"I've learned over the years that there are three things that are vital for success when hunting with children - a blind, decoys and shooting sticks," said Revel Rawlings of Ridgeland. "I'd rate them in importance in that order, starting with the pop-up-like tent blinds to the shooting sticks.
"But the one you absolutely have to consider is the blind. 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. 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."
Decoys outdate blinds, but basically serve the same purpose. Having a decoy in the open, away from the children but in shooting range, can keep a gobbler's focus away from the hunters.
"That's true but these days, with the realistic decoys like we have on the market now, including gobblers, they can bring a gobbler right on in," Rawlings said. "And when you're dealing with youngsters, you need to have something to keep them interested."
Rawlings, a longtime member and former president of the Greater Jackson Chapter and the Mississippi Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, said shooting sticks is more about helping the youth be prepared.
"You think about how long that you sometimes have to hold a shotgun up in shooting position while working a gobbler, and you know how tough it can be for an adult," Rawlings said. "Now think about how tough it would be for a youngster. The shooting sticks can take the weight of the gun off the young hands.
"Plus, 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."
Mississippi's youth season, during which only youngsters aged 15 and under can pull a trigger, lasts a full week and ends Thursday, March 14. Adults can participate in all phases of the hunt, including calling, with the exception of pulling a trigger.
On March 15, the regular spring season opens for all hunters and will end on May 1.
The daily limit for youths under 15 is one gobbler of any age per day, three per spring (includes youth and regular season). 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.