Paizley Kendall, 5, gets first and second gobblers, but third bird hangs up five steps short
As a dad who loves turkey hunting, Dustin Kendall of Grenada wanted his 5-year-old daughter Paizley’s first gobbler to be memorable, both for him and for his new hunting and fishing partner.
They got much more than that on the opening weekend of the youth turkey season in Mississippi.
On the March 9 opening day of the youth season, Paizley closed the deal and got her first longbeard, adding it to a growing list of accomplishments for this neophyte hunter. The 9½-inch bearded bird was the first entered in the youth turkey contest at Lakeway Sporting Goods in Grenada.
On Sunday, she added an 8½-inch beard.
“Man, she came within five steps on Saturday of limiting out,” Dustin Kendall said. “If that bird had taken just five more steps, she’d have gotten him, and the one on Sunday would have been her limit.
“She does a lot of hunting, and she enjoys it all. She was able to harvest three deer in deer season, and she also enjoys going duck hunting, coon hunting, hog hunting and hand-grabbling for catfish.”
The pursuit of her first turkey began last spring at age 4.
“We hunted several times last year with no luck,” he said. “Thing is, the place we hunt in Tallahatchie County hasn’t had a lot of turkeys in recent years. Last year, I told my wife I was going to set up my cameras down there and just see. I was so excited when we started getting pictures of this group of eight or nine jakes that kept coming through the area last year.”
That created a lot of anticipation as the 2019 youth season approached. The Kendalls were so excited that with the season opening on a Friday, special allowances had to be made.
“After letting her play hooky from (school), I played hooky at work, and we went to one of our favorite spots,” Kendall said. “We slept in because there wasn’t any use getting out there before sunrise. I haven’t heard any gobbles, I just have a lot of pictures of gobblers passing through this area between 10 and 10:30 most mornings.
“It’s just a small field near a ridge where I have a blind set up just for her to turkey hunt. We got there around 9 and got set up. After sitting in the blind for a little over an hour, I looked to our left and saw two longbeards standing there only 40 yards away. They had snuck in without gobbling.”
Perhaps, he added, the silent approach was a good thing for the hunters.
“If they had come in gobbling, I’m not sure we could have controlled our excitement,” Kendall said. “Paizley still got pretty excited. She was breathing so hard. It was more like panting or gasping, and it was so loud that I think they heard her. They didn’t really spook as much as they did concentrate on our jake decoy.”
The two gobblers, with the biggest one strutting, marched the 25 yards from where they were first spotted to reach the jake decoy just 15 yards from the hunters.
“She sits in my lap so she can see,” Kendall said. “They walked right up to our decoy. As soon as the strutter cleared the decoy, Paizley was bearing down on him with a Winchester SXP 20 gauge. I kept telling her to wait for the two gobblers to separate because I didn’t want her to shoot them both and maybe injure the second one.
“They were about to attack that jake decoy, but I think they heard her breathing and the strutter broke down completely out of strut and took four steps away from the decoy. He stopped and stuck his head up, and I said ‘Shoot him.’ Boom! She made a perfect shot and we both ran out of the blind as fast as we could to recover her first longbeard.”
Back in the same spot on Saturday’s second day, they again had a gobbler come in to the field. This one was alone and a little hesitant.
“I’m not sure if it was the same bird that had come in with the one she killed on Friday or if it’s the one she killed on Sunday, but he hung up about 5 yards too far for her to shoot,” Kendall said.
“But on Sunday, again, we had one come in without making a noise. I just looked up and there he was. This one was smaller than the first bird, and obviously one of the jakes we’d seen last year. The first one Friday was a bigger bird, heavier and with 7/8-inch spurs. I’m not sure about his age.”
This time the shot was a little tougher, a little longer.
“When she shot him, he jumped up almost in flight and came back down,” Kendall said. “She shot him again, this time at 40 yards, and rolled him, but he got back up about 50 yards. She shot him again, and it was over.
“The time change (to daylight saving time) certainly helped us get the Sunday bird, because we’d been getting pictures of these birds coming back through the field every afternoon around 3:30. We had time to go to church, have lunch and get to the field. She shot him at 4:30, which the day before would have been 3:30. Man. these cameras really helped us on these turkeys. She’s still got plenty of time to get her limit gobbler.”
Mississippi’s youth season for hunters aged 15 and under will continue through Thursday (March 14), and the state’s regular spring season for all hunters opens on Friday (March 15) and ends on May 1.
The limit is one mature gobbler per day, except that youths (aged 15 and under) can take gobblers of any age.
This spring season is the first when hunters are required to report their harvest on day of kill through the Game Check program initiated by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.