Questions About the Future

Matt Hammond

Dad, how old do I have to be to go turkey hunting?
My observant 7-year old had been watching every action as I prepared for the start of Florida’s spring turkey season. I had graciously received an invitation from my friend Jeff to join him for a weekend chasing turkeys in the northcentral part of the state on property that has been in his family since the Spanish controlled Florida. I could see the eager look in Josh’s eyes as he looked on. His curiosity finally
got the best of him when the first question bubbled up.

Dad, do you think I could go with you sometime?
Hearing my son flashed me back to when I was a just little older than him working up the courage to ask my own father to take me hunting for the first time. A quick text to Jeff and our trip doubled to four with Jeff’s youngest son joining as well. As we readied for the trip over the next several weeks I could see the same spark inside my son that grew into a burning passion inside me.

Dad, what should I wear?
I can only imagine the anticipation he felt because I was counting down the days right along with him. Our mutual impatience provided plenty of opportunities to answer the flood of questions he had. By the time we were two weeks out Josh was chomping at the bit to pack and load up.

Dad, how much longer?
The three-and-a-half-hour trip north, extended longer by Orlando rush hour traffic, must have seemed like an eternity to an eager boy. When we finally reached our destination we met Jeff and his son Matthew, an exceptionally bright six-year-old with a wellspring of thoughts to share, at Bass Pro Shops to pick up a few final things for the hunt. Afterwards, we talked about our upcoming hunt over plates of barbeque before finding our motel and prepping for the early morning ahead of us. Before everyone drifted off to dreams of what tomorrow would hold, we left our fledgling hunters with a final piece of advice to ponder – The most important thing you can do to see turkeys tomorrow is be still and quiet knowing full-well this would be no small feat for two energetic boys.

Dad, can I try calling?
Sunrise found us sitting against the base of two ancient southern oaks overlooking a recently harvested stand of pines while the two boys watched the spring woods come alive for the first time. Not long after first light, Jeff motioned that turkeys were in sight. Josh and I watched as a quartet of hens came into view feeding across the clear-cut. Shortly after, they were followed by seven does filtering along the same path. Both boys practiced their yelps on box calls, my son on one I’d purchased as a teenager. After two hours the attention span of the 6 and 7-year old boys was exhausted so Jeff and I rewarded their perseverance with breakfast at the golden arches. I smiled seeing the relief on their faces when they no longer to be still and quiet.

Dad, can I try the call with the stick?                                           Our midday hunt started off on top of a knob where Jeff had been getting regular trail-cam pics of a gobbler showing off in the early afternoon sun. This spot yielded only a distant preoccupied jake and one napping boy. We decided to relocate to the lee of the hill to get out of the stiff wind blowing across the crest. Once resettled Josh asked to try the pot call. With a little tutelage on how to hold the striker I
was impressed by how quickly he was picking up the basics of calling. With my son scratching on the slate, I was caught in a mental lapse when a loud “putt” snapped my attention from my phone to a couple curious hens who had slipped inside 15 yards to inspect the source of the calls.

Dad, what do turkeys eat?
Lunch at Chick-fil-A filled our hungry stomachs and gave the boys another outlet to spend their pent-up energy. By our third hunt of the day point both boy’s capacity for remaining still and quiet was shot. We covered what turkeys eat and where they sleep at night before calling it a day and heading to meet Jeff’s daughter for dinner. By the time we settled in to our motel beds, the effects of the day had drained their youthful exuberance and neither boy had any problems being still and quiet.

Dad, come check this out!
The second and last morning of our hunt only turned up one hen, but before we headed back home, Jeff took the boys to the back of the property where a secluded creek and waterfall hid. On our way we somehow snuck up on a group of does oblivious to the antics of two boys stomping out dirt clods. Watching the boys romp through the creek and explore its banks provided the perfect ending to their
adventure.

On the drive back home my son and I were both riding on the high of an experience that neither of us would soon forget. I’d be lying if I said that it was easy to push down the desire in me to kill a bird to ensure my son enjoyed his time outdoors. He may never have the same passion for hunting or the outdoors that I have, but the lessons he learns from our time spent together in the turkey woods will hopefully carry with him wherever his own passions take him.

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