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NWTF Shasta/Tehama Youth Hunt plans

By Ted Lidie, Norcal Firearms Instruction
02/12/14 -- We met at the Cottonwood Eatery in Cottonwood. I had chicken fried steak and eggs and the 13-year-old girl had pancakes while her father had eggs and toast. We were also accompanied by my good buddy Rhett Jones who is 13 this year and would provide expertise on our 3-month long endeavor.

Ted Liedie, Allie Adams

The girl, Allie Adams and her father Trevor were selected from hundreds of applications for the Northern California National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Jake’s Parent-Youth Turkey Hunt. Although that is a mouthful for some, we just call it the “Jake’s Hunt.” “JAKE” is an acronym for “Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship.” As part of the Redding Chapter of the NWTF, I was proud to coordinate the hunt for 25 Jake’s members and their parents. The hunting land is being donated by local land-owners. Volunteers to lead the hunts come from the Redding Chapter, and the NWTF provides an insurance certificate to cover the hunters and land-owners in case of something unforeseen.

The project begins in November when applications are distributed and advertised and ends when the Junior Spring Turkey Season is over. Along the way junior hunters are mentored on all aspects of turkey hunting including a formal shotgun clinic and turkey hunting seminar at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Redding. On this day, Allie, Trevor, Rhett and I are getting to know each other and will take a trip out to our assigned ranch where we will begin our journey with a land-owner’s meeting.

The assigned ranch was out Gas Point Road in Cottonwood and although it should have been green all the way out to the ranch, based on the local drought it was dry and most of the vegetation was still dormant. When we arrived at the ranch the land-owner greeted us in the driveway and we spent 30 minutes or so learning the “rules of the ranch." These rules included where to hunt, how to leave gates, (usually best to leave them the way you found them) parking areas, hunt times, communications protocol and most important; written permission. The land-owner led us out to the hunting area and from then on we were on our own to do our scouting and settling in for the rest of the season. The last thing we talked about was a safe area for Allie to practice her shotgunning skills in preparation for her big day; 22 March, the 2014 Youth Spring Turkey Opening Day.

Wild Turkeys, Ted Lidie

We crept along dirt roads, Trevor and I in the front talking strategy on the upcoming season. The juniors rode in the back of the truck (that’s right, I said it) just like we did when our dad’s took us out 40 years ago. We would stop at every soft spot in the road and look for tracks as well as every overlook to glass for feeding or loafing birds. The habitat was perfect in every aspect except for the lack of water. It was very dry and of course most dry ground doesn’t hold a track very well so sign was scarce. Of course we didn’t call to try to locate turkeys in the area as it is my firm belief that calling turkeys when you are not hunting them only makes them call shy. Once the water returned to the area the habitat should be teaming with turkeys!

In the early afternoon we found the safe spot on the ranch for Allie to practice her shotgunning skills. We set up numerous “reactive targets” and worked on her grip and stance, balance, pointing, and trigger pull. She was very hesitant at first but as she became more comfortable those targets began “reacting”! Soon she was engaging multiple targets at different ranges very successfully. The 12 gauge Mossberg 500 I brought for her to shoot was a little large for her so Trevor and I decided to look around for a 20 gauge youth model for her to practice with before and use during the hunt.

When we entered the ranch earlier in the day I had noticed some wild turkeys in the corrals and was hoping to take the junior hunters by there and teach some calling techniques, characteristic differences between hens and toms, tracks, and droppings. Wild turkeys are easily domesticated as long as you don’t harass them too much and they can figure out where to eat and drink. I guessed these birds had been around for awhile so we drove to the ranch for a gander. Sure enough there they were, toms strutting and hens yelping and cutting like crazy! We asked if we could get a closer look and the land-owner gave us permission.

We learned all about turkeys that afternoon and the juniors even caught one of the jakes! We went over the many behavioral characteristics of both genders and heard the toms gobble many times during the afternoon. The last thing we talked about before leaving the ranch was the expectation that Allie learn to call turkeys using the peg and slate call that I loaned her. It was agreed that she would call in her own wild turkey this spring with our help. She had just over 6 weeks to learn how to persuade that elusive tom using the same type of call that many junior hunters harvest their first turkey with. We will be scouting again in the near future, and with some luck and rain we will begin to dial in our hunting strategy.

As we left for the day I found myself thinking about the first turkey I ever harvested and how that memory will be forever etched in my mind. The smell of spring grass, the diaphragm call in my mouth (Perfection Super Double D), the H&R single shot 12 gauge that I treasured, and that jake poking his head over the ridge, looking for company from a yelping hen. That day began a lifelong recreational pursuit that has given me and my family many memories and an ethics base that I am proud to say I have passed on to my own children. The NWTF Redding Chapter Parent Youth Turkey Hunt provides that experience and I am blessed to even be a part of it.

Ted Lidie is an NRA Training Counselor and retired US Army Command Sergeant Major. He is the current Senior Instructor at Norcal Firearms Instruction in Redding, Ca. Besides teaching all aspects of firearm safety and personal defense, he enjoys volunteering in the community, spending time with his family and taking his Harley for long rides.

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