If you’ve chased gobblers much the past few years, you know the power of the plot. Food plots and spring turkeys go hand in hand. Fresh green growth attracts hens early in spring. Gobblers follow, strutting and gobbling in open areas, trying to impress the ladies and deter rival toms. And in summer, clover plots attract and hold insects, providing critical food for growing poults.
But as great as food plots are for all turkey hunters, they’re even better for a special segment of the 10th Legion: young hunters. Clover patches and similar plots often attract birds early in spring, when many states hold youth hunts. Further, these open areas let children see turkeys do their thing, and their adult mentors can walk the neophytes through every step of the process. In addition, assuming everything comes together, an open plot allows for an easy, sure-kill shot. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to two experts — Erik Landsverk and Kolton Atchley, young hunters who shot gobblers over Whitetail Institute products last spring.
As in previous years, Kolton and his dad, Wade Atchley, went to their favorite spot for Alabama’s youth turkey hunt: an Imperial Clover plot in a place they call Charlie’s Bottoms. “Since I had scouted the area for several weeks, I noticed that four two-year-olds were keeping the plot company most every afternoon, so it was an easy choice for opening day,” Wade said. The hunt started in classic fashion, with a barred owl hooting in the distance before sunrise. That was quickly followed by a thunderous gobble. “He was right where he was supposed to be,” Wade said. “As Kolton and I ventured from the plot edge into the timber, the bird began to light up the morning with endless gobbles, even though it was still pretty dark inside the timber draw leading to his perch. At about 75 yards from his vantage point, I had Kolton walk ahead of me another 20 yards and park below a nice-sized hickory. I settled in between two good ol’ southern pines.” Darkness began to give way to morning sunshine, and another bird gobbled nearby, not far from the first longbeard. “And without hesitation, I knew Kolton could not resist the urge to turn around and smile at me,” Wade said. “Thank you, God, for giving me such a fun-loving son.” But then it was time for business, as Wade had to let the gobblers know a hot hen was waiting for them on the hillside next to the clover plot. “After a few soft tree yelps, the two old boys really got cranked up,” he said. “Then on purpose, I let 10 minutes pass without making another peep. Which, of course, had Kolton looking back at me with that look only fathers know best: ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Teaching you, son.’ After I gave him a big smile, I let out a flurry of soft tree yelps and then a very aggressive fly down cackle, which sent the two longbeards into an absolute frenzy. It had been a long time since I heard two birds get into such a war of gobbles.” Within minutes, father and son heard wings beating as the birds pitched to the ground down a draw to the south. “As soon as I knew they were on the ground, I began to purr and rake the fallen leaves around me, and that was more than the bachelors could take,” Wade said. “Within a few seconds, barreling up the draw was not one, not two, not three, but four barrel- chested longbeards fighting over who was going to get there first.” Wade watched the race unfold, and the birds began to fight for the right to strut and eventually breed the hen they’d heard. “All I could do was snicker and grin,” he said. “Then, just as quickly as the morning had started, all four birds broke the 25-yard barrier, and the leader of the gang met Kolton's old youth-model 20-gauge for the first and final time. Thank you, Whitetail Institute, for making not only a great product for deer, but food plots that turkeys like to call their own as well.”
“I had never shot a turkey before, so I was excited the night before we headed out into the woods,” Erik said. “It was really early in the morning, and I was still incredibly sleepy, even after napping in the car. I had only four glazed donuts in me, and I was still hungry.” Erik and his father, Bart Landsverk, sat under a tree at the corner of a cornfield. Bart told Erik they would wait there until birds began gobbling. “Gnats were already buzzing around my head, and for a while, all I heard was ‘buzz, buzz,’” Erik said. “By 6 a.m., we had only seen a hen on the field we were hunting. Then we heard some distant gobbles in the far back corner of the woods. We quickly ran to our van, drove part of the way toward the gobbles and walked the rest of the way to our spot.” Bart and Erik set up, and Bart began calling. Some gobbles echoed back in response. “We waited for about 20 minutes, and then three jakes walked out 15 to 20 yards in front of me,” Erik said. “These jakes had walked right from a food plot we’ve had planted for many years.” Erik slowly inched his 12-gauge toward his shoulder, trying to ignore the gnats, mosquitoes and other insects that buzzed near his ears. “The bugs were so bad that I almost flinched,” he said. “But I knew I couldn’t swat at them because I would scare away the turkeys.” With his gun finally in position, Erik tried to line up a bird. “My dad said to wait for one of the turkeys to stray away and separate from the group. Finally, one gobbler split off from the others, so I followed him with my red dot, and the ‘boom’ followed.” It was a good shot, and the gobbler was his. “I was very excited to have shot my first turkey,” Erik said. “It was a day that I’ll never forget.”
If you’ve used Whitetail Institute products on your property and you’re a turkey hunter, you probably have similar stories. Food plots and young turkey hunters go together like, well, a striker and pot call. Consider taking a youngster on a food-plot turkey hunt this spring. The thrill of seeing an old longbeard strut and gobble for a gaggle of hens is something not to be missed. But I’ll warn you: It’s even better to see the look of awe and joy on a youngster’s face after he completes a successful hunt for that bird.