by Naomi K. Shapiro
Guide Phil Schweik is a real "champion" when it comes to mentoring kids both in hunting and fishing (Schweik's Hooksetter's Guide Services run many full charity fishing and hunting tournaments and excursions for terminally ill and mentally- and physically-challenged kids throughout the year). There's nothing he likes better than taking a kid out turkey hunting. The procedures and regs discussed are those currently in force in Wisconsin (which can, of course, change yearly). Check your local state regs for specifics on your area for any particular season or year:
Every year there's an organization in Wisconsin where adult hunters mentor, "The Youth Turkey Hunt." Mentors (who must be approved and licensed by the state!) take kids out turkey hunting one week before the general turkey opener. It's a great way to get kids introduced to turkey hunting, WITHOUT tags and for sure without getting involved with lots of other hunters! It gives kids a wonderful opportunity to experience the outdoors and get involved in turkey hunting. It's a great way to prepare young people for adulthood; to teach them proper hunting techniques and safety; and to insure that our future generations appreciate and understand nature's bounty and how essential hunters are to the maintenance and well-being of our environment and society.
The kids (minimum age of 12 in Wisconsin) must complete a course on hunting. Everything is covered. EVERYTHING! Mentors do not have to be a parent or guardian, but they are volunteers and take kids on hunts both on public and private land. Kids are awestruck. The mentors take the kids out in the woods, set up in a blind or against a tree, scout out a field or area, and literally teach the kids the intricacies of turkey hunting -- from camo, to the type of gun and shot, where/what/how to spot turkeys; where the turkeys "hang out"... all that "good stuff." And, as we "experienced adults" know, we all could probably use some of this "education" -- or haven't you ever "missed" a big Tom? We sure as heck have!
The kids in Wisconsin are able to shoot a hen or a Tom Turkey, but the kid AND NOT THE MENTOR must actually shoot the bird. All turkeys must be registered with a game station after they're harvested.
One of the reasons this program is so popular in Wisconsin is that deer season is long past, it's spring, people are antsy to get out, and it's a little early for fishing. It's the perfect time to mentor a kid in the "arts" of turkey hunting.
And from what we've seen, girls are at least as excited with the turkey hunt as the boys. There's nothing more thrilling than to have a kid come home with a beautiful wild turkey!
If you're an experienced turkey hunter and love kids and recognize the need to nurture and sustain our hunting culture, contact your local Department of Natural Resources for information on this program. Many states have it. It's an obvious winning situation for everyone!
(Phil Schweik of Hooksetter's Guide Services contributed to this article).
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