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Why Not Shoot A Jake?

My first turkey was a jake. I was 14 years old and proud as bear crap! I killed a few more over the ensuing years as well, mainly because I lacked the skills to seal the deal on a mature gobbler and I couldn’t keep from pulling the trigger when I had a legal bird in range. Since then however I’ve abstained from pounding jakes. Until last spring. 

I devoted my 2023 Wyoming spring turkey tag to the .410, vowing I’d not use a 12 gauge come hell or high water. So when the gang of jakes stalked into my decoys at 10 yards in the waning days of the season I pasted the closest bird with a load of Federal Premium TSS… tag punched, turkey nuggets in the fryer! 

I had zero remorse for filling my tag on a naive jake. You see, my two young daughters were sitting in the blind with me that morning and witnessed their very first turkey harvest. I’d do it all again tomorrow. They got to watch and hear the birds work in tight, closer than they’d ever been to a wild turkey before, and I let the gang of young turkeys hang out long enough for the girls to really get an eyeful before pulling the trigger. Afterall, we were turkey hunting and they wanted to see Daddy get a bird. 

That jake cemented my daughter’s love for turkey hunting, deepened our bond with the outdoors and we got to enjoy some fresh turkey nuggets that afternoon that they savored more than usual thanks to their vested interest due to being intrinsically connected to the food on their plates. 

My oldest daughter walked away from that making plans to tag a turkey of her own “next year.” Well, it’s next year, she’s enrolled in the Wyoming Hunter Mentor Program and if a jake makes the mistake of strolling past her in range I bet he gets a free ride back to the Helms ranch. 

I’m not promoting the wholesale slaughter of jake turkeys, especially in a day and age where turkey numbers are struggling in some parts of the U.S. However, what’s more important to the future of hunting; a few more jakes on the landscape or invested young hunters tasting golden-fried success thanks to a young bird and caring adult mentors saddled on regular-height horses who know the true value of a jake.  



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