A Young Hunter’s First Turkey

John Caldwell invited my 11-year-old son, Caleb, on his first turkey hunt. He put us on over 180 acres of “The Break” property in Hancock County, Ill., for this hunt. A couple of toms had been taken from this farm in the earlier seasons. But John assured Caleb that there were a few still left in there.

Caldwell’s love for kids and love for hunting makes him one of the top turkey hunting operations in the Midwest. Call him at 217-647-3355 to book a spring hunt for you or your young turkey hunter.

Caleb Roux made yelps on his box call about every five minutes to draw in the turkey.

This may have been the first day for Caleb to actually hunt turkeys, but he has been with me on more than a dozen occasions. He knew the patience and skill it took to get a tom within range. He knew we had a good spot and he was nervous. “Don’t worry buddy. You’ll do fine,” I told him in a relaxed tone. “Let’s go,” he said.

As we stood at the tailgate of the truck preparing our gear, a tom gobbled on the ridge behind us. “We drove right under him,” Caleb whispered. “We’ll leave him alone,” I told him. “There should be a couple more on down the ridge.” Caleb took his 20-gauge Ithaca and I grabbed my Canon SLR and we were off in the pre-dawn haze.

“We’ll wait right here until they start gobblin’,” I whispered softly to Caleb. “We don’t want to bump a close one,” I ended. That may have been the best decision I made that morning.

A Gobble Down The Ridge
Within just a couple of minutes a bird gobbled about 200 yards farther down the ridge. In response, another tom answered from the neighboring hill. It too, was within 200 yards. “Right here is good,” I said as I prepared the decoys. “We’ll put the decoys in the field and put our backs to the woods. They’ll come to the field sometime this morning — I hope. Go pick your spot,” I quietly instructed.

I was very happy with the location that Caleb chose for us. “Why here?” I asked. I wanted to find out if he thought about it or just picked a comfortable spot. He whispered as he said, “That logging road comes out right over there, close to us. He might come out there cause it’s easy. And this big pile of brush will keep us covered from the back. That way he won’t see us first. It’ll break-up our outline, too,” he ended. I was as proud as I could be. I took my seat beside him.

For quite some time we sat and listened. Caleb made yelps on his box call about every five-minutes. The gobbling had slowed significantly now. I assumed the mating process was in full swing. So we waited. Only a few distant gobbles could now be heard. Still we waited.

About 15-minutes later, Caleb whispered, “Dad, I see a turkey.” “Where?” I asked quietly, not seeing a thing. “Right in front of me,” my son said as he slowly, methodically moved his camouflaged 20-gauge shotgun to his knee and to his shoulder. I still could not see a bird.

“He’s in full-strut, Dad,” Caleb said under his breath. “And he’s comin’ right to the decoys.” Shortly thereafter, I could finally see the mature tom, sporting a nice long beard, strutting across the meadow.

Seventy Yards And Closing
Caleb’s first gobbler was only 70 yards away and coming-in at a steady pace. “Safety off,” I whispered. The only response was the sound of the “click.” I coached a little more. “Just let him come. Stay calm. Let him come all the way to the decoys,” I could hardly maintain a whisper because I was so excited. Much more so than if I had been holding the gun. This was great!

The big bird was now only steps from our decoys. “Keep your face on the gun, son,” I told my young companion. “Wait ’til he raises his head,” I quietly instructed. And wait we did, for what seemed like an eternity. Finally the tom stretched his neck to see the other decoys. Before I could give the order, Caleb shot.

Caleb poses with his first turkey… a 22-pound eastern tom with a 10-1/2-inch beard.

The big black bird did a back flip in mid-air and ended-up on his feet again. Once more, before I could shout the “Shoot again!” order, Caleb pumped and gave the tom another load of #5s. This time there was no doubt.

Caleb pumped again, put on the safety and slowly walked out to check his trophy. We spent the next several minutes in a joyous photo session of my son and his first turkey, a 22-pound eastern tom with a 10-1/2-inch beard.

“So what do you think?” I asked as we loaded the bird into the truck. “I think I saw him first,” Caleb said with a smile. And with that, a new turkey hunter began what I pray will be a long lifetime of sunrises and gobbles.

For a fine selection of Turkey Hunting gear, click here.

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