This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: This week we take to the turkey woods. It was youth season in Missouri and Arkansas and the GrowingDeer Team jumps at every opportunity to take a kid hunting.
ALL: 20 pounds/one ounce.
UNKNOWN: That’s dandy.
UNKNOWN: That’s a good bird.
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GRANT: Missouri’s youth season is two days long and always a week before the regular season opens. Anyone 15 or younger is classified as a youth hunter. Rae is 14, so Adam, Rae and I were eager to head out Saturday morning.
GRANT: We’d been using Reconyx cameras to scout The Proving Grounds for several months now. And we had a pretty good idea which ridgetops and food plots turkeys were using as strut zones.
GRANT: Based on studying the Reconyx pictures and videos, there’s one clover field on top of a ridge we call Boomerang that seemed to have the most activity.
GRANT: Missouri’s youth season usually corresponds with the very early part of the turkey breeding season. And at this time, the hens are still in flocks, but gobblers aren’t far behind. The hens are pretty much on a get off the roost and feeding pattern daily. They're not all spread out seeking nesting habitat and it’s a great time to pattern turkeys.
GRANT: About a week before youth season opened, we moved a Redneck hay bale blind at the edge of the powerline overlooking the clover food plot.
GRANT: We set out a Miss-Purrfect decoy and settled in the blind way before daylight. It was a really enjoyable time watching and listening to all the critters come to life as the sun peaked over the horizon.
GRANT: The three of us were listening to several toms gobbling in the distance, but after awhile, three birds fired up what we assumed to be about 200 yards in front of us and we knew those were the toms we were after.
GRANT: It’s always fun listening to gobblers when you know the terrain and trying to imagine where they are. As these gobblers started closing the distance, Adam and I both agreed they were really close to a Redneck blind that was about 150 yards in front of us – just over the hill and through some timber.
GRANT: I couldn’t really tell if they were moving toward us or kind of just going back and forth on the ridge. Adam hit the call one more time and there was no doubt in my mind those toms had committed and were coming our way.
GRANT: Listening to ‘em gobble, we thought they were right on the ridgetop. And it wasn’t long ‘til we saw those white heads coming down the logging road.
RAE: (Whispering) I see ‘em.
GRANT: (Whispering) I see them, I see them (Inaudible).
RAE: (Whispering) Three?
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah. (Inaudible).
RAE: (Whispering) Can I shoot one?
ADAM: (Whispering) Shoot the one in the back. Not yet. Go ahead and shoot him.
RAE: (Whispering) I would be shooting the Go Pro if I did.
ADAM: (Whispering) Oh. Okay.
UNKNOWN: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
RAE: (Whispering) He’s too close. Okay?
ADAM: (Whispering) Yup.
RAE: (Whispering) Ready?
GRANT: (Whispering) You nailed him. You nailed him, Rae.
RAE: (Whispering) Yeee!
ADAM: (Whispering) Look at him.
GRANT: (Whispering) Look at him; watch him.
GRANT: (Whispering) That’s a big one, Rae.
RAE: (Whispering) I didn’t flinch.
GRANT: (Whispering) No. You were perfect. You nailed him.
ADAM: (Whispering) Those other turkeys, I think, are coming up here.
UNKNOWN: (Whispering) The decoys are (Inaudible) around.
GRANT: Oooh. Some good hooks, Rae.
GRANT: Good spurs. Look at those.
RAE: Hmm. Hmm.
GRANT: This one’s actually a little longer. They're both good – probably a three year-old bird.
GRANT: And – oh man – look at that.
RAE: Um – it’s really long.
GRANT: Boy, they're beautiful feathers, aren’t they?
RAE: Yeah. They look kind of bluish.
GRANT: Yup. And this – boy, you peppered his head. He didn’t flop around much, did he?
GRANT: Well, get him out here where we can take some pictures and go back and take him to the house.
GRANT: Rae made a great shot and that tom barely flopped. We got out and inspected the turkey, shared some hugs and talked about the hunt. After we kind of settled down a little bit and we’ve taken a few pictures, I stepped off from the turkey, back to the hay bale blind and it was 48 steps. 48 yards.
GRANT: I gotta tell ya – before we started using Winchester Long Beard XR, I would have never given her the okay to take that shot. But through patterning and experience, I was fully confident she’d take that tom down.
GRANT: Based on the spur length – about an inch and 3/16, the tom is probably three years old. That’s a good tom anywhere, but it was an even better hunt. The birds gobbled good, responded to the call and there was plenty of excitement as they were approaching. More importantly, it was just a fun hunt to share with my daughter, Rae.
GRANT: After every successful hunt, I like to take a little time and see what the critter has been eating. I call this scouting from the skinning shed.
GRANT: 23-1/2. 23-1/2. Good tom for the Ozarks. And it’s a easy 10 – a little bit over 10 inches on the beard.
GRANT: Sharing a hunt with family and friends is really important and just as important is properly preparing the meat. We all should be thankful when we harvest game and that natural source of meat to feed our families.
GRANT: The first thing to do, of course, is remove the beard. So, I just put my hand at the base and give it a good tug and there it is – nice full beard.
