Benjamin took me hunting this afternoon. I must say, I was really impressed with him! He may only be 11 years old, but this afternoon, he showed muARch maturity.
Mid-afternoon, he started saying he and I were going hunting. After I conceded to Benjamin, he began gathering appropriate clothing – not just for him, but for me too! After I got dressed, he checked with me several times to make sure I was wearing the appropriate amount of clothing for the evening temperatures. He also wanted to make sure I would be properly camouflaged while we were on our excursion, from my shirt and pants to my gloves and even a face mask!
As we walked from the truck to the woods, my little man was all about safety. He stopped at the sign-in box and wrote the appropriate information. I sure liked it when he wrote "Benj and Mom" in the "who" section! During our meandering walk to the stand, he walked ahead of me, pointing to me where I should walk or what I should do. Upon his suggestion, we brushed our feet across a freshly-cut pine bough.
"It helps conceal our scent," he whispered as he leaned in close to me.
He reminded me to lift my feet when walking to step quieter. He carried the gun with extreme safety, always aware of where I stood and where the gun muzzle was pointed.
In the planted pine stand, where we walked to keep us concealed as long as possible, I inhaled deeply the pine forest scent. Sometimes I really do miss spending more time in the woods! The pine trees are a decade old now, planted the winter after Daddy died. The views across the hayfields were beautiful from Mama’s porch, but the promise of pine income is much better!
Benjamin had such an order, such a process, to the way we walked and how we entered the stand, how we sat, gun placement and other small details. He hung the binoculars on a small nail placed inside the stand just for that purpose. Benjamin methodically sprayed the deer scent (phew, what a smell!)–three squirts in secret, predetermined spots. After all of that, we settled into our spots, ready for whatever might happen across the food plot. I was about half the way through my new issue of Southern Living magazine when I caught movement from the right-hand eastern side of the box. Slowly but surely, we were rewarded with what moved into our view.
Eleven turkeys gathered at the edge of the food plot. They enjoyed a quick snack and then promptly formed a line moving westward across the longest portion of the plot. They were heading to the woods to roost for the evening–what an amazing and enjoyable scene! Benjamin watched them through the binoculars; they did not even seem to mind! About five minutes after the last one half-walked, half-fluttered, into the woods, one lone turkey came into view. At first we thought she was a latecomer, but soon realized she preferred to do her own thing. She sampled all the food plot had to offer and later moved into the adjacent pine stand where we had walked earlier. We heard her wings flapping as she began her evening roost.
Although we did not have the opportunity to see a trophy buck, I enjoyed our afternoon together in the deer stand. The real trophy was the opportunity to view my son in a setting where he is completely comfortable. Benjamin’s hunting safety habits are no accident–he spends many hours watching, learning and practicing the techniques with his dad. While Benjamin is well on his way to being a safe hunter one day, my husband and I believe he is not quite ready to hunt alone. Anytime my son needs a partner, I will be proud to go hunting with him.
As we get closer to turkey season, I realize how seeing those birds would surely make any seasoned turkey hunter eager for the hunt. Opening day of spring turkey season for most of Alabama is Tuesday, March 15, 2011. Youth under the age of 16 can hunt on Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13, if they are accompanied by a properly licensed adult 25 years or older, or their parents. If you have enjoyed hunting in the past, consider sharing your love for the sport with someone from the next generation of hunters–a son or daughter, grandchild or family friend. Never a sport to be taken lightly, be sure to also discuss gun safety and hunting etiquette, along with your love of hunting. A few gun safety tips are listed below to get you started and refresh your memory.
The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (http://www.dcnr.state.al.us/hunting/education/huntingtips.cfm) recommends all hunters abide by the following basic hunter safety rules:
• Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.
• Treat every firearm with the respect due a loaded gun.
• Be sure of your target and what is in front of it and beyond it.
• Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
• Wear a blaze orange cap or vest.
• Use a small flashlight during dim light conditions to identify yourself as a human.
Other good points include:
• Respect property rights. Hunt only on designated property.
• Discuss hunting safety techniques with hunting companions. Never assume other hunters are responsible.
• Be certain of the location of hunting companions. Never assume you are the only hunter in the area.
• Remember it is each hunter’s responsibility to make hunting a safer sport.
As you prepare for the upcoming turkey season, go hunting for deals at your local Co-op store; they are stocked for all of your hunting needs. Pick up a bag of food plot seed and fertilizer, find your new lucky camouflage shirt or cap, and visit with the friendly, knowledgeable employees. Good luck as you go after that trophy turkey this spring!
Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.