Finally, I’ll get to hit the spring turkey woods this coming weekend. So what if snow still lingers on the ground and late-winter temperatures continue to punish thermometers across the Midwest? The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources declared the dates, and not even Armageddon will change the turkey hunting calendar.
But for me, this year is a bit different. I will indeed be embracing my first spring turkey hunt of the year, but unarmed. Instead, I’ll lead my 12-year-old brother in his second spring showdown. What better way to start the turkey season than as a mentor for a youngster?
We’re all repeatedly ingrained with tons of reasons why it’s critical to get youth into the field—and rightfully so. If you’ve already managed to do your part as a mentor, then pat yourself on the back and keep at it. If not, consider it in the future. But rather than just preaching the same old message about how it’s our God-given “responsibility” to be mentors, I’m going to encourage some selfishness for a moment. Hear me out.
When you bring a kid out into the field, you get to be a hero for the day. That doesn’t happen too often for many of us. Kids are young and impressionable. They look up to adults, study all our moves and remember them for later replication. They expect that what we’re doing is “right.” That means we need to try real hard to not mess up.
Overstate safe gun handling and other healthy field practices. Encourage them every step of the way. Point out all the wonders of nature they might not have considered, and teach them the hunt is not just about the kill.
Most importantly, have a blast, laugh and realize it’s OK to leave a temporary sting on their hand from the powerful high-five you give after they succeed in harvesting an animal. And in the end, make them the hero—every time.