Each game species I hunt has its own challenges and rewards, but there is just something about turkey hunting that is special. Maybe its the spring weather, the explosion of plant and animal life after a brisk winter or the sound that a gobbler makes when in pursuit of a hen. Either way I knew that this was a perfect opportunity to get my son back out into the woods after deer season and experience something new.
Miles of Road for Lifelong Memories
The road to our property in Mississippi is a long one. We wind our way through East Texas, cross over into North Louisiana and fly over the Mississippi River at Natchez before heading north for about 30 miles. It takes us almost 7 hours to get there only stopping for food and bathroom breaks along the way, which if my son is with me is more often than I want to stop, but he’s worth it. As frustrating as it can be to have to stop, I’m sure my son finds it equally frustrating that I practice my owl and turkey calls while he is trying to watch a movie. We made it to the property where we were meeting up with my cousin, his son and my uncle and quickly set up our tents for the weekend. With a little daylight left it was time to head out to listen for turkeys roosting in trees for the night.
Listening for turkeys quickly turned into just listening to the kids play in the creek. There are a lot of things that entertain my son in this world. He likes to play games on an iPad, watch Disney movies on Netflix and lately he has been addicted to playing Wheel of Fortune on my phone, but nothing compares to the excitement or happiness level I see on his face when he is playing outside. I would argue that any kid has it in him/her to enjoy the outdoors, they just need to be exposed to it. I do everything I can to get my kids outside and using their imagination to play and explore. Once the kids were soaked to the bone after falling in the creek a few times, we headed back to camp to eat and to watch the inside of our eyelids.
The Early Morning Sound of Thunder
I wake up everyday for work around 4:30 AM and some days it is an absolute struggle to get moving, but not when its time to hunt. I shot out of bed at 5 AM, stretched, got dressed and started to wake my son up. He wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as I was, but he also has never experienced the sound of a gobbler coming up a ridge towards you either. It took a few shakes, a couple pokes and finally taking the sleeping bag off of him for him to start moving. I honestly thought he would whine and pitch a fit to go back to sleep, but like a big boy he got up. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it was to me. Maybe he thought I would be mad if he didn’t get up. I like to believe that maybe he thinks hunting is worth waking up for or maybe he just thinks hanging out with Dad is cool no matter what time it is.
My favorite time to hunt is in the morning. The temperature is a little cooler, the bugs aren’t biting yet and there is a moment when the entire forest wakes up and starts the day. If you have never experienced it you really owe it to yourself to do it. You don’t even have to be a hunter to do it. Grab a good headlamp, take off into the woods and just sit down, watch and listen. Probably the most important part of turkey hunting is this morning awakening. My uncle, myself and my son headed into the woods and picked a spot to sit down and listen. I fully expected my son to fidget around, be loud and not interested in listening to the woods, but I was wrong. Pretty soon I have to stop doubting him because he always seems to prove me wrong. As the birds started chirping, the squirrels start barking and the bugs start buzzing I heard a faint gobble of a turkey off in the distance. I only heard him gobble once, but there is no mistaking the sound of thunder in the woods. We made the decision to start walking in the direction that I heard him in order to get as close as we could.
As we made our way down an old logging road we call Pin Oak Road we heard this tom gobble again and it shook me to my core. I literally have a physical reaction to this sound. It makes my heart race and my breathing changes. The same reaction I get when deer hunting or when some ducks are working overhead. We were right on top of him. As we stood there in somewhat amazement that we were on the right track, he hit us again with a gobble. He was coming in hot looking for his hens and we were right in his path. My uncle and I decided it would be best to ditch setting up the decoys and get into a position to ambush this turkey as he came up the road. As the sun began to climb over the ridges my uncle started to call out with some faint clucks with his mouth call. Minutes felt like hours and I was starting to get worried that Parker would get bored and start moving around. Just like before, he proved me wrong. He sat as still as the tree we were leaned up against. After what felt like hours we heard the unmistakable sound of a turkey flying down and away from us. Most likely the turkey had spotted the hens he was looking for, flew down in their direction and never made another sound. We got skunked, but it was exciting as hell nonetheless.
