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My 9 Year Old Son's First Hunt: Chasing Turkeys With Ryan

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My nine year old son, Ryan, was lucky enough to be the beneficiary of more lenient youth turkey opportunities this year in MN. We moved from ND this past year, so this was my first rodeo trying to figure out all of the MN rules and regs. Thanks to DonBo and my cousin’s husband, Mike, I finally understood the do’s and don’ts of what Ryan could do. In short, Ryan was allowed to hunt where ever and whenever he could otherwise legally hunt in search of a turkey.

Ryan has asked me a lot about how old he’d have to be to hunt an animal with a bow. I’ve consistently told him that he’d have to reliably be able to put an arrow inside of a kill zone at least four out of five times at the distance we figured was a reasonable estimate for a legitimate shot. For deer, that meant that when I decided he was old enough we’d have to determine the maximum distance he’d be able to put 4/5 shots inside of a volleyball sized target. For turkeys, however, the target is much smaller and he’d have to put 4/5 shots inside of a softball sized target. When I told him this he cringed. He knew full well that as of last January, he couldn’t do that at almost any distance. I encouraged him to shoot a shotgun this first year, but he emphatically said “No! I want to hunt with a bow.”

So, he asked me if we could bring his bow home and start practicing. He shot down in our disaster of a basement. I had multiple projects going down there this Winter and it was a mess! He didn’t care, he really enjoyed shooting.



In January he practiced about once per week. In February he shot about twice per week. By March he was shooting at least three times per week and often five or six times in a week. Soon his groups got tighter and tighter and before long I was replacing knocks and fletchings and he was slapping arrows on a lot of shots. By the beginning of April this is what his groups were looking like.



He was ready!

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  • Scoot


  • Borch


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  • sticknstring


The weekend before Ryan’s season opened up the ND season opened. Our buddy Jake had drawn a turkey tag for the land in ND that we have permission to hunt and Ryan and I tagged along with Jake in hopes of helping him shoot a bird. It would serve as a great warm up to Ryan, who was really chompin’ at the bit to get his season underway.

On Friday evening, just about 15 hours before the Saturday morning opener Ryan, Jake, Jake’s little boy Logan, and I went out to scout for turkeys. We found quite a few birds around and were pleased to see a big group of birds with some strutters in the mix not far from the permanent ground blind that was out there. That settled it- we would head to that blind in the AM and see if we could call in one of those birds.

We got there as light was just beginning to overtake darkness and there were birds gobbling all around us as we hauled our gear and the kids to the blind. Everyone settled in and we listened to turkeys gobbling in virtually every direction from the blind. It was really great!

Here’s our decoy set up.


Here are the two very experienced guides, who were helping Jake out on this beautiful Saturday morning (and it was a beautiful day!)


…and here’s Jake, the guy with the tag in his pocket.


We could see turkeys through the trees to the North of us and another group to the South for quite a while. We also saw quite a few deer, which Ryan was able to snap a few pictures of.





Around 9:00 AM the turkeys to our South had drifted off to wherever turkeys go when they disappear and the group to our North had moved West into the woods we were sitting next to. They sounded like they were paralleling our location and moving to the South, but before they went quiet and we didn’t hear a peep from them for at least half an hour.

Logan settled into the softest, warmest spot he could find and took a nap.


But it was short-lived and soon he was back to looking for a turkey for his dad to shoot.


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Give him credit more than many youth hunts,he put a lot of time in preparing for this hunt,very good going. Also good going on your part on teaching the ethics of hunting.

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Awesome - can't wait to see how Ryan's hunt unfolds! You've certainly got him prepared!

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  • 'we have more fun' FishingMN Creators

Yes hunting a turkey with a bow definitely makes things tougher. Good to see him work so hard to be ready to do it.

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Excellent Scoot! Can't wait for the rest. One question, since this was/ is a month long process can we speed up the day by days, I am too impatient to wait a month and a half to see if Ryan scored! grin

Love the stories!

