By Clark Schmitz
Mark Hartman has enjoyed outdoor activities for as long as he can remember. Mark lives in Merrill, IA with his wife Valerie and children MaKenzie 23, Joshua 20 and Addison 13. Marks love of the outdoors (and more specifically, spring turkey hunting) was somewhat contagious and soon Val was showing an interest in hunting wild turkeys.
Val’s early turkey hunts with Mark were both exciting and productive as she was successful in harvesting spring gobblers. In these early years of Val’s introduction to turkey hunting, daughter Addison (only 5 years old at that time) was already showing an interest in their hunting activities. She would accompany them on turkey hunts as a very interested observer. It was obvious she too would become a turkey hunter when she was old enough.
As the years passed Addison’s interest in turkey hunting continued to grow and she couldn’t wait for the day she would be old enough to hunt turkeys. Finally in the spring of 2016 (when she was 12) her parents agreed she was ready! Her preparation began with gun safety training and target practice.
With clay birds as targets Addison practiced with her 20 gauge shot gun. She quickly got comfortable with handling the gun while always being aware of the direction the muzzle was pointing. After a few practice sessions both Addison and her parents were convinced she was ready to take her shooting skills to the woods.
On the morning of April 16, 2016 Val & Addison headed for the timber (for Addison’s first ever turkey hunt) well before first light. Once in the timber they quietly set up their pop up blind, set up a strutting tom and hen decoys and waited for first light.
As the eastern sky began to awaken so did the turkeys. Soon gobbles were heard from turkeys still on the roost not far from their blind. Val made some soft yelps with her box call which was answered with more gobbles. A few minutes passed before three toms flew down and landed 40 yards from the blind. The toms circled the decoys well out of range. Two of the three birds left the area while the largest bird in the group slowly circled around the back of the blind. As he continued to come closer off to the right of the blind they could sense he wanted to come in to the decoys. Val slowly and quietly opened the window on the right side of the blind enough to allow Addison to attempt a shot if presented. With each step the gobbler continued to get closer and closer. As the bird got to 15 yards Addison positioned her shotgun on a shooting stick and took aim. Addison slowly squeezed the trigger, her shot hit the gobbler hard and put him down immediately. The mother-daughter team had gotten it done only twenty minutes into Addison’s first ever turkey hunt! The beautiful big gobbler had a 10 ½ “ beard; what a trophy! Mark and Val were also successful in harvesting turkeys that spring but Addison’s tom won the family “Big Tom” contest for 2016!
Addison’s thrilling turkey hunt in 2016 made having to wait another year to pursue wild turkeys seen like an eternity. Finally the 2017 turkey season arrived and Val and Addison were again in the turkey woods.
The first hunt of 2017 was a little slow as the predawn gobbles heard near their blind resulted in the turkeys flying down in the other direction. Two more hours of intermittent calling took place with no responses.
The next attempt again started with gobbles heard near the blind from the roost. Val’s soft yelps resulted in more gobbles, the toms were interested. Val continued to call from time to time and got responses, but the turkeys were not getting any closer. Finally after an hour of calling, two toms and a jake were spotted coming their way. As the turkeys got to within range they were so close together that Addison had trouble getting a clear shot for fear she would hit more than one bird. Finally the turkeys separated enough that Addison could focus on one of the toms at twenty yards. She slowly squeezed the trigger and watched as the fatally hit tom spun and flapped his wings for only a short time. Addison and Val exited the blind and went to admire Addison’s turkey. The mother-daughter team had done it again, harvesting another great gobbler!
Congratulations to Addison on harvesting two nice turkeys and to her parents for introducing her to the great outdoors and hunting.
If you have the opportunity to introduce a youth to the outdoors please do so to help carry on our hunting traditions.