Hunter Batten's hands might have been shaking as this gobbler approached, but his aim was true when it came down to the critical moment.
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Photo Courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation
NWTF Helps Give Youth A Shot At The Outdoors
Courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation
Hunter Batten, 11
Having a father who is a hunter education instructor sure put 11-year-old Hunter Batten on the fast track to becoming a successful turkey hunter. While he passed hunter safety education at the age of 9, Illinois has subsequently adopted rules that make it somewhat easier for youth to go hunting before having to invest the eight hours of classroom work it takes to acquire a hunting license.
In 2006 House Bill 1024 was passed, creating an apprentice hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers age 10 and higher hunting for one year before completion of a hunter education course.
“This is a very good way to get them started down the right path in life,” said Todd Batten, Hunter’s hunter education instructor father. “I’m so proud of him. This made every hour I’ve spent being a hunter safety instructor and chairman of our NWTF chapter (Big Bend Longbeards) well worth it.”
Batten’s livestock hauling business provided hunting access to a local farm that holds a good population of Eastern wild turkeys. Hunter, a fifth grade student with a passion for art, donned long johns and his favorite Mossy Oak Breakup camouflage to ward off the chilly morning air, then walked with his father to a hunting blind they had set up. With a Flambeau strutting tom and a bobble-head hen placed in front of them as decoys, the pair sat an hour before daylight to give the birds a chance to wake up.
Twenty minutes later, the first gobbles of the morning rang out. “There were three toms within 100 yards of us,” said Todd Batten. “I called softly with my slate call. They would gobble right back. Then I got a little more aggressive with my diaphragm call and I shook a gobble tube made by Primos. That really got them going. Every time I’d call they all gobbled.”
The birds gobbled a couple of times more and then it got quiet. “We wondered if a hen that we heard had taken them away from us,” Todd said. “Fifteen or 20 minutes went buy, and I wondered if it was going to be a long day. I yelped a little more, and Hunter said, ‘I heard something.’ I looked in the direction he said it come from I caught a glimpses of a turkey head. I told him, ‘Get ready. There’s one coming, and it’s a tom.’”
Cool and calm, Hunter steadied his Remington 870 youth model 20-gauge shotgun on the bird. He waited until it got within his well-practiced range of 20 yards. When Todd Batten purred on his diaphragm call, the bird gobbled and then lifted its head. Hunter shot, killing the bird instantly.
“That’s when the emotions struck,” Todd added. “We were both shaking. We high-fived each other and hugged, and I said, ‘Let’s go look at your bird. It’s a good one.’”
Hunter marveled at his gobbler’s 10-inch beard and 1-inch spurs while his dad checked the time: It was 6:59 a.m.
“It’s all about our children. I have a strong passion for this,” Todd said. “If we don’t get the kids involved, why even bother?”
For more information on hunting safety data and the Youth Hunting Report, log on to www.familiesafield.org, or call NWTF Headquarters at 800-THE-NWTF.