Outdoors

Turkey hunt helps create ‘very special day’ for father, son

Pull the plug on the Xbox. Call in sick to the soccer coach.

One of the best one-on-one, quality-time, family bond-building opportunities of the year is coming up for hunters.

The youth-only spring wild turkey seasons in Washington and Idaho put the focus on the kid and the experience. The general seasons don’t open until later. The turkeys have yet to be hunted this season and there’s little competition in the field.

Just as important, there’s no competition from the required adult in the party, either.

Corey Smith of Spokane says he and his wife get out hunting, fishing and camping with their family as much as their busy schedules allow.

But with four sons ages 9 to 15, getting one-on-one time is as rare as finding leftovers in the refrigerator the day after family pizza night.

While the youth turkey season is a prime opportunity – Smith said he’ll be out on Saturday and Sunday for Washington’s youth hunt to mentor his clan – he said he considers any opportunity to go hunting with his boys a prize.

The moment for Smith and his 14-year-old son, Carsen, didn’t come until the fall either-sex turkey season.

“Carsen made a connection with one of his elementary school teachers and we were invited to hunt some private land in north Spokane County for turkeys,” Smith said, noting that the property owners needed some help reducing the number of turkeys that had become a nuisance.

“The first time we saw a field full of turkeys with the toms strutting their stuff in the sun we were pretty much hooked, and we have been hunting the same property for three years. My boys had taken a few toms and hens with shotguns, and I had taken a hen myself.

“Carsen saved up enough to purchase a used compound bow. He practiced every day in our back yard until he could proficiently shoot a 2-inch group of arrows at 10 yards.  

“He asked me virtually every day, ‘Dad, when can I go get a turkey with my bow?’

“One of those rare occasions when we were able to get out, just the two of us, came in November.”

The family had been hunting deer on the property for two weeks and had noticed the daily routines of the turkeys. When the fall either-sex turkey season opened on Nov. 20, they had a good idea of where to set up for an ambush, which is a typical way of hunting turkeys in the fall.  

“The plan we decided was to set up on a logging clearing in the woods where the turkeys liked to congregate and mill around after leaving their roosts each morning,” Smith said.  

“When we got to our hunting spot the ground was frozen solid, the air was bitterly cold, and it seemed so quiet you could hear a pin drop..”

Every step they made crunched through the darkness, so they changed plans and set up even farther from the roosting area along another morning route the turkeys liked to take.

“We found a fallen dead tree about 15 yards off and enhanced it with a few branches for cover,” he said.  “It was a long, cold wait before we heard the first clucks around 7 a.m. as the turkeys flew down out of their roosts and gathered up.”  

The turkey-talk a couple hundred yards away gradually worked itself up into what sounded like an all-out social event, Smith said.

“It subsided and built up a couple of times as we used a wooden box call to entice them up the hill toward our blind.”  

Smith whispered to Carsen, “Get ready, they’re right there,” as he pointed 20 yards off to his right at the first turkey head coming out of a thicket.  

“I wasn’t going to even lift my shotgun until Carsen got a shot with his bow,” he said.  “Within seconds the entire flock was crossing on front of us exactly where we had expected.  

“While the late-fall turkey season in this (game management unit) allowed the taking of either sex, Carsen wasn’t going to wait around, he zeroed in on the first turkey that gave him a good opportunity and let his arrow fly.  

“He squarely nailed a good-sized hen with his broadhead and it went down.  At the sound of the shot, the flock scattered off a bit into the underbrush and I tried to coax them out with the box call with no luck.

“The hen Carsen had shot was flapping around on the ground and made them all a bit apprehensive.  I gave him the signal and Carsen excitedly ran out and claimed his first bow kill.  

“‘That was the best feeling I’ve ever had,’ he told me, of describing watching his own arrow hit its mark,” Smith said.  “I was proud of him for putting in all the practice and then to enjoy the moment of success, the fruits of his diligence.  

“We smiled at each other in silence as we got back in our makeshift blind in hopes I might also get a chance to fill my tag.”

The day would have been totally fulfilling at that point.

But the hunters put in the additional time and Dad got his chance, with son at his side.

“The turkey was down before the echo of the shot in the woods had settled,” Smith said.  “It turned out to be a very decent mature tom, my first gobbler.”

With another burst of excitement and the mid-morning sun now starting to melt the frost off of everything, they devoted time setting up and taking some fun photos of their great memory together.  

“Carsen’s first bowhunt, my first tom, and the first time we have filled our tags on the same hunt!” Smith said. “It was a very special day.”


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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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