Gobble, gobble, gobble… cluck, cluck, cluck… or my favorite – here turkey, turkey, turkey… no matter what your go to turkey call is, every April these sounds fill the air signaling the kick off of the spring turkey season in Oregon.
For hunters, it’s an opportunity to put their first wild game meat in the freezer and get outdoors after a long, cold winter. When Ty and I first started hunting turkeys back in 2017 we weren’t sure what to expect, but after a couple of incredible opening weekend hunts, we were hooked. Pardon the pun. It wasn’t the harvests by any means that kept us coming back, it was the camaraderie. We loved that turkey hunting allowed us to create lasting memories during our long sits in the blind with friends. In 2018, we took a friend’s son out for his very first bow hunt. It was then our true mission and passion for turkey hunting emerged. It was so rewarding watching him harvest his first animal, we knew we wanted to do more of it. In our opinion, there truly is no greater feeling.
As the 2019 season drew near, Ty and I went in search of two kids to take turkey hunting. You would think that this would be relatively easy, but it wasn’t. We searched for over a month by contacting people through social media. Nobody was interested, or could help us find a youth who may want to go for that matter. Then, through what I believe was a twist of fate, we were connected with Brandon at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He just happened to be launching a pilot program designed to open land access to hunters and connect new hunters with mentors. It was a match made in heaven! Within a few weeks we found two young ladies, who happened to be champion archers in S3da, to take on their very first turkey hunt.
We’ve been hunting an area we’ve designated as an “urban turkey hunt” for two years now. The toms are abundant and are doing extraordinary damage to homes and properties in the small rural community. For those who aren’t aware of the type of damage turkeys can create let me sum it up for you. They damage roofs, crops, yards and gardens, especially in great numbers. In urban areas, bowhunting is typically the only means necessary to harvest. Shotguns simply aren’t safe.
The 2019 opener differed from the year before in this area because the turkeys were simply not willing to play. There were hens already on nests and decoys seemed to be a deterrent. Despite this, we gave it our all. One of our hunters had an opportunity at a jake, but couldn’t make it happen. Such is archery hunting. We decided to give it some time to see if the turkeys would start round two of the rut. About a week and a half later we got our wish.
Sophia and I climbed into the blind around 12:30 p.m. one afternoon. We set up our decoys, three in total, with a Jake behind a breeding hen and a feeder hen about 10 yds away. About an hour into our sit a jake appeared on the fence line about 40 yds away. I let out a few clucks on my slate call and he made a direct path towards us. Sophia looked at me with anticipation, “Here turkey, turkey, turkey,” she said. With a smile I said turn around and get ready. This was a kid after my own heart. Just feet from shooting range he hung up… unsure of the situation. So, I told Sophia to get ready and let out a few more clucks. He started to walk a little closer. “Go to full draw,” I told her. She drew her bow. He hung up. I could see him through the mesh. “Can you see him,? I asked. “Yes, do you want me to shoot him?” she responded. “When you’re ready, shoot him,” I said. THWACK! The bird cartwheeled five or six times and came to a rest. A textbook perfect shot!! The moments after are impossible to describe with words. The joy we felt was incredible. We hugged and I congratulated her! This exceptional young hunter held her cool and harvested her first animal like a pro. These are the moments I live for and this is why we make it a point to take new hunters out as much as possible.
When we started this youth hunt season, we reached out to some of our favorite companies to see if they’d like to take part. We were astonished at how quickly they jumped on-board. We’d like to thank Leupold, Slumberjack, Caribou Gear, Next Ridge Apparel, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Bowtech Factory Pro Shop for all of their support. Each of them set the girls up with gear they can use as they kick off their hunting journey.