When it comes to killing turkeys, Revel Rawlings of Ridgeland is one of the best.
Even then, the former president of the Mississippi Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation knows he needed all the help he could get when his two sons started chasing gobblers with him.
Mississippi’s statewide youth turkey season, for hunters aged 15 and under only, opens on Saturday (March 8). It gives children hunting with a licensed or exempt adult, aged 21 or older, a week’s head start on the rest of us — the regular spring turkey season opens March 15.
“I love my boys, but when it comes to turkey hunting I needed all the help I can get and there are three things I found that are essential,” said Rawlings. “When my son Swayze was 9 and he killed his first gobbler, we were using a Primos B-Mobile gobbler decoy, shooting sticks and a Double Bull (pop-up) Blind. Without those, we would never have been in position to get his gobbler.”
It’s obvious why a blind and a decoy help. The blind can hide any movement an antsy, nervous or just bored youngster can make and a decoy will keep a gobbler’s attention away from the hunters.
Shooting sticks should not be overlooked, either.
“Shooting sticks are absolutely necessary for a little hunter to keep the weight of the gun off his or her arms for what can be a long period of time,” Rawlings said. “The sticks provide another anchor point to help the child aim at the gobbler. I’ve been turkey hunting for over 30 years and I still get excited and nervous every time I call a bird into shooting range. I’ve seen the excitement that children experience when a big gobbler comes in strutting and gobbling. The shooting sticks are important in helping them get past the shakes.”
As important as that is, Rawlings still rates the blind the must-have accessory for a youth hunt.
“Little ones have a tendency to move a lot, and I’m not talking about the mistakes that adults make like turning a head or something like that,” he said. “They get restless and will move. Inside a blind, it’s like a tent. Kids can even crawl around or play with a video game and be concealed. And a great thing about the modern pop-ups is that they are quick and easy to deploy and take down, and light enough to pack in and out and to move from area to area during a day.”
Rawlings points to the day his son Swayze killed his first gobbler for proof of the blind’s importance. With the gobbler at 15 paces, the excited youngster missed with his first shot from the 20 gauge.
“I started yelping to keep the bird close while Swayze had to dig another shell out of his pocket,” Rawlins said. “No way we could have done all that and gotten away with it without the blind. His second shot counted.”
The daily limit for youths under 15 is one gobbler of any age per day, three per spring (includes youth and regular season). When the main season opens, the limit for hunters 16 and over is one mature gobbler, or a gobbler with a minimum 6-inch beard per day, three per spring season.