Outdoor Chenango: Heart Racing Youth Turkey Hunt
Published: April 24th, 2024
By: Eric Davis

Outdoor Chenango: Heart racing youth turkey hunt

This past weekend was the Youth Turkey Hunt where hunters from age 12-15 could hunt with licensed adults who couldn’t carry firearms. I was able to participate in the Chenango County Youth Hunt as a mentor to two youth hunters. One hunter had never turkey hunted before the weekend.

On Saturday, I met the hunter and his parent at 4:45 at a gas station. We hopped in my truck and headed to the first property. I have an extra turkey vest for taking new hunters out, so once we got to the property, I got my hunter set up with the vest. He put his facemask and gloves in one pocket and the shells to the shotgun he was using in another pocket. We set off up the hill to get to a good spot to listen for gobbles. As it got lighter and lighter, no turkeys sounded off on the property we were on. So, we walked around the property and called in case there were any turkeys that had flown down without gobbling on the roost. We were only met with silence after calling. We headed back to the truck and went to a second property I have permission to hunt.

At the second property, as we got out of the truck a bird gobbled in the field at the top of the hill. This was the worst place he could have been as there was no way to get to the field without spooking him. So, we walked up to a field halfway up the hill and set up. After a few minutes, the bird gobbled farther away so we got up into the woods just below the field.

Again, we set up and called. This time he gobbled at our calls. He sounded like he was getting closer after responding to more of our calls. However, after about 10 minutes, he gobbled much farther away. Again, we picked up and this time we made it to the top field. We snuck out of the logging road into the field in case the bird was still there, but he wasn’t. So, as we walked down the field edge towards where he last gobbled, we stopped halfway and called. A hen immediately started calling back and she was not very far away over a knoll in the field. A quick scramble ensued to get set up. The hen popped up over the knoll at about 45 yards and cut diagonally to our right. Unfortunately, she did not have the tom following her and he never gobbled again.

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On Sunday morning, we met at the same gas station but this time I had two youth hunters going with me. I drove to the second property we hunted on Saturday and parked to listen for gobbles. As it got lighter without hearing any birds, I decided to go set up in the top field since that’s where the bird was the day before. To do this, I drive to the next road and park on the tractor path that comes into the backside of the top field. I got both hunters ready with their stuff and we headed into the field. I wanted to get to a corner on the field with the greatest visibility of the field so we could see any incoming turkeys.

We were about halfway there when a turkey gobbled straight across the field barely into the woods. It was sheer panic for a minute or two as I hustled to set out my jake and hen decoys while picking trees for the hunters to sit against. I got them set and sat down between them so I could coach either of them through aiming and shooting an incoming bird. When I started to soft call, I was immediately answered by two gobbles. We quickly set up the shooting lanes and planned that whoever got the first clear shot would shoot and then the other hunter would shoot if the second bird hung around.

I called again and they gobbled farther left, they had flown down and were headed to the logging road for an easy walk up to the field. One more series of yelps and they gobbled barely over the rise in the field. I started to scan the horizon and picked up on two heads to the left coming in. The toms broke over the knoll at maybe 25 yards and headed towards the decoys. One tom made it to the jake decoy and was sizing it up for a fight, while the second tom knew something was up almost immediately. He stopped short and put his head up on high alert. I was trying to get the hunter on the right to shoot the tom standing at the decoys and as he was trying to get on the bird with his shotgun, both toms started to walk away.

As the tom went left, I shifted to getting the left side hunter to shoot but the tom would not stop. So we sat there as the toms worked back across the field and into the woods where they had been roosted. After giving them some time to work off into the woods, we headed to the truck and I treated the hunters to a gas station snack break.

As we ate our snacks in my truck, the right side hunter told us that he couldn’t get a shot at the tom at the decoys because his heart was racing and he was shaking from adrenaline too much to feel get a good aim on the turkey. While not a successful hunt in terms of harvesting a turkey, both youth hunters had a great time and can’t wait to turkey hunt again!