Pennsylvania’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program gave Susan Missal the chance to bond with her Dad and experience the thrill of taking her first turkey.
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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
Susan Missal, 11
When a mature Eastern wild turkey flew from its roost at daybreak, 11-year-old Susan Missal waited with shotgun in hand and her dad by her side. While John Missal stroked his Knight & Hale Yella Hