of turkey hunting a decade ago, Jones has spent the past four seasons in a mode of serious study, harvesting a few turkeys but, perhaps most importantly, getting his son Brayden thoroughly hooked on the rites of spring along the way.
“I’ve always deer hunted a good bit and, when Brayden was 3 years old, my wife bought us a pop-up blind for us to use because he kept saying he really wanted to go with me,” Jones recalls. “One January afternoon not long after we got the blind, the conditions were just right for a spot I’d been wanting to check out – a place I just knew a big deer was using. I rushed home from work a little early and started gathering my stuff, thinking about how I was going to get set up extra early, thinking about how I could hustle into the woods and still be quiet when I noticed Brayden was gathering his stuff to go with me. It was absolutely prime time for serious deer hunting, but I looked at him for a minute and decided I just didn’t have the heart to tell him he couldn’t go.
“Getting to the spot early and quiet turned into getting to the spot late and not quiet,” Jones said, not mentioning he’d have been then setting up a ground blind to boot. “I didn’t have very high hopes for the hunt at that point but, as it turns out, we weren’t there long and I took one of the biggest bucks I’d gotten in a long, long time. From that moment on, Brayden was in, hook, line and sinker on the outdoors. He got his first deer when he was 5 and, this past season, he got two bucks with his gun and one with his bow.
Springtime, though, finds the Jones boys deep into a hunt of another color. “Brayden’s deep into turkey hunting,” Brad said.
“I think I like turkey hunting better than deer hunting,” Brayden said. “I like everything in the outdoors but I think I like turkey hunting best of all because you can hear them coming. Deer just come in but, with turkeys, you feel like you have something to do with it.”
After all, having something to do with it is what father-son time in the woods is all about.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.