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One question, since this was/ is a month long process can we speed up the day by days, I am too impatient to wait a month and a half to see if Ryan scored! grin

Pumper, I'll try post as much as I'm able to. I'll update again in a minute and at least once tomorrow. After that, I make no promises!!! smile

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That’s when Logan declared to his dad, “I have to go p00p.” We had discussed this exact scenario and Jake was in charge of brining some TP. He did, but he’d forgotten it in the pickup. It was only 250 yards away and it would probably do us all some good to stretch our legs. We soon got to the pickup and Ryan and I wandered off for a few minutes and Logan took care of his business. When Ryan and I came back we were dumbfounded to see at least two dozen turkeys surrounding the decoys right in front of our blind and at least four toms were beating the snot out of my jake decoy! Ryan got teary-eyed and was upset that this was “all his fault”, but I tried to explain that 1) it was in no way his fault, and 2) sometimes this is the kind of thing that happens in hunting and really, in the big picture, it was pretty darn funny. Jake and I shook our heads and laughed it off. Logan didn’t really care either way, and Ryan refused to accept the fact that this wasn’t a really bad outcome and that he wasn’t to blame for it.

I had seen the birds stroll by this location and I knew where they often headed to. We quickly pulled all of our gear and relocated to the next stop on the turkey route I’d seen before. The short version of this part of the story is this- we heard birds a couple times, but couldn’t get close to them. We relocated twice, but didn’t come up with anything. Around noon we decided to head back to the general vicinity of the morning sit, only this time a couple hundred yards to the North and in a portable blind. Here’s the boys on the walk back to the truck after we’d crashed and burned in our efforts to be mobile.



We got situated in the corner of the field where the birds had been in the AM and settled in. Logan inspected the decoys to make sure they were up to snuff.


Then we settled into the blind for the afternoon.


It got toasty warm in the blind and we started peeling off clothes to try to stay cool. Logan got locked into a movie and Jake hung out, just enjoying the time with his son and friends.



Ryan was his usual, serious self.



For over two hours we could hear no sign of a turkey and could only see a turkey decoy.


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No garuntees, but I will be watching until at least tomorrow. As always, great read. Look like you had a fun time. laugh

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Looks like you are having no problem getting pictures of plenty of turkeys. Hopefully some (of the bird variety) will pose for a shot soon. grin

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  • 'we have more fun' FishingMN Creators

Isn't that the way it goes...

Looks like everyone is having fun and that's what it's all about!

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Looks like you are having no problem getting pictures of plenty of turkeys.

Gobble gobble! winklaugh

Pictures of actual turkeys are coming! ...or maybe you knew that already NoWiser?

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Funny stuff so far. Seems that turkeys always show up when least expected. Whether sleeping, going to the bathroom, or just stretching your legs outside of the blind.

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However, around 2:15 multiple gobblers came within ear shot of us and stayed in the woods for about 45 minutes. They’d gobble occasionally and didn’t seem to care much about my calling. However, I occasionally let out a cluck or a yelp and made sure they knew we were around. Right around 3:00 Jake said, “There’s a bird in the field”. I looked out and saw this tom had just cut under the fence and was about 100 yards South of us.


I called, and he clearly heard me, but he was in no hurry to come over. He slowly made his way along, taking about half of his steps toward us and half of them out into the field further.



In the picture below you can see the blind we sat in during the AM sit behind the bird- he was about halfway between that spot and our current location.



Before long there were three birds in the field. I clucked lightly and the back two toms headed our way. At first it was slow, but they picked up steam as they came. Soon they were on a very fast walk and when the front tom saw them coming he high-tailed it in our direction.


Here are the back two birds coming hot. When I took this picture the front bird had already gotten too close for me to get a picture of it through my window.


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Jake asked “How far are they?” I first said “40”, but quickly said “30…20” and I saw Jake’s eyes lock on the bird. He hesitated for a couple seconds, then came to full draw. In a flash the arrow was on its way and I heard a loud, feathered “thud” that was very unlike what it sounds like when a deer gets hit with an arrow. I peeked my head out just as Jake said, “He’s down!” He laughed and we all cheered for him- it was great! The boys (young and old, but especially young) were excited as could be!

