This weekend marks the opening of Nebraska’s 2015 youth shotgun spring wild turkey hunting season. Conservation Officer Rich Berggren of Waterloo, NE, myself, and many, many others at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission continue to work hard to pass along that wonderful wild turkey hunting heritage to young people and instill in an interest in the lifestyle with an appreciation for nature and the game specie.
With that stated, here are Rich and I’s top ten tips for taking kids spring wild turkey hunting. Remember to pack your patience, focus on the overall experience and accent the positives!
1. Involve the Kids in the Entire Process. It is important for young hunters to understand the hunt from beginning to end. Involve youth with everything from preseason scouting to patterning their shotgun to calling to cleaning and cooking their gobbler.
2. The Right Clothing. Young hunters need to be comfortable at all times in the field and the appropriate clothing for the weather is critical. Layering is best and it’s always goo to add an extra one! Remember to tell the kids that turkey hunting is not a fashion show!
3. Leave Your Own Legal Hunting Weapon at Home. Concentrate on the kids and the safe handling of his or her shotgun that they’ve been shooting. YOU can hunt another day if the seasons are coinciding! Stress safety at all times with youth, most notably getting in and out of a ground blind with an an unloaded shotgun.
4. Kids and Landowners. I always make it a point to have my kids visit with landowners. You may even go as far as to prearrange having your kids go up and ask landowners for permission to hunt! Developing effective interpersonal communication skills with landowners regarding access for outdoor activities is very important as land in Nebraska is 97 percent privately owned.
5. Teach and Preach Conservation. Make certain your kids understand why you’re planning to hunt in a certain location and point out the importance of good turkey habitat. We are here to hunt bearded birds because of these key habitat components: _________, _______ and _________.
6. Wildlife Lessons. Kids need to comprehend the connections in nature as well as the role that nongame wildlife species play. One thing that my kids and I have always done is to enjoy a fun game of wildlife identification when our quarry isn’t moving. Whether it is trees or songbirds, we assign points for what’s positively identified with our small field guide books kept in our packs or through an app on a mobile device.
7. Bring the Binocs. Oh yeah, one particular piece of equipment that helps keep kids focused and occupied while hunting is the use of binoculars or other similar optics. Have them continually scan field and woodlands edges for movement of turkeys.
8. Pack the Snacks, and the Technology? I cannot stress to you how crucial it is to pack some snacks (and quieter ones at that). I’d recommend bringing a couple sandwiches, a few soft granola bars along with a couple bottles of water. Believe it or not, you should strongly consider allowing kids to bring their technology to the field. We’re talking about hand-held mobile devices, cell phones and video games with the sound muted or off. These help to pass the time when the birds aren’t being seen or heard. The mobile devices are also great for snapping quick pics or video of the hunt to share online immediately with others.
9. Ground Blinds, Little Rug and Shooting Stick. Forgiving on movement, protection from inclement weather and having that fortress-like feel, kids love and appreciate being in portable, camouflage ground blinds while hunting. It’s a very good idea to bring along a little rug, perhaps a 6-foot by 6-foot piece of material to cover the floor of your blind to help curb sound, spot crawling insects and provide additional warmth. It may also be critical to bring a shooting stick to assist that young person in having a sold rest to set that shotgun.
10. Keep the Session Short. If your kids have whined about not being in the field for a very long time, you’ve done your job! Keep ‘em hungry to come back for more!
Be sure to check the regulations/requirements for youth turkey hunting here in Nebraska. You’ll note that there are no minimum age restrictions and that the youth turkey hunting permit price is only $5.00! Now, how can you beat that!
If you’re a seasoned, veteran turkey hunter like me, one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll find is to take a kid to the field for the spring season! Share the hunting experience, it will be time well spent! No question!