By Mark Melotik and our friends at Outdoor Life Magazine
What’s better than being in the presence of a strutting spring tom as it booms out a ground-shaking gobble? Sharing that incredible experience with an enthralled, wide-eyed youngster, huddled inches away from you in a cozy ground blind. Even an IMAX theatre movie can’t compete with a show like that.
Keith Beam knows that feeling intimately, after several thrilling hunts with his son Blake. Beam is on a mission to ensure scenes like this happen regularly, across the nation and beyond. Beam, 50, is the creator of Drake’s Adventures, an interactive children’s audio book series aimed at hooking youngsters into the hunting/outdoor lifestyle at what Beam believes is a critical recruitment age range: zero to 5 or 6 years old.
“It’s my personal opinion that kids today have some great programs once they’re old enough to participate: The National Archery in the Schools Program [NASP], the [Ducks Unlimited] Greenwings, the [NWTF] Jakes. But there are really no programs for children under 5 or 6 years old. Today a kid knows what an iPad is by age 4; I wanted to do something that sparked their interest in hunting and the outdoors from the time they hear a book read to them to the time they are old enough to participate. It’s a niche group, but reaching these kids early is imperative for hunting to grow. It’s something that I’m very passionate about, to see the kids sit down with their parents, or by themselves, and get inspired by listening to these stories, and maybe get their parents to take them outdoors and get that interest started.”
Sparking an interest is only the first step. Beam believes it’s just as critical to make a child’s first hunting experiences positive, and so he has several tips for introducing kids to turkey hunting that aim to side-step some common pitfalls.
**Spend Quality Time at The Right Time **
“Probably 99 percent of turkeys are killed between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., and with that said, unless you really want your kid to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and sit there from well before daylight to 8 a.m., he or she will lose interest quickly with that program,” Beam said. “There is really no need to get your kid up that early, before the action is starting to happen, and before the sun has a chance to warm things up. To my mind you’re miles ahead by playing into a youngster’s attention span, comfort, and the highest turkey activity levels—we need to put those together, in my opinion.”
Never Too Early to Begin Calling
“One of the things I have done, is allowed my kids to call right alongside me with friction calls and box calls, to get them involved with the calling more or less immediately. We all know there are hens that sound spectacular, and there are also some that sound downright atrocious. Regardless, it’s an absolute hoot to have your kid fire off a call and have a tom answer back. Calling is one of those things that it’s way better to learn by experiencing.”
Teaching Lessons in Turkey Anatomy
“This pertains mainly to the bowhunter, but making sure you and your kid know the anatomy of a turkey and the kill zone is a huge help for many reasons. To start, get a decoy and get your kid involved with learning where you should shoot a bird. Learning and teaching the anatomy of a bird gives you a recounted memory of where you need to shoot the bird, and it gives the youngster an opportunity to look for that ‘perfect moment,’ so to speak. Another benefit: it will give them an understanding of how critical shot placement is. Of course you don’t want to botch the shot, but the extra emphasis you’ve both worked on will help you perform your best under pressure. The lesson will help you both.”
Make the Most Of Your Encounter
“The point above is a perfect segue into my next tip: Don’t rush the shot. I call it, ‘enjoying the show.’ When you’re in a blind and a bird is committed to you, let that bird come in and strut around and show all of its glory. Let the encounter completely unfold. When a turkey folds its wings across its back it’s going to leave, but until then, there is no sense in ‘fast-forwarding’ the movie. Watch it. Enjoy it. In my last turkey encounter with my son, the gobbler was on the scene a full five and a half minutes before I drew my bow. It was the most amazing scene you could imagine; the sun was to my back, the sight of the turkey was spectacular. Sure, it wears on your nerves a little bit, but you might as well enjoy it, because your kid surely will.”
“Get a pair of binoculars that fit your child’s eyes and remember to take them with you. I finally bought a pair of Bushnells that fit my son’s eye width, and now his interest and his exploratory nature is fantastic. My boy was four or five when he started hunting with me and the spread on adult binoculars didn’t work for him. ‘Child-size’ binos have been a really good addition.”
Blinds, Comfy Chairs are Critical
“I learned this kind of the hard way; get a blind chair that fits your kids, so they can sit comfortably. My first time out my son’s legs were two inches shy of touching the ground while he sat, and so he was not going to sit still for very long. Take the time to get your equipment matched to your kids and it will go a long way. And of course you need a good ground blind, which allows you to get away with plenty of movement and fidgeting, and also helps keep wind, mosquitoes, and inclement weather in check. Nothing will beat a good ground blind.”
The Best Turkey Bowhunting Tip Of All?
“And I can’t forget the biggest tip to turkey hunting. What is it? Face your decoys at the blind—I can’t say enough about that. If a tom comes out at 70 to 80 yards, if your decoys are pointed away from you and toward him, he assumes your fakes can see him. And he might strut out there and never come closer. If the dekes are pointed away from him, there’s a 70- to 80-percent chance he’ll come in closer. It’s unbelievable how much of an impact that simple change can make in your hunt.”
To learn more about the Drake’s Adventures audio book series that includes the spring-turkey-hunt-themed “Spring Thunder,” and deer-hunt-themed “Trick or Treat,” log on to DrakesAdventures.com.