Logan was the first to the bird- he tried to lift it up, but couldn’t do it.


A few more hero shots.







After getting our pictures and tearing down all of our gear, we headed for the truck. Jake had punched his tag on another ND turkey.


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Excellent! Job well done fellas and as always - great pictures Scoot! Now it's Ryan's turn!

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harvey lee

AWESOME Scoot, is that the road just the the east across the small bridge? Were you in the field to the east, across the bridge to the north of the Twist of Fate Blind? Typically a fair amount of turkey in that area.

I have shot some nice deer back in that area over the years. I was hoping maybe you would have had a pic of a yote or 2 shot also. That area has way too many yotes in that woods.

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AWESOME Scoot, is that the road just the the east across the small bridge? Were you in the field to the east, across the bridge to the north of the Twist of Fate Blind?

Yep, that's exactly where we were. We were right in the NE corner of the field, about 30 yards from the woods and right up next to the fence that runs along the road near the river. Birds must roost in the woods very near there because I've seen them in the field in that spot pretty early. I love that spot and I love hunting near the West field too- seems like lots of birds are in both of those locations each Spring. Unfortunately, as MN residents now we can't hunt turkeys in the Spring out there anymore. But, it's just as much fun to call and run a camera as it is to be the shooter, so at least I can do that out there.

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  • 'we have more fun' FishingMN Creators

Awsome hunt!

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After another week of shooting and prepping all of our gear, Ryan was really itchy to get in the blind on opening day in MN. We had scouted out an area South of my father-in-law’s place and decided to give it a try on opener. Here was our decoy setup, just eight yards in front of the blind.


It was a very cold morning, but the sunrise made it worth the effort. Even if we didn’t see a turkey, this day was made by the gorgeous start to the day.



Ryan was cold, so I covered him up with a couple jackets and a blanket I had brought.


Soon he was comfy and warm and he drifted off to sleep. We had heard gobbles on the walk in and there were gobblers to the SW of us for a while, but they sounded like they headed further South and eventually we couldn’t hear them. After an hour of hearing nothing but geese, ducks, cranes, songbirds, and an occasional “ZZZ” from Ryan, a hen let out a series of yelps from not more than 30 yards behind the blind. I immediately woke Ryan up and he got ready. Soon I saw her coming past the left side of the blind. She appeared very skeptical of the decoys and skirted around them, not getting closer than about 20 yards from them.





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She stayed 40-50 yards from us for over an hour. We watched her and hoped she’d bring a tom into the general area, but it never happened. Around 11:00 AM we headed home to get some work done and meet my brother and my nephews. I got some work out of the crew, then Cody and Logan, my oldest sister’s kids joined us in the blind for the afternoon.


Ryan and Logan kept each other entertained.


Cody worked the box call occasionally.


However, we got skunked that afternoon. Before we left we moved our blind to a spot close to where we’d heard the gobblers at sunrise that morning. When my alarm went off on Sunday morning the wind was still at 40+ mph. The forecast was for the wind to gradually die down, so we slept an extra hour. On the drive in, about ½ mile North where we’d set up the blind, I looked off to the left of the dirt trail we were driving in on and I was quite surprised to see the ground blind, wrapped around a tree and an old fence post! Amazing, besides a couple small three corner tears it was no worse for the wear. We set it back up in the location it had been the night before and waited. Besides several deer, we got shut out. Ryan, as you can see below, wasn’t exactly heartbroken about his news and managed to have fun with his nephews anyway.


It was fun to have both Cody…


…and Logan with us for the weekend.


I’m pretty sure we cured them of any future turkey hunting! It was tough sledding for us that weekend.

While we hunted that weekend Jim, a fellow HSOer (aka. NoWiser), text me pictures of birds he and his buddy had shot about ½ an hour into the season. At one point he mentioned that it might be possible to get Ryan down to where he had hunted that weekend. I inquired about this a little farther on Sunday afternoon and before I knew it Ryan was set up to hunt in SE MN the following weekend! I’m was thrilled by the generous offer and very appreciative of Jim going through not only the hassle of getting us permission to hunt down there, but also offering to give up his weekend to come with us on the hunt.

