Want an early start to turkey hunting? Take a kid

By PHIL DIFATTA,

Wanna get a head start on the 2019 turkey season? Sure you do ... if you're a turkey hunter. All you gotta do is grab a kid, 15-years-old or younger, and head to the woods on March 8. That's when Mississippi's Youth Spring season opens.

Well, it's not really that simple. There are tons of things that must be done before you take an inexperienced hunter, young or old, to the turkey woods. Things like firearm safety, marksmanship and the ways of the wild turkey come to mind first.

To start with, you must have an appropriate gun for the child's age and size. For instance, you certainly shouldn't hand a 65-pound kid a 3-inch magnum, 12-gauge shotgun. After the first practice shot, the kid would pick himself/herself up off the ground and tell you where to stick the “cannon” you selected for them. Even worse, the kid may never again desire to go hunting.

Therefore, if you don't have one, purchase or borrow a “starter” gun for the kid. After you've chosen the right weapon, place ALL your emphasis on gun safety. Next, practice with the kid until you are relatively sure he/she can hit the vitals of a turkey –  the head or neck.

School the kid on the ways of the wild turkey. Teach the kid that a turkey can hear a feather blowing in the wind during a tornado. Instill in them that a gobbler can see a gnat blink its eyes from 50 yards away … at night. And, when spooked, let 'em know that a turkey can easily outrun a cheetah, a fast cheetah. Actually, about the only thing a turkey can't do well is smell, and it is said that if they could, probably nobody would ever kill one. True! In short, teach a kid (or any beginner) everything you know about a turkey's senses, and how smart the birds are.

Actually, according to the legendary Ben Lee, turkeys are not smart at all. “How could a critter with a brain the size of a pea be so smart?” he asked me. “They ain't smart; it's just that everything in the woods is trying to kill and eat them, or destroy their nests and eat the eggs. That's exactly what they're trying to avoid. Wouldn't you?”

Lee had a great argument. But whether turkeys are smart, or if they simply fear for their lives 24/7, is not for me to say. What I do know is that turkeys are as sharp as a razor, and I guess that's the main reason I love to hunt 'em.

Turkey hunting presents the ultimate challenge for me, and if you hunt the magnificent also, I challenge you to introduce a kid to the sport. After all, hunting and shooting sports of all kinds are under great scrutiny, and we need all the recruits we can get to carry on the tradition. 

Until next time, get out and enjoy the great outdoors of Mississippi. And when you go, be safe, be ethical, have fun and always consider taking a kid with you … every time you can.

The PineBelt News outdoor writer Phil DiFatta may be reached at pdifatta@hotmail.com. Readers may also text photos or story ideas, with contact info, to  601-596-4475.