For the last three years, my turkey season has kicked off at the Governor's Youth Turkey Hunt. I am thrilled it will be under the leadership of Governor Eric Greitens.
In grand fashion, this exciting event introduces 15 or so youngsters with little or no hunting experience to the thrill of the spring turkey woods. Participants are selected through an application process, which runs through the end of the month.
Turkey hunting is a collection of outdoor activities. Your main focus may be drawing a bead on a big old gobbler, but some of the time you're hiking and part of the time you're looking for mushrooms. Surly you'd pick up a shed antler if you came across one. And there's no way you don't stop to look at the wild flowers blooming, and certainly you heard that hawk screech. So much is happening in the turkey woods, it's hard to stay true to your purpose.
This season for me in the Ozarks is going to be about mountain climbing, river paddling and gravel bar cooking. But before I make it to Driftwood Acres down in Shannon County, I'll be guiding a youth on what hopefully equates to a life changing event for them, whether they kill a bird or not.
"The 9th annual Governor's Youth Turkey hunt continues a celebration of Missouri's national leading role in R3 (recruitment, retention,and reactivation of hunters), and the NWTF's efforts to achieve our goal of creating 40,000 new Missouri hunters. This annual event is a statement by the Governor that he recognizes and appreciates the contribution natural resources make to the Missouri economy and our quality of life," said John Burk, a biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).
The Governor's Youth Hunt takes place April 7-9. It begins with the participants attending a training day at the United Sportsmen's Club. The Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM), the Department of Conservation, NWTF and Hunter Education Instructors all work together to make sure the participating youth hunters grasp the importance of safety, understand the basics of turkey hunting and are comfortable shooting a shotgun.
After the training, all the participants head to the Governor's Mansion for dinner. There they will meet and hear from Greitens and our First Lady. They'll also hear from the president of NWTF, the directors of MDC and DNR, and myself, as the director of CFM.
Once dinner is completed, the youth hunters depart to private hunting grounds provided by generous landowners across the state where they will spend Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday hunting wild turkeys. And according to Burk, the youth hunters should have success.
"Missouri is one of the best states to eastern turkey hunt. The hatches in 2014 and 2015 were right around average to slightly above, so there should be plenty of 2- and 3-year-old birds out there this spring," Burk said.
The Governor's Youth Turkey Hunt is a once in a lifetime experience. If you know someone between the ages of 11-15 who would like to go hunting but hasn't had much of a chance yet, then send in their application and give them a shot at being selected for something really special.
Applications are available at monwtf.org. Print the application and mail it back. Be sure it arrives before April 1. In addition to the application, please enclose a letter describing why you wish to participate in the hunt and whether or not you have ever hunted previously. Priority will be given to first-time hunters, but experienced youth turkey hunters may also be selected if there are openings available.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler, the executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, is an outdoors columnist for Central Missouri Newspapers Inc. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.