Last weekend, several area youth, and even a few adults, took to the woods for the first time in an attempt to bag a turkey. Having never had the opportunity to hunt turkey before, I decided to attend the classroom portion of the program as an observer, just to check it out.
I always find it refreshing to attend events like this and to see how many kids still enjoy spending time outdoors and taking part in hunting and shooting sports. Of course, the older you get, the younger the kids look, and I would swear some of their shotguns outweighed them. But, then again, I am sure my dad thought the same thing of me when he put my first shotgun in my young hands. And I suppose losing my dad last year makes these type of events more nostalgic for me, but seeing the enthusiasm these kids have for learning everything they can about hunting and the animals they will be hunting, is a lot of fun.
The dedication of the volunteer mentors, as well as the willingness of several DNR employees, make these classes not only possible, but a great learning experience. These folks not only took the time out to take kids out turkey hunting for the first time, but also did a great deal of work ahead of time to find birds and try to make sure each student at least had a good chance of seeing a bird and getting a shot at bagging one.
The classroom portion of the training was really informative. Attendees learned everything from the history of turkeys in Wisconsin to what they need for habitat. Turkey behaviors were also discussed and the kids learned about gear and equipment. We also watched videos of hunting situations and hunters bagging turkeys of their own. Dinner was provided to all in attendance. After dinner, the conversation turned to the "how to" of actually hunting turkeys. Students learned where to aim at a bird as well as when to take a shot and when not to take a shot. The ability to know when to take a shot is important in all hunting, and the same goes for turkey hunting.
Each mentored hunter also received a bag full of equipment they would need to go turkey hunting. Turkey calls, face nets, decoys and other equipment were given to each participant, getting them set up to head out into the woods Saturday morning.
All of the hunting equipment was donated J L Brost Builders, Mike Carroll, who is part of the Woodland Long Spurs, and the Wisconsin Conservation Warden Association made dinner possible.
Once the classroom instruction was complete, it was time to get out and take a few minutes to get used to the gun each student would be using during their hunt. Target rounds were used at the range for students to get the feel of aiming the gun and squeezing the trigger. Non-toxic shot was provided by the DNR to all of the mentors who wanted to use it during the weekend's hunt.
Conservation warden Tim Ebert said response to the field portion of the program was very good. He knew of one turkey that was harvested and said all hunters reported at least seeing birds during their time out with their mentor. For many heavy brush and other obstacles prevented them from taking a shot on a bird, but all were happy to learn more about hunting turkeys and to have the opportunity to see some birds on their hunt.
Ebert said this event will come back again next spring, at the same time of year. He also stressed it is open to anyone 10 years of age or older who have never hunted turkey before. The class welcomes all adults who would like to experience turkey hunting for the first time, too, and a few adults take advantage of the learning opportunity each year. Those interested in any Learn to Hunt program can go to the DNR website dnr.wi.gov and enter the words "Learn to Hunt program" into the search box. This program has learning opportunities across the state for various types of hunting. Ebert said interested hunters should keep an eye out for information coming early next spring regarding the learn to hunt turkey program. These programs are a great way for would-be hunters to learn about the game animal they wish to hunt, and then to have an opportunity the very next day to harvest one of those animals. I would recommend the Learn to Hunt program to any hunter looking to target a new species.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.