The opening day of deer season used to get me excited more than any other hunting pursuit, however, after having kids, youth day of the spring turkey season is truly what I live for. Unbridled excitement is how to best describe my children as turkey season approaches. The kids and I bring out the calls and talk turkey just about every night, music to our ears, the dog … not so much. We all talk tactics and weeks before the opener, they accompany me on scouting trips and mornings are spent walking the woods and driving dirt roads in anticipation of spotting a truly giant beard dragger. Our hunts have also grown increasingly more fun over the years, as the kids have gained enough strength and knowledge to spot and stalk, a hunting technique infinitely more enjoyable for them than sitting over a decoy and playing the waiting game. During the 2018 season, both boys were able to shoot birds by stalking, hunts that will remain cherished memories for years to come.
Sleep In, Shoot More Birds
One of the things that I had to be more flexible about when hunting with kids is that they don’t tend to want to get up super early and as they have crept into the teen years this has become a less and less enjoyable experience for them. Often these days we sleep in till about 8-9:00 and then hunt. By this time of morning the gobbles have typically gone silent but big birds are still on the prowl for love and the hunting can be excellent. As the hens head for their nest and the early morning crowd of hunters heads home for breakfast, the woods become the perfect place to ambush old Tom. By patrolling the wood line paralleling small fields, small groups of birds can readily be spotted. Often by creeping in close and employing light yelps and purrs and scratching in the leaves toms and jakes alike will make the mistake of crossing into the danger zone. This is where knowing yardage is important to ensuring a lethal shot. I carry a range finder so when a bird enters 30 yards, I know the kids can effectively hit their target. My rule, however, is if the turkey is coming let him come, it’s always better to have a slam dunk at 10-15 yards, if the bird is going to be corporative. This isn’t just good advice for kids though as I have hunted with many friends who have missed birds at 40 yards that were practically running into a decoy. Always wait for a better shot, if you anticipate a better shot.
Augila Mini Shells
Aguila Ammunition Company recently released a new 1 ¾ inch 12 gauge shot shell. I picked up a box to check their effectiveness thinking they might be perfect for a youth hunter wanting to make the transition from a 20 gauge pump to a 12 gauge automatic, without having to invest in a brand new firearm. After testing them in my 12 gauge automatic, I encountered feed problems and ultimately decided against their use. I then began to think that maybe if an adult hunter wanted to introduce their son or daughter to turkey hunting and only had a single shot 12 gauge available for use, the mini shells would enable a youth hunter to use the firearm with less recoil and again without having to purchase a new firearm. DO NOT DO THIS!
Mini Shells ARE NOT Legal for Turkey Hunting
Maine law states that for turkey hunting: A person can use shotgun gauges 10 through 20, using shot sizes 4 through 6 or mixed loads that include shot sizes 4 through 7. In addition, shotgun gauges 10 through 28, including .410, may be used with shot sizes 7 through 9 in Tungsten Super Shot (TSS).
I found this verbiage slightly confusing since mini shells don’t fit perfectly within this description. To clarify, I contacted the Maine Warden Service and asked if mini shells were legal for turkey hunting. The reply from the Maine warden service was that mini shells can NOT be used for turkey hunting, since at this time of this writing, Augila is only loading mini shells with slugs, #4 buckshot or shells filled with 7 1/2s, 8s and 9s. Unfortunately, all of those loads are outside of what is allowed to hunt turkey, Augila Mini Shells cannot be used legally.