GRANT: Turn the turkey up – right where his breastbone is to me – and I just want to open up and see what’s in his crop. Probably not much because we called this turkey right off the roost. We could hear him in a tree; hear him hit the ground; different call sound or a different volume anyway, so, I doubt he’s fed much, but we’ll see.
GRANT: And I want to cut out away from the feathers. If you cut in, you're gonna get feathers all over the meat.
GRANT: And you can tell where it’s still very early in their breeding season. Look at all this fat. In a week or two if we harvest a tom, I predict it won't have near as much fat as now. And you also notice – still full of breast feathers. That means they're not breeding much yet. They haven’t worn those breast feathers off. So, it kind of gives you a good gauge of where the local turkey population is in the breeding cycle.
GRANT: This turkey – of course – came off the roost and it’s so empty. I’m feeling right here and there’s nothing in his crop.
GRANT: When I opened up the crop in the tom Rae harvested, there was nothing in it. Apparently, that ole tom came off the roost and started working right toward our setup.
GRANT: Usually, when you open up a deer’s stomach or a turkey’s crop, there’s great information that tells us where turkeys are spending time eating. But when you shoot a tom that came to you right off the roost, oftentime there will be nothing in his crop.
GRANT: Pro Staffers Heath and Lindsey Martin also had the opportunity to take a youth hunting this past weekend. They went on a youth hunt set up by Scott Hook of Hook’s Custom Calls. The hunt was organized in north central Arkansas.
GRANT: Once they arrived in camp, they met up with Scott and their youth hunter, Gracie Pate. Gracie is 13 and has tagged a few deer, but never been able to tag a turkey.
LINDSEY: So, what are you most excited about for the weekend?
GRACIE: Um, probably, tomorrow morning. Just getting out there and being able to hear ‘em and, hopefully, gettin’ me a turkey.
LINDSEY: Have you ever had a chance to hear very many turkeys?
GRACIE: Um, once.
LINDSEY: Once. Okay. Would you like to add any pressure to Mr. Martin about getting you a bird tomorrow? Do you know he feels a lot of pressure to get you a bird?
GRACIE: I’m feeling a lot of pressure to shoot the bird. (Laughter)
GRANT: After introductions and getting to know each other, they headed over to the farm where they were going to hunt and did a little scouting.
UNKNOWN: I can't say, but probably not.
GRANT: The next morning was opening day but during the night, a strong cold front came in and bringing with it very high winds. It, apparently, gave all the turkeys lockjaw.
GRANT: After a couple hours of walking around and calling, they can’t hear any turkeys respond due to the high wind. So, Heath decides they need to find a high spot that’s out of the wind and see if they can hear a turkey respond.
GRANT: After 45 minutes they had a turkey respond and now they're hurrying to get set up.
GRANT: Even though this tom gobbled at every call Heath threw at him, he wouldn’t close the distance.
GRACIE: We were sitting here talking about our Border, Border Collies and labs and Mr. Heath decided to call a little bit and we had a gob – a lonely gobbler – gobble back at us. And we got set up and got our decoys out. And about that time, we just couldn’t get him to come in.
LINDSEY: So now, what’s the plan?
GRACIE: Well, I got a rodeo this evening, so we gotta leave a little early and go to the rodeo and then, hopefully, we’ll get out here in the morning and get us a gob – get me a gobbler.
GRANT: That tom wouldn’t commit to come to the calls. And Gracie had prior obligations that afternoon. So, Heath took Gracie back to camp and met up with Scott Hook and spent the afternoon hunting with Scott and his youth hunter, Cade.
SCOTT: Here with my young hunter, Cade Cook, and his grandfather, Mitchell. Some friends told us of an area that birds like to hang out mid-day. We’re gonna try to slip in there and set up and just sit around and listen. Call a little bit and maybe we can get him a shot.
GRANT: A few minutes into the property, they had a cool interaction with a hen. And even though this hen was very chatty, no gobbler responded.
GRANT: They ended up moving further in the property and having a gobbler respond to their calls. They scrambled to get set up, but this tom worked his way in silently and wouldn’t give Cade a good shot.
UNKNOWN: (Whispering) Big longbeard.
GRANT: It was a fun day with some good interactions, but neither Gracie or Cade tagged a turkey. But, they were ready to go the next morning.
GRANT: Multiple birds were roosted that evening, so a second youth hunter joined Gracie the next morning.
GRANT: Heath’s group set up close to the roost site and one of the birds responded, but simply didn’t present a good shot through all the brush in the area.
LINDSEY: The wind has started to lay a little bit but, we’re, we’re still at it. We’re, we’re bound and determined we’re gonna get one.
GRACIE: Bound and determined. (Laughter)
GRANT: After that first set up, the group was working hard to get Gracie on a tom before her deadline to leave for church.
GRANT: They got on another tom and got their decoy set up. And with a little calling, it sounds like that tom is closing the distance.
UNKNOWN: Good (Inaudible).
UNKNOWN: Good shot, baby.
GRACIE: Oww – that was.
GRANT: Bird down. Congratulations Gracie on your first turkey.
