Take Your Kids Hunting, Even If Just For 30 Minutes

Hunter’s Journal: April 2023

Reader Contributed | April 2, 2023

Kayson Richards with his turkey. He was hunting with his dad, Eric.

By Eric Richards

Opening week of Georgia turkey season has always been a special time for me, but with Georgia having a youth weekend the week before the official start of the season, it has created even more special memories for me as a father to take my son, Kayson. As many parents can relate, Kayson had a baseball tournament that weekend, leaving us with only a 45-minute window before we had to arrive at the baseball field. It was going to require everything to go perfect to have a successful hunt.

Opening morning we were set up and had birds gobbling early. With 10 minutes left to hunt, we had 10 to 15 hens get in close and five toms that decided to stay just out of reach. As fate would have it, the hens were not a fan of the jake decoy I had decided to put out. They left the area, which allowed us to leave the area, as well, undetected by the toms. 

After an exhausting day and a half of baseball games, it was time to trade in the baseball uniform for a Mossy Oak uniform Sunday evening. We were able to see hens again, but it just wasn’t meant to be as the jakes and toms were nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, we struck out on youth weekend and little man was frustrated to say the least, but I could tell he had been bitten by the obsession, so I knew the future was promising. 

As the official opening day approached, I was focused on getting all of my calls back in order, cleaning my gun and packing my gear as I planned to kill a tom on opening morning. During the preparation, my son came in and asked, “Dad, am I going to get to go with you opening morning now that you’re able to shoot?” 

I had one of those proud dad moments that we are only fortunate enough to experience a handful of times in life and replied, “Son, of course you will get to go. I am going to make sure you get your turkey before I get mine as long as you want to go.” 

I could see the excitement in his eyes, as I’m sure he could see the same in mine.  

On the Wednesday before opening day, we received the baseball tournament schedule for the weekend and luck was on our side because his first game Saturday wasn’t until 11:40, leaving us plenty of time to bag his first turkey, or so we thought. However, we got thrown a curveball on Thursday that informed us that schedules had changed due to a conflict, and we were now playing at 9:30 and the park was 30 minutes away. I let Kayson know about the new schedule and the look on his face was like a punch to the gut.

“Do we have enough time to try?” 

I’d be willing to bet that every dad reading this article made the same decision I did when I told him we would give it 30 minutes. I was able to go out Friday evening and roost some birds and in the cover of darkness put out a blind about 100 yards from where they were roosted. 

My alarm went off, and I had no problem jumping out of bed because it was OPENING DAY! I went upstairs to wake up Kayson, but to my surprise, he was already awake and had his baseball uniform on under his Mossy Oak Obsession uniform. 

“Dad, this will give us a few extra minutes?”

For those keeping score, this was proud daddy moment No. 2 in the last week. We got our things together and made our way to the blind. Not long after daylight, I heard the woods come alive. We heard six gobbles that morning and watched 20-plus turkeys fly down from their roost. As soon as their feet hit the ground, I started calling really light on my Legacy call. The hens started calling back, and gobblers started their show. To Kayson, it seemed like it took an eternity for them to finally break away, but when I saw that first tom turn and start heading our way, I knew it was going to happen. 

With 10 minutes left before we had to leave, they finally made their move. I got Kayson ready and his Stevens 301 Turkey .410 up on the tripod and made one final call, and they were on top of us. At 20 yards with five minutes left to hunt, my son pulled the trigger and the TSS No. 9s were in the air. The joy on his face when the turkey dropped and started flopping will be in my mind forever, and yes that’s proud dad moment No. 3.

I jumped out of the blind, broke the tripod and microphone off my camera, fell out of the door of the blind and was in a dead sprint like I was being chased by a lion to get the turkey. I looked back and Kayson was on my heels grinning from ear to ear. We took a few pictures, made a short video and realized we were five minutes behind schedule.

We sprinted to the house, jumped in the truck with the turkey and took off to the game. We were both so excited we forgot his baseball bag and had to turn around and go back to the house, which put us another five minutes behind schedule. We came in hot, but we made it to the game with a little time for Kayson to warm up as I changed into my coaching uniform and cleaned a turkey in the ballpark parking lot at the same time. To cap off an amazing weekend, Kayson’s team was runner-up in the tournament and got a nice ring to show for it. 

