Sponsored by: Alpine Archery – True Bowhunting Performance
As winter loosens its chilling grip and gives way to spring, I become filled with excitement for the upcoming turkey season. Each spring I am blessed with the opportunity to take youth hunters out on their first turkey hunts. The chance to see the expressions on these young hunters’ faces as a big tom gobbles while he picks his way thru the trees towards us is an incredible experience. I wrote an article a few months ago Youth In America about Ethan, a young hunter I took out during the 2010 turkey season that really impressed me with his ethics. We didn’t get a tom on the ground for him but we did manage to create some great memories.
As soon as the draw results for the youth hunt came out we started getting phone calls from parents asking if we would be interested in taking out their young hunter or huntress. One phone call in particular really sparked my excitement. Ethan’s dad called me and asked if I wanted a second crack at getting him his first turkey. That’s an easy question. Chris and I talked for a little while about what took place on other hunts they went on during 2010. By the time we hung up the phone I was even more impressed with Ethan. Ethan and Chris had spent several hours in an antelope blind but the youngster passed on a few marginal shots. During deer season he once again passed on a shot opportunity on a doe that had a young fawn with her because Ethan wanted to give the fawn a better chance at making it thru the winter. I knew that this spring was going to be special and I was going to have to do all I could to get Ethan the opportunity to tag his first animal with his bow.
We met up on opening morning at a farm along the river that I hadn’t taken anyone on before but knew it held a ton of turkeys. As daylight started to peek over the mountains we could hear several toms gobbling from the roost up and down the river. This was going to be a great day. We had a good set up on a travel route that the birds often used to get out to a feeding area. Every scouting trip I took to get an idea of how they traveled around I saw several toms come thru this area. What happened this morning to change that routine? As we sat in the blind we heard a tractor get closer and closer. He was coming in to work over the field right next to us so the birds went a different direction this morning.
We tore down the blind and grabbed the decoys to move to a new stand set. As we broke out of the trees we saw four toms in full strut out in the field dancing around for the hens. Problem was we didn’t have any cover and there was a good distance between us. The decision was made to go a different direction with the hopes of getting a crack at these guys later. We went back into the trees and headed the opposite direction toward another area where toms liked to strut. As I peeked around the corner I saw three good toms strutting at the far end near the fence line. We found a good place to tuck the blind into a group trees that would allow it to blend in and look natural.
We set out the Montana Decoys and climbed into the Double Bull Blind. I let out a few yelps on my reed and Chris told me the toms heard me. I decided to break out the One Armed Bandit from Bugling Bull Game Call, LLC and get soft and seductive. It worked. The toms were running toward us.
Ethan and I couldn’t see them so we had to rely on Chris giving us a play by play on what was going on. As the toms got close they started to circle around the blind as though they saw something they didn’t like. Two more toms joined them from our left. We had 5 toms within 50 yards but none of them wanted to come any closer. As they circled around and disappeared out of sight I took a peek out of the blind to see what may have spooked them. I saw it right away. When I had set my vest on the ground the orange safety flap had slipped out the back pouch a little bit. Talk about a big red flag. Alright, it was a big orange flag. We decided to spend the rest of the day out of the blind and doing some modified spot and stalk thru the trees with no luck.
I spent the next few days calling for other youth hunters and my wife before it was time for Ethan to get back into the blind. We had to switch to a new location as the water level in the river had risen like I had never seen it. The toms were extremely vocal this morning.
Within an hour of climbing into the blind there were four toms making their way toward Ethan. They spent some time chasing a few hens around until finally one of the toms couldn’t stand it anymore and started coming in. Ethan saw the right opportunity and drew back his bow like an old pro. Once the pin was resting on the triangle on the toms’ wing he let the arrow fly. The arrow zipped thru the tom and he had no clue what just happened. He ran off a little ways then flew up into a tree. Ethan and Chris could see him sitting up there and knew it he was going to come crashing down to the ground at any time. He flew down out of the tree and as soon as he hit the ground the other toms ran over to him and started to beat him up a little bit. Ethan couldn’t stand it anymore and sprinted out of the blind like he was running on air as he went over to his tom. He got it done. Ethan had just harvested his first animal with a bow. What a great moment for father and son.
Ethan had shown so much poise and control for someone his age over the past two seasons. As a hunters education and bow hunters education instructor for the State of Idaho I see our future hunters come thru the classroom and wonder what kind of sportsmen and women they will become. What a great feeling knowing that there are people out there like Chris and Ethan that respect the land and the animals we all love to chase. I know that Ethan will have a long and successful hunting career now that the monkey is off his back. He has spent his time and paid his dues the right way and his efforts have paid off. Turkey season is a few months off but I am once again looking forward to spending time out in the woods with our Youth of America.