Note to 9-year-old Ashton Watson: It’s all downhill from here.
On his first turkey hunt, Ashton accomplished something few veteran hunters have ever accomplished. Hunting during Missouri’s youth season last weekend, he shot a 27.4-pound gobbler.
The adult bird had a 10-inch beard and was the king of the woods where young Ashton was hunting with his adult mentor Mike Fowler and his mom, Cheri Watson.
“I am a hunter now, and I plan on going again and again,” said Ashton, who lives in Blue Springs and was hunting on Fowler’s land in Jackson County. “My new sport takes my time away from video games and electronics, but my mom says that is not a bad thing.”
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The group heard the bird gobbling early in the morning and spotted it from a distance after it flew down from the roost. When they lost sight of the big tom, Ashton thought he had lost his only chance at taking his first turkey.
But Fowler began calling aggressively and the bird returned. When it was 40 yards out, Ashton took aim.
“I was shaking, and my heart was racing when I went to pull the trigger,” he said.
Ashton hit his target, and the celebration started. It was an especially sweet moment for Fowler, who owns Buffalo Creek Calls and taught Ashton to shoot a bow and a shotgun.
Ashton wasn’t the only youngster who was celebrating during the youth season. Christian Ray, 13, of Lexington, Mo., also took a large tom. Hunting with his dad, Chris, he shot a 221/2-pound bird on a relative’s farm near Lexington.
Young hunters shot 4,441 birds during the youth season last weekend, a slight increase from the year before.
▪ Many adults will be dreaming of the same result Monday when Missouri’s regular turkey season opens. The Missouri Department of Conservation predicts a good season. Turkey numbers are strong throughout much of the state, and the recent warm weather has the chronology of the mating season at the right pace, a help to hunters trying to imitate the calls of hens to draw lovesick gobblers within shooting range.
Shooting hours will be a half hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. daily until the season closes May 10. Two male turkeys or turkeys with visible beards may be taken during the season, but only one of them may be shot during the first week.