By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
By the time Brayden Jones pulled the trigger last week on the third gobbler of his hunting career and his second of this young season, the 10-year-old from Smithville had put many a mile of experience behind his boots.
Most hunters agree, when it comes to challenge and excitement, not much compares to the eastern wild turkey, but with youngsters’ tastes fickle and attention spans short, how do you go about taking a new or young hunter to the spring woods when your own opportunities are already limited?
For guys like Rusty McDaniels and Steven Bush, field producers for Mossy Oak Productions in West Point, following young hunters and hunters new to the turkey game is all a part of the job.
Highly experienced hunters themselves, these guys have years of experience rolling video of hunts in every season and circumstance, and they have a few pointers to offer for anyone trying to get someone new interested in the rites of spring.
“Safety is the first thing that comes to mind when I’m going to be hunting with a kid,” Bush, a Natchez native now living in Starkville, says. “You have to make sure the kid has a gun he or she can handle.”
“I’m a big fan of having young kids use a shooting stick 100 percent of the time,” Rusty McDaniels, who grew up in Centreville and now lives in Tupelo, added. “I like for them to either use a bipod mounted on the gun or use a set of separate shooting sticks as a prop for the gun the whole time you’re stopped and set up.
“Using something like that eliminates a lot of movement and problems. It’s hard for a little guy to keep the gun up on their knee when a turkey’s coming in, and using a shooting stick fixes that.”
Keep their interest
“You have to make sure you make it fun for them,” Bush said. “I’ve been with dads and kids where the kid’s in a blind playing in the dirt and the dad tells them to stop. That’s not necessary. Point out different things in the woods. Tell them what they’re looking at and what they’re listening to. Don’t expect a kid to go sit in a blind for six hours with nothing happening.”
“They lose interest so easily,” McDaniels said. “They want to shoot one, but their interest waxes and wanes a lot so, if you can, keep their interest on the outdoors, even if it’s not exactly focused on the hunt at hand.
“Let them play in the dirt. Let them do whatever they want to do as long as they’re safe and having fun.”
Help them hide
“If you can, build a blind for the kids in advance,” Bush said. “There are lots of things on the market like portable blinds and pop-up blinds, or you can have the kid help build the blind as part of the experience. It’s so hard for them to sit still because they’re kids, of course, but being inexperienced, they don’t know when they can move and when they can’t, so it’s easy for them to feel trapped if the setup they’re in is just by the base of a tree in the wide open.
“Putting them in a blind so they can move a little and stay comfortable goes a long way toward having a successful hunt.”
The rewards, Bush says, are well worth the effort.
“Some of the best hunts I’ve videoed have been kids who’ve taken their first turkey,” he said. “They really seem to appreciate it and genuinely feel rewarded. When you’re a part of that, you feel like you’ve witnessed a watershed moment in their lives.”