Madeline Reed of Altoona was plenty excited when dawn broke in the woods on the special youth day spring gobbler hunt last year. Her dad was with her for this hunt and her uncle was along armed with the video camera in case they were lucky that day.
When the morning was over, Madeline had bagged a nice gobbler. This Saturday, April 21 will be Youth Spring gobbler hunt day for 2012 and countless numbers of youth all over the state will be breathlessly waiting for dawn to break so they can get down to the business of hunting the gobbler they will hear thundering from his roost tree in the distance.
The Game Commission has offered a number of youth hunting opportunities in recent years, hoping that these days will encourage an interest in hunting by young people. It seems to have worked because the day is a special event for scores of youngsters across the state.
The day provides a day for inexperienced kids to hunt with a proper adult, most usually a father, uncle. Grandfather or other interested person and learn proper hunting ethics and safety techniques plus have a great experience in the woods without having to compete with the scores of regular hunters that will be out the very next week. There is nothing like the personal touch to teach a youngster the ways of gobblers and the calling tactics.
I know that my best hunting buddy, Joanie Haidle, will be taking her two nephews out on this day, as she has the past few years. Her nephew, Luke, bagged his first spring gobbler under her tutelage and she made a permanent hunting buddy out of him. Luke also bagged his first deer while hunting with her last deer season.
Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission biologist, said that since the youth hunts for gobblers were begun in 2004 it has become a very popular season. "Four to Eight percent of the total spring harvest, is from the youth gobbler day," Casalena said.
Casalena confirmed a fact that most seasoned gobbler hunters know: that with each passing day of season, gobbling activity decreases. Gobblers wise up quickly that the increase in hen calls coming from every direction is phony and unnatural and they largely ignore them.
Part of the magic of youth day is hearing all the gobbling. Few things strike the responsive chord in the hunter's heart than to hear the raucous ranting of a lovesick gobbler, calling to his hens. When a gobbler responds to a hunter's calls and comes prancing in to the hunter's location, it takes away the hunter's breath. His heart starts racing, hands shake form excitement and it takes some self control to get it all together and get that bead on the gobbler's head steadily enough to get off the shot.
A hunt for a spring gobbler is an exciting tussle from start to finish and can take hours to complete. Hunters may have to change positions to entice a gobbler to come in and all of it is so exciting. But nothing fans the flames like simply listening to that gobbler sound off. It is a wild sound, and a hunter becomes part of a ritual as old as the world itself.
The memories of it all is what shakes a hunter out of bed at 3 a.m. to drive to a patch of woods and get into position before the sun begins to pierce the horizon. Waiting quietly, listening for the woods to wake up, and finally, hearing that booming call of the wild vibrating from a far-off tree, well, there is little to match it.
Introducing a young person to that excitement is well worth the time and effort. And few, if any, young persons ever get started unless someone does take the time and effort to help them. My personal accolades go to all who do it - perhaps especially to those who introduce their daughters to the sport. The excitement Madeline felt is certainly worth the effort.