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Ethan's First Turkey!

Young Ethan was one of the 9 young hunters that traveled to Bell Wildlife Specialties for the 2015 Youth Turkey Hunt that Dan Bell and Bell Wildlife Specialties has hosted for Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors, Inc. for the last 13 years. I got matched to Ethan through Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters last December, the third youngster I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring.

Ethan had taken his hunter safety class last August and had participated in one of Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors’ First Hunt events last October. He broke 17 targets in a row off the trap his first time out with a shotgun, thanks to the instruction from Gregg Rupp and Shannon Selstedt, volunteers from the local Ringneck Rustlers Pheasants Forever chapter who helped with the First Hunt event. I had planned to take Ethan to the Governor’s Ringneck Classic, but had to cancel due to a death in the family. Dave Marble took Ethan along with Taylor, the young man Dave has been mentoring for the last six years.

Ethan and I did get to go deer hunting in December on some private ground east of Wichita, where Ethan got to experience first-hand what it’s like to spend a cold afternoon sitting in a deer stand with me. We didn’t see hide nor hair of a deer all day. When we headed to Harveyville for the youth turkey hunt, I tried setting the proper expectation for the hunt…if we see turkeys, they’ll all be hens and we probably won’t get a shot. That’s my typical luck hunting.

Turns out Ethan’s hunting vibes trumped mine in spades!

On Saturday morning, the toms were gobbling on the roost as we were walking to the blind an hour before sun-up! We set out the decoys and settled in. By 6:15, well before legal shooting time, we had two toms heading towards our decoys, strutting and gobbling all the way. One of the toms circled around behind us and was well on his way to giving Ethan his first shot at a gobbler. He was a nice 2-year old bird with at least a 7” beard. He got so close to our blind we could feel him spitting and drumming. His gobbles all but shook the blind…or maybe that was me!

But, about that time, my hunting luck kicked in and four hens flew down off the roost off to our right. Our tom must have thought they looked cuter than our decoys and off he went without us getting off a shot.

It was obvious that the 2nd tom was the dominant bird in those parts as once the hens came around, the tom that had been checking out our decoys was sulking around off to the side while the dominant one bred all 4 hens. It was quite the nature show, watching the dynamics of the survival of the fittest. Once the hens went off to lay their eggs, we tried once again to call the toms over to our decoy set-up, but they headed off to parts unknown. We spent the rest of the morning whistling to a covey of bobwhites.

That afternoon, we had planned on hunting the same location. We knew where they were roosting and figured they would be coming back around that evening. Unfortunately, the farmer decided that day would be a good one to plow the field right next to our blind.

Dan took us to another location, and as we drove in, there were two nice toms strutting right in the path to our blind. Uh-Oh! We backed out and Dan mapped out a route for us over the hill and around the birds to where the blind was located. We set off and a ½ mile later, were set up once again.

It wasn’t long before we saw those two toms following three hens, making their way towards our location. There was a creek between us and them. The hens came over and checked out our set-up, but the toms stayed across the creek, strutting and putting on a show. After the hens left, the group went on to the west and out of sight.

A short while later, we saw a coyote cross the field across the creek from us. We later heard from Dan that they had a den nearby and that the kits had been seen a few days earlier.

About an hour later, we saw a couple of birds well off to our south, milling around. They were too far off to determine if they were hens or toms. A little later, Taylor, Dave’s mentee who was accompanying us on the hunt, whispered, “Don’t Move!” as four hens came from nowhere into our set-up. Soon, another four hens showed up. And then we saw two red-heads heading our way. We looked had to see if there were beards showing and sure enough, there were! Two young jakes heading right for our decoy!

Of course, by this time in the afternoon, Ethan’s gun wasn’t up and ready. We coached him to move ever so slowly and only when the birds weren’t looking our way. Then we had to wait for one of the jakes to separate from the flock enough so that Ethan could shoot just the one without harming the others. Once one of the jakes had cleared we told him to shoot. BAM! All of the birds scattered and the jakes and several of the hens took to the air! BOOM! And the jake that Ethan had missed with his first shot fell to the ground with a thump! Ethan’s first turkey! What a great hunt!

Ethan’s bird was the only tally for the weekend. Two of the other young hunters had shots but missed. All of them saw birds, but the shooting opportunities didn’t present themselves. All-in-all, another great youth hunt with Bell Wildlife Specialties. It’s not always about taking home a bird. It’s about spending time with wonderful folks outdoors.

Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors, Inc. wants to thank all of the volunteers, guides and mentors who made this hunt possible. And we especially want to thank Dan Bell and the wonderful folks at Bell Wildlife Specialties for hosting this hunt, the 13th year in a row that Dan has hosted Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors, Inc. for a youth turkey hunt.