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Youth turkey hunter

Sophie Andes, 13, enjoyed her first time hunting turkeys with Mark Walters during Wisconsin's youth turkey hunt.

Hello friends,

Wisconsin’s youth turkey hunt is a great way for kids to be introduced to turkey hunting before the state’s turkey population has been exposed to six weeks of veteran hunters. I have taken a youth hunter every year for the last 15 years, and I love taking kids hunting.

The land where I used to take Selina hunting is the best that I have ever known of for seeing and harvesting big toms. That property sold two years ago, so I do not have access to it anymore. I did some horse trading and obtained permission to take 13-year-old Sophie Andes on her first turkey hunt to a place I love to hunt.

Saturday, April 13

High 36, low 27

It was dark out, there was 4 inches of snow on the ground and the air temperature was 27 degrees. It sure seems like winter hangs on these days. We were hunting in a blind overlooking two old food plots that were surrounded on three sides by an oak forest.

There is a small pond close by that is usually an attractant for wildlife, but today it would be better for ice skating. The best turkey hunting memories of my life have been created here, as Selina has put the lights out on some dandies here, as well as several other kids.

I have to admits cold and snow are not generally good for turkey hunting, but the toms were gobbling early, and that is good news as we hunt this northern Juneau County property. An hour after the toms were gobbling, they stopped, and as always happens when hunting turkey with kids, Sophie became very tired.

I told her to get comfortable and sleep, as I would do the calling and the watching. We sat until 10:30 a.m., and nothing happened, so then headed to my house for lunch. It was really cool to see that Selina, who has aged out of the youth hunt, was doing firewood.

We were back hunting in the early afternoon, and as usual, I was going down memory lane and thinking about how much respect that I have for turkeys. When you think that the entire winter they roost at the top of a tree each and every night, and how difficult it has to be to keep their massive bodies going in two feet of snow while looking for something to eat, and about what it must be like to watch there comrades get knocked off by bobcats and coyotes, you have to respect the turkey.

The night before the season opened, Sophie shot my Beretta A400 for the first time. At first she was shooting high, as I taught her about patterns, but then she became dialed in and all was well.

At about 3 p.m. she told me that she thought because of the snow and cold the turkey would not be moving. Five minutes later, I saw the biggest tom that I have ever seen while hunting, exit the woods and head for our hen decoy. This guy was fanning his tail and telling his new girlfriend, a piece of plastic, that they should start a family.

Meanwhile, I had Sophie getting ready and she was resting the Berreta on my forearm. I told her to aim low and fire when she was ready. Three times Sophie fired, and three times the big tom did not want to leave his new love. After the third shot, he walked into the woods and I was in disbelief at what just happened.

I told Sophie the same thing that I have told every kid, when either the big fish, buck or turkey gets away; “Its OK it gets to live another day.”

Right after I said that, Sophie said, “oh my God Mark, what happened to your face?” As if three head injuries since last July were not enough, I had made the mistake of letting the empties from the semi automatic eject into my forehead and my nose. I was bleeding, but did not care, and when I got home looked in the mirror and had three dandy beauty marks.

Sophie and I hunted until dark, and most of the rest of the next day. I had her shoot at home and she shot very high again. I finally decided to have a solid talk with her about how much she wanted that tom and how if she focused she could drill the target, and that is exactly what she did.

Last fall I sat in a tree with her and she made an excellent shot on a whitetail deer. We had fun, she wants to hunt bear and my head will heal!



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