Story and photos by: Jordan Kauer
I still remember like it was yesterday; watching the ultrasound and finding out my first child was a boy, I was beyond excited to have a lifelong hunting buddy on the way, and a few months later Hunter was born.
At the time, I was ready to fast forward 10 years to start our hunting adventures together, but in hindsight, those years flew by quicker than I would have liked. I love being a dad and over the years tried hard to make some awesome memories with both Hunter and his younger brother while hunting. That said, I still couldn’t wait for my son’s first hunting opportunity.
In 2020, the State of Idaho lowered the age limit for turkey hunters to eight years old. That meant Hunter was of legal age, and it was finally his turn. I usually feel like I'm prepared for hunts. I stay on top of new regulations consistently but somehow, I missed the Idaho change until there was only two weeks left in the general turkey season.
Spring hunting has traditionally been about bear hunting. Turkey hunting is relatively new to me. In fact, my first turkey hunt was just a week before when my buddy Nick invited me to go. I had nothing going on and figured, "what the heck, why not."
The following week, I found out about the Idaho age change and immediately started making phone calls and asking buddies to lend me turkey decoys and calls. By the weekend, I had all the necessary gear and even had a turkey tag for Hunter. The hunt I had dreamed about since my son was born was finally here and Hunter was excited. I, on the other hand, was a little nervous. Turkey hunting was new to me and I told Hunter that while I didn't know what I was doing, we were going to figure it out!
As luck would have it, we called a Tom into about 10-feet our first weekend out and it broke my heart when Hunter missed it. Thank God he wasn’t too discouraged and we kept after it. The following weekend, we found some birds and had some close calls but weren't able to get him another shot and that concluded our 2020 Turkey season.
By the spring of 2021, I had researched everything I could about turkeys and turkey hunting. I wanted to make Hunter's 2021 season the best I could. My long time hunting buddy Chase is always up for an adventure and his son Conner is only a few months younger than Hunter, so I asked him if they wanted to go on the spring hunt.
After countless hours of looking at maps, buying decoys and patterning shotguns, it was finally time to load up and try our luck again in a new area that looked promising. Trying to limit the boys' missed school, Chase and I loaded all the gear and patiently waited for them to get home from school to start our nine-hour drive to the turkey woods. We arrived at our Plan A campsite around 1am and in a few short hours, we were out looking for birds.
The first morning was silent. There were no gobbles and zero sign on the closed logging roads. On the way out, we stopped and talked to a couple locals and they all confirmed we were in the wrong area for turkey. They did note a lot of bears in the area and as much as I wanted to go glass for bears, we decided to pack up camp and head to Plan B.
That evening, we did a bunch of glassing in a new area which only turned up a couple hens. We figured if there were hens around, Tom's would be close by, so we set up camp. Before our alarm clocks could wake us up the following morning, roosting Toms gobbling did! Even though the boys were exhausted, the gobbles in the distance made it easy for them to get out of bed. Unfortunately, those birds were on private land so we decided to hit the public land to the north, hoping birds would be in there. No dice. We hunted all morning with no sign or responses from turkeys.
To cover more country and hopefully locate some birds on public land, Chase and I decided to split up. Hunter and I chose a route on the map that would be an eight-mile loop, putting us on the south side of the private property where the birds were gobbling. We were hoping they would roost on public so off we went. In the late evening, Hunter and I listened to the birds roost but none made it on to public, so we headed back to the truck to meet up with Chase and his son. Turns out, they found a bunch of birds in a clear cut, so we made a plan for a morning hunt along a logging road he found the birds on. We were hoping the birds would take the same path again and this time, right to our excited boys.
With no cover in the fresh clear cut, the four of us piled in a pop-up blind hoping the birds would walk by. As the sun started to come up, the woods lit up with birds gobbling all around us. It wasn’t long before they started to fly into the clear cut. There were about a dozen Toms but they all hit the closed road 200 yards below us and worked their way across the clear cut into the timber. We didn’t have many options and decided to try and cut them off. I grabbed a hen decoy and we hustled around the clear cut to get above the birds. I chose a spot to set up and just as I set up the decoy, a Tom gobbled right below us. A few short minutes later, he popped out of the timber and put on a great show for the boys at about 80 yards. He was slowly working his way to the decoy when a live hen walked by and took his attention away. By that time of the morning, we were all exhausted and decided to take a nap waiting for the birds circle around in the timber back toward us. The afternoon was quiet and a few hours before dark, we decided to get back to the clear cut and split up on the logging roads, hoping the birds would follow the same paths as the night before.
Shortly after setting up for the evening hunt, I spotted two Toms about 250 yards above us in the clear cut. I tried every turkey sound I could think of, but nothing sparked their interest and they fed off. About an hour later, a freak rain/windstorm moved in and Hunter got pretty cold. He said he had enough turkey hunting for the evening, so we started packing stuff up. Just then, I spotted the same two Toms on the logging road above us. I asked Hunter if he wanted to try to sneak up on them since they wouldn't respond to the calls. When I mentioned that, he forgot he was cold and was ready to run up there and give it a try. I had to slow him down and ask what his plan was to get over there. He told me he was, "just going to walk up and shoot one." I used that moment as a teaching opportunity, and we discussed how to slow down and pick a path with reference points when stalking animals.
There was a rock pile near the Toms that I figured would give us good cover and allow us to get within shotgun range of the birds. He agreed and I let him lead the way up the hill. Reaching the rock pile, I peeked over and spotted both Toms within 20 yards. They were feeding, unaware we were close. Want to talk about a frustrated dad moment? Trying to get my son that's two-feet shorter than me to see the birds over the brush about killed me!! Finally, one of the Toms fed in an opening Hunter could see so I let out a cluck. As soon as the Tom picked his head up, Hunter touched one off and the Tom dropped where he was. I'll never forget my boy’s excitement. He was yelling, "I got him! I got Him! Did you see that Dad? I got him!!"
The hunt wasn’t how we envisioned our turkey hunt going, but Hunter was able to notch his tag and memories were made. This fall, Hunter will be old enough for big game and I hope we can continue his success.