My husband and I  have three young daughters. My oldest, Abby, is 9 and recently went on her first turkey hunt. It was a Mother/Daughter hunt and even though we didn’t harvest a bird, we made some wonderful memories.

Abby is a kid who, like her mother, likes a challenge. She loves to try new things and take on adventures above and beyond what her peer group is doing. She fishes, she dives and even got her first free diving lobster all at the age of 8. So when her Dad and I asked her if she wanted to try hunting of course she was up for the challenge.

She went through the CA online hunters safety course and then the 4 hour in class, followed by the 100 question test. A few weeks later she participated in the San Diego Jr Pheasant Hunt. This event (free to the kids) helped her tremendously gain confidence and experience. They grouped the kids by age, had shooting and hunting instructors for each kid. They took the time to show them every part of the hunt, including cleaning their birds. There were 60 kids in all and we even had a deaf participant. Excellent event put on by this group and its sponsors.

Each year the San Diego Chapter of the National Wildlife Turkey Federation has a couple of opportunities for kids to pull for hunts on private land and we asked Abby if she would like to try for a hunt. She’s a lucky girl and her name was pulled for both opportunities! March 18th was her date and she was set to hunt on the Santa Ysabel preserve with a mentor from the NWTF and me. Only 20 people are allowed to hunt on this preserve each year and it is the kids on the Saturday and Sunday of this Mentored Youth Hunt so it’s a special deal. They close the hunt area to the public so it remains safe for all.

Abby and I went out the weekend before the hunt and scouted the preserve. It has rained quite a bit in San Diego this winter so everything is beautifully green and lush. All of the lakes, ponds and creeks are full and running. On our scout weekend we probably saw 25 turkeys and as a bonus 3 deer.

March 18th arrived and we got up at 3am. Abby, who is NOT a morning person, hopped out of bed and was pumped to go. She was decked out in all of her camo glory thanks to our friends at Raise ‘Em Outdoors, a non-profit group that provides outdoor gear to kids.  She carefully applied her Nature’s Paint camouflage facepaint. I had my Slumberjack WildHER packed full of our gear and we were out the door and up to Santa Ysabel. We met up with our Mentor, Stan Landess and made our way out to the hunt spot. We found a big oak tree and heard some gobbling in the distance so figured we were in a pretty good spot. Blind set up and decoys out. We were ready. Abby was nervous.

Being an observer to nature waking up around you is an wonderful thing. It’s full of amazing sounds and smells. After sitting and calling for a bit and not getting any response, Abby fell asleep and Stan and I kept watch. A few hours went by. A coyote came by and wasn’t helping our situation. It stood and barked at us for a good hour. I finally had to go chase it away.

Abby and I had a great time playing make up with all of the face paint we had. I didn’t realize how awesome the chapstick cases of Nature’s Paint really were until she was entertaining herself using them like crayons. It helped pass the time. Even though it was a gorgeous day, sitting for 10 hours is a lot for a 9 year old.

Stan, Abby’s mentor taught her many things about turkey calling (with his wingbone call) and hunting and even though we didn’t get a bird I know she will never forgot the experience and I have a wonderful memory of time with my daughter.

Of the 10 kids that went out that Saturday, 3 of them got Jakes. This is a wonderful program that is free to the participants. The San Diego National Wildlife Turkey Federation did a great job and the San Diego Chapter of Safari Club International provided the Rangers for the day to make this happen.  

We, as parents and hunters, need to remember to DONATE to these organizations that provide these services and events to our kids. They are not free to put on and we should and do want them to continue!


San Diego Chapter of Safari Club International

San Diego Chapter of National Wildlife Turkey Federation

San Diego Junior Pheasant Hunt

About the Author:

Lauren Hill- Lesagonicz is on the Board of Directors and oversees Meetings, Special Events and Social Media for the San Diego Chapter of SCI. She is also the founder of ReelCamo Girl, a lifestyle brand and community for women who love the outdoors.

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