GRACIE: That wasn’t too bad…
LINDSEY: Good job. How exciting was that?
GRACIE: It was pretty good.
GRACIE: I could just hear, “Shoot, shoot, shoot.” So, I just tried to get a shot off.
HEATH: I was, like, “Shoot, shoot, shoot.”
LINDSEY: I bet they were…
GRACIE: That’s all I could hear.
LINDSEY: …like there was a chant in the forest. I bet people on the road could hear him. Everybody – “shoot, shoot, shoot.” High five.
GRACIE: Thank you for calling my bird in for me.
LINDSEY: We’re proud of you.
UNKNOWN: Good job, Gracie.
GRACIE: Thank you.
GRACIE: I sure do appreciate y'all.
HEATH: Oh yeah. There you go. There’s one on the back of it.
GRANT: After all the celebration, Scott does a great job of explaining why it’s important to introduce youth to hunting.
SCOTT: Um, it requires patience; requires a little understanding – knowledge of your, your adversary in the woods. If, if you get down to the most basic things of turkey hunting, it can really teach you some lessons in life. And I’m still trying to learn the patience thing; that still hasn’t stuck with me yet.
SCOTT: We managed to get a bird this morning. Ms. Gracie killed a bird this morning.
GRANT: There’s a lot of emotions involved in taking anyone hunting. Youth or adult, new or experienced hunter, there is enjoying Creation. There’s the potential and the follow through of taking the life of another critter. And there’s the joy of providing quality food for your family. I can't think of any better tool than hunting for teaching life’s lessons. Thanks to Heath, Lindsey and Scott for volunteering their time to introduce several youth to hunting this past weekend in Arkansas.
GRANT: During the same weekend, Matt tagged along with Seth Harker and his son, Trace, during Missouri’s youth season. Trace was excited, as last season he took his first gobbler.
TRACE: Oh, it’s huge!
SETH: Dude, that’s a good shot, buddy.
GRANT: This year Trace was set on taking a longbeard and Seth and Matt were more than willing to help him meet that goal.
GRANT: The morning started out great as the guys got some turkeys fired up off the roost.
GRANT: Sure enough, two longbeards entered the plot – strutting, spitting, drumming and gobbling. They put on quite a show.
SETH: (Whispering) Yeah. That’s awesome, ain't it? Do not move a lot until they get in front of your gun barrel.
GRANT: One of the challenges of taking a youth hunting is getting them set up right and predicting where the turkey is going to approach.
SETH: (Whispering) Why? Why didn’t I just point the gun down the logging road? When we got here and I seen ‘em coming up the road, I was, like, “Why am I set up like this?” Did you ever think it?
MATT: Not until they got right there and I’m like, “Okay. I’m good.” And they (Inaudible) move. It’s like, “Oh!” I, I thought they were just gonna come out, see the decoys and just strut right to ‘em, but…
SETH: He was about ready to just shake off. (Laughter)
MATT: I was – I, I got – ‘cause he’s in the frame and I could see the gun going…
GRANT: This hunt was a great example of not having a youth hunter pointed the right direction due to the unpredictability of turkeys. Even though it didn’t work out with a tagged turkey, it was a great start to their hunt.
SETH: Yup. Turkeys would have been dead.
GRANT: One reason we’ve been experiencing some great turkey hunts here at The Proving Grounds is our intensive predator management program.
GRANT: We’ve worked for years to balance the predator and prey populations. We use trapping to reduce the amount of predators and the results of that have been very high survival rates of turkey poults and fawns.
GRANT: There’s another benefit to trapping and that’s acquiring the beautiful pelts. I saved up some pelts for a couple years and had Ms. Tracy a beautiful raccoon blanket made with a coyote trim.
GRANT: I love to turkey hunt, so every year we catch several raccoons here at The Proving Grounds. And people often ask, “What do you do with all those pelts?” Well, raccoon pelts make a beautiful gift and there’s lots of things you can do, but this year, I went above and beyond.
GRANT: I took several of the pelts that were about the same size, that I had caught in previous years, and I had Ms. Tracy a beautiful, large raccoon blanket made. And how about those pesky coyotes we catch? Had a coyote buffer put on the outside.
GRANT: Blankets made out of pelts kept native Americans warm for centuries. This one – at least based on what I’ve seen in museums – is probably a little bit more refined.
GRANT: The process was really simple. Of course, we trapped the predators, skinned, fleshed and dried the pelts, had a tannery prepare them at a garment tan or a very soft, had another vender produce this beautiful blanket.
GRANT: Now that there’s fewer predators at The Proving Grounds, both me, lots of turkeys and fawns, will sleep better this spring.
GRANT: I surprised Tracy with this blanket and she was thrilled. It’s an absolutely gorgeous addition to our home and, no doubt, will keep us warm for many winters to come.
GRANT: Each week, I share a reminder with all of us to slow down and listen to the Creator daily. I can't think of a better way than sitting on a ridgetop before daylight waiting for turkeys to gobble.
GRANT: But no matter where you are, I hope you take time to enjoy Creation this week and slow down every day and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
UNKNOWN: (Inaudible) Yeah.
UNKNOWN: I kind of like those, too.