Perspective: Turkey Lessons Before School Begins

turkey lessons

Mitch Petrie, Vice President of Programming for the Outdoor Channel, shares this account of an April 24 turkey hunt with his son, Aaron, in an annual tradition to bag a tom at sunrise and make it to school on time.

As you'll read, the turkeys had their own ideas.

By Mitch Petrie

It is said, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

If you're a turkey hunter, it's inevitable that you'll miss a few shots you do take. Such was the case one morning this week in Minnesota.

If you're not a turkey hunter I want to explain something: You may see turkeys in your neighborhood and can pretty much walk up to them, but when it's hunting season and you're in their neighborhood  —  the woods  —  it's an entirely different ballgame.

April 24 was the first opportunity for me and my son, Aaron, to take part in an annual-family tradition. Our mission is to shoot a turkey at sunrise and make it to school on time.

This particular morning it looked like it was going to be a slam dunk. We had a long hike to a blind I set up last week. As we settled in, the trees around us erupted with gobbles. We anxiously awaited the sunrise and anticipated birds flying off the roost into our decoys for a quick kill shot.

Trail-cam video of called-in turkeys

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The turkeys had other ideas.

They kicked out of the roost and went the opposite direction and gathered on the high ground. Several toms and jakes were gobbling as three or four hens bickered back and forth.

turkey huntingI was joining in trying to irritate the boss hen to get her to come down and investigate with toms close behind. After about 10 minutes of excitement, the woods went quiet. Our blind is positioned between the hill and an area I know the turkeys like to strut to, so I thought if we waited them out we might get a shot.

It wasn't more than 20 or 30 minutes and we heard a few gobbles not too far away. I responded with some soft yelps and they hammered back '¦ it was go time!

Aaron was already struggling with the emotional highs and lows from the first part of our hunt; I pretty much had to wake him up and let him know we had several gobblers within 100 yards all heading in our direction.

As two red heads peaked around the corner, Aaron was ready with his crossbow in position. I made a few more yelps to coax the birds a little closer '¦ apparently too close.

Aaron put the crosshair on a mature tom with a full beard and let the bolt fly  —  just over its back. Post-shot we discovered they were about 15 yards and he misjudged them to be at 20 yards.

G&F Turkey Hunt in Texas

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Aaron was dejected. He had just missed his first turkey. I reminded him that it's not an easy shot with a crossbow and anyone who's ever seriously hunted turkey has missed one. With a shotgun, it would have been a chip shot.

So we left the field without a bird. Aaron made it to school (almost) on time.

As I drove home reflecting on the morning I was bummed he didn't connect with that bird but realized it's misses like these that fuel our passion and get us up at 5 a.m. on a school day without an alarm.

The season is long and the birds are plentiful. It's likely Aaron will have success in the next few weeks. In this day and age, a little delayed gratification will go a long way.

Happy hunting!

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