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Great bird, Jake! It had to be that sweet looking bow. It had to be a blast having the two youngins along for that one.

I couldn't help but notice the name on your box call. Very interesting and excellent marketing.

What brand are your decoys?

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What brand are your decoys?

Avian X and DSD. I'm honestly not sure which is which though-- someone who knows a lot about the decoys will be able to tell though. Anyone?

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Friday at about 2:00 I got Ryan out of school and we headed for the South side of the Twin Cities to meet Jim. We got there in the early evening and got our ducks in a row for the morning. At 2:30 AM my alarm went off and we were soon on the road. After picking up Jim’s buddy Darren we headed to the field we had permission to hunt. Darren was coming along and scouting for an upcoming hunt, but he would be in another blind about ¼ mile away from us. We tucked back into a corner of the field on the far East side of it. It was an interesting place- we were in a field that was surrounded, at least on our end of the field, by a river. Once one left the field edge the elevation dropped pretty sharply down to the river, creating a canyon that was heavily treed on all sides that I could see. It was beautiful country, and as we’d soon come to find out, was great habitat for turkeys to reside in.

Here’s how the day started for us- we saw this beautiful horizon on the walk in.


Soon the sun threatened to make its daily appearance...


…and we heard a gobble to the NE of us. Then more gobbles, then the cool morning air was filled with the noise of dozens of gobbling turkeys virtually surrounding us. It was pretty amazing!

Before long we could hear a group of gobblers NE of us that were getting closer. Ryan was grinning from ear to ear as they got closer and closer with every set of gobbles.


Soon they got close enough so that we thought we should be able to see them in the corner of the field to the North of us. Ryan peaked over Jim’s shoulder looking for them.


Just before they appeared in the field they ripped off a set of gobbles that sounded like it was right next to the blind. Ryan turned back at me with his reaction.


Seconds later they were in the field. I called a little bit, they locked on the decoys, and immediately made their way towards us. They looked like four thugs coming in for a fight! The combo of it still being a little dark and moving turkeys made for some mediocre pictures to start the day, but these pictures will give you an idea of what unfolded early that morning.

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They got in close and seemed to pay no attention to the hen- they wanted to kick some butt on the jake!


Here are a few pictures of my poor jake decoy getting the snot knocked out of it!




For well over two straight minutes the turkeys put a whoopin’ on my jake decoy. Also, for well over two straight minutes Ryan had been at full draw. Twice I leaned over and whispered “pick a bird and shoot”. He was trying, but in his defense the birds just wouldn’t hold still! It was chaotic and they were aggressively going back and forth, up and down, and all around in an effort to get the next crack at the jake decoy. Two times Ryan locked onto a bird that was still for a moment, but he didn’t dare shoot because there was another bird behind the front bird and I’d warned him about this exact scenario. I was pleased he could keep his wits about him enough to recognize this. Finally, this bird puffed up to the right of the decoy and Ryan let his arrow go.


The arrow missed its mark, just a little too high and clipped the last tip of a feather as it flew harmlessly over the bird’s back. The turkeys had no idea what had happened, but they turned and scurried away.


For at least another 15 minutes they were out in front of us, torturing us just outside of range for much of the time.

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Eventually they wandered away. During this time I wore my brother’s camcorder. It’s like a GoPro (but my bro likes it better than the GoPro’s he’s had). It turns out I sat too high to get decent video, but I’ll include the snippet below to give you a feel for how it went. I spliced together two pieces- first the shot, then Ryan’s reaction. In reality they happened several minutes apart, but they’re just seconds apart in the video. Not good footage, but kinda fun still. Plus, you can tell Ryan was pretty darn amused with the whole thing!

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Oh man, that was fun!! I was really impressed at how calm Ryan stayed. Most kids (heck, most grown men) I know would have gotten flustered and flock shot at that giant mass of turkeys attacking the decoy. I think had a tom moved off to the side and presented a shot before he had to hold his draw for so long it would have had an arrow in it. But, the end result was the same - a sweet memory!

I'm not sure about others, but the video says "private" when I click on it and I can't view it.

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