Good Times down on the Creek
There isn’t much to do during the day when turkey hunting, especially with a 5 year old so I figured the next best thing would be to beat the heat in the creek. My son and I packed up our lunches, grabbed some water and tore off through the woods towards the creek. The particular creek we went to has some great sand/gravel bars to hang out on, the water is cool and not very deep.
I randomly chose a spot with a little bit of shade and a good place for my son to swim in the creek. After that I cut him loose to let him do what he does best, have fun. He ran up and down the sand bar, built sand volcanoes and splashed in the water. Never once did he complain or want to do something different. He was just being a kid and I loved every minute of it. I tried to convince him to jump off of a log that was in the middle of the creek because it looked like the perfect natural diving board. My son, being the cautious one like his mother, declined my invitation and instead just kept running around. I guess curiosity finally got the best of him because I caught him walking across the log like a daredevil on a tight rope until he got to the end of the log. He stood there for about 5 seconds before taking a leap and coming up from the water with the biggest grin on his face. He continued to jump for the next 30 minutes.
While my son was busy conquering his fears I started doing what any geologist would do when presented with a plethora of well rounded pieces of gravel, I started looking for cool rocks to take home. As I walked along the bank of the creek I noticed a rock that clearly wasn’t a normal piece of gravel so, naturally I picked it up. Upon first inspection I thought it was a piece of petrified wood, but the more I looked it over I realized it was a piece of bone, a fossilized piece of bone to be exact. After a few google searches of potential fossils among the recent geologic layers of Mississippi I concluded that this was most likely a piece of bone from a large mammal from the last ice age. It could be anywhere from 2.6 millions years old to as little as 11,700 years old. The interesting thing about it was that it had some teeth marks on it most likely made by some small rodent, something similar to my favorite animated rodent, Scrat from the Ice Age movies. I eventually contacted a paleontologist with the state of Mississippi when I got home who confirmed it all for me.
As it got closer to the afternoon hunt we ate our lunch in the sand next to the creek. We talked about hunting and how much fun it is being in the woods while we ate PB&J sandwiches and washed them down with apple juice and water. Back at camp we discussed our plans for the afternoon and my uncle decided to hang back at camp while my son and I went off by ourselves. We loaded our gear and headed deep into the woods close to where we were earlier that morning.
No Thunder, Just Soft Snoring
I picked an area where we could look down on the road where I was going to set my decoys and be out of the line of sight of any turkeys that walked by. I put my son’s chair down and unfolded it for him and he settled right into it. I told him I was going to go set up our decoys about 20 yards away and to sit tight. This took me all of 7 minutes, but by the time I got back to him he was out like a light. Thankfully he has the quietest snore you have ever heard so I just let him sleep. For almost two hours he slept through every turkey call I made. I’m glad some big strutting tom didn’t come our way because I would have hated to wake my son from a deep sleep with the sound and concussion wave that comes out of my 12 gauge shotgun when steel starts flying. And if you are curious, yes I would have absolutely shot a turkey if it stepped out even with my son sleeping in a chair next to me. I woke him up when it was time to leave so I could snap a picture of us together and then we headed out.
That night some storms were expected to roll through the area and some were going to be pretty severe so we made the decision to pack it up and head home. My son and I stopped in Baton Rouge on the way to take a hot shower, sleep in a real bed and wake up to some good ole Holiday Inn continental breakfast.
I felt like my son really got a chance to enjoy the outdoors on this trip. He swam in creeks, ran around the woods like a madman and heard his first wild turkey gobble. I hope that sound sticks with him forever and he always wants to hit the turkey woods with me each spring. It was honestly one of the best hunting trips I have ever been on and we never even saw a turkey.
-The Family Outdoorsman