Sunday evening around 6 p.m. Kayson came downstairs and said, “Dad you should go hunting to get your turkey this evening, but I’m too tired to go.” 

After I thought about it a minute, I figured what the heck? I’d rather be sitting up against a big oak tree looking at and listening to God’s creations than sitting on the couch watching TV. I gathered my gear and went to a new spot that I had been seeing some turkeys hang around in the previous weeks. About an hour before dark, I called in three jakes that put on quite the show, along with 15 or so hens with no longbeard in tow.

When I got back home, Kayson asked if I had seen anything when I told him what I saw and he said, “You should go back in the morning, I bet there will be gobbler somewhere!” 

After twisting my own arm to convince myself why I should go to the woods instead of work, I decided to give it another try on Monday morning. I called work and told them I would be in at noon and went back to the same big oak as the evening before. 

With the sun coming up and not a peep out of the turkeys, I decided to call lightly and nothing. Then, I got a little louder with no result. I switched it up and pulled out my slate call and decided to get even louder but still nothing. I put my call down and thought about moving or just going to work, and then I saw movement. A hen was making her way toward me and then another and another and in a matter 60 seconds there were more than 20 hens within 20 yards, one even came within 5 yards and was clucking and purring trying to get me to move. I closed my eyes because she was close enough to see me blink. I held my breath as long as I could, and when I couldn’t hear her anymore, I opened my eyes and 25 yards out stood three jakes in full strut and putting on a show. They proceeded to follow the hens over the ridge behind me. I decided to call one more time before getting up and leaving, and before I could put the call down, a monster tom was running down the roadbed straight at me. By the time I shouldered my gun and the safety was off, he was 40 yards and still at track-meet speed. When he finally stopped to look around, the old 12 gauge with the new Jebs choke went to work and pellets from the Winchester Long Beard were in their flight pattern and hit their mark at 20 yards with deadly accuracy. This was the first turkey I had ever seen make only one move after being shot and that move was gravity assisted straight down to the ground. 

When I got home after work, I told Kayson the whole story, and he said, “I told you dad! This is our lucky week! You should go again in the morning!” 

I replied, “Son, things like this just don’t happen regularly in the turkey woods, and sometimes it’s better to quit while you’re ahead.”

“Dad, you’re not ahead. We are tied, so you better go before I pull ahead.” 

So now that I had been put on notice by my 9-year-old son that the competition was on, I decided after I got the kids ready for school and on the bus that I had to go back to the woods, knowing I’d have an hour or so before I needed to go to work. As the kids got on the bus, Kayson looked back and said, “You better hurry!” 

After he said that, something told me to go to my spot on public land that I usually save until late in the season just to see what happens. I threw on my Obsession camo and took off. I got to the parking spot right at 7 and started walking to the spot. I had to cross a big creek on a log, which took one heck of a balancing act, and I almost went swimming twice trying to hurry while asking myself why I walking 1,400 yards to a spot to have 30 minutes to sit just to walk it all over again?” 

About 100 yards before my normal spot, I bumped a turkey off its roost. Wondering why there was still a turkey in the tree at almost 8, I decided to call. I made one pretty loud yelp with a few cutts, and before I could finish, three hammered off 60 yards or so down the ridge from me. With hardly any time to find a good spot, I sat down against the first tree I saw, which was about an 8-inch pine tree. I had 15 yards of flat ground in front of me and then a ridgetop that dropped off to where they were. I was sure that I was about to get busted. I yelped one more time on my mouth call, scratched the leaves, and there they were, two longbeards at 15 yards. I slowly moved my gun to my shoulder and was trying to move it to my right for a shot. As soon as I clicked the safety off, the first tom started clucking and walking farther to my right, but as luck would have it, a third popped up over the ridge directly in front of my gun barrel. I took the shot and witnessed the second turkey of my life once again only move in one direction, down and fast. I ran over to pick up my second dead bird and third that I had called in the first four days of the 2019 season. 

The moral of this story is to get yourself and your kids out hunting, even if it is for 30 minutes some days. It doesn’t take a perfect day or much time to make memories that you and your son or daughter will cherish forever.   

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