Thursday, April 12, 2012

Youth Only Days - A Tradition, A Necessity

Wes entered the field Saturday morning at an early 6 am.  The previous evening, he had scouted the fields for signs of his game.  On one field, he heard the familiar sounds of a lonely Tom.  This would be the place.  Wes set out two decoys, one jake and one hen, and then backed into the edge of the woods.  Sporting his Stoeger 2000 12 gauge shotgun, and loaded with 4 shot Winchester shells, Wes felt good about this morning.  Within 10 minutes of sitting, the gobbles started.  Wes has been hunting turkey for the last few years, even had one come within a few yards of him on occasion.  Wes had scouted the land many times, learning where every tree and thicket was located.  He had studied the paths the different animals would take to get from field to forest to field.  And for his work, this year, if the Tom were to appear before his decoys, he would pull the trigger.

In 2009 the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission proposed doing away with Youth Turkey day.  Youth Turkey day is historically the Saturday before opening day of turkey season, in which hunters under the age of 16 are allowed to go in the field in pursuit of gobblers.  The hunters of North Carolina were upset with the notion of losing the youth only hunt and their voices were loud.
Youth only days represent a way to have an adult work with a youth in the pursuit of the game through cooperation.  In the book “The Hunter: Developmental Stages and Ethics,” Dr. Bob Norton challenges the reader to get the youth involved with the outdoors first.  As the youth becomes more acquainted with nature, then the passion of the hunt will follow.  Once the youth has worked toward the goal, through learning the appreciation of nature and the outdoors, the hunt would be more satisfying without setting uncommon expectations.
Many of us believe if we can just get the new hunter their first ‘kill’ they will be hooked.  Contrary to these beliefs, the first kill is not the beginning stage.  The first kill is just one of the stages.  After the work, the consideration and appreciation, the kill helps influence the young hunter for the future.  Ethics are instilled.
Wes Beamon with his birthday turkey.
 9 ¼ inch beard and 1 inch spurs.
Now, all work and no reward do not bode well for a long term hunter either.  The pursuit of the game needs to have an end goal.   Often the sight of the animal is enough, but even that needs to be prodded further eventually.  This is where the youth only days have become beneficial.  Well before the shotguns start firing on opening day, before the turkey become accustomed to the ‘fake’ hens and jakes calling for them, the youth get their chance at one shot.
As Wes sat in the edge of the woods on the field line, he kept hearing the gobbles getting closer.  Soon, he could almost feel the bird nearby.  A great flutter occurred just to his back, and a great dark object landed just in front of him.   The Tom perked up as he met the decoys set in front of Wes.  Wes pulled the trigger on the 12 gauge.  He had no time to be nervous or anxious.  Wes was the hunter and instinct grabbed hold of him.  With the blast the turkey stumbled about.  Wes’ hard work and several years of hunting the elusive and wary bird had finally paid off, just as he felt it would.  This was Wes’ last opportunity to hunt on any youth only day.  Two days later Wes turned 16 (April 9).  Nature had provided an early birthday gift.


  1. Bravo! Doing away with youth days would be a great way for any state wildlife agency to slowly watch their funding and public support drawn down to lower levels than it already is.

    We (hunters) need the next generation to hunt - and indeed - we must do a better job of mentoring them, than many of our dads did with us. As the dad of a little boy, I take that seriously.

    But the state wildlife agencies should take it seriously too. Those young hunters are going to be their best political and public advocates 15, 20, and 30 years from now.

  2. Nice write up. I never really heard of Turkey hunting until I moved to NC. I thought it was a little goofy then I started talking to people who were really into hunting them. Now I'd like to try it. I don't have the funds for a whole new hobby. I might go with some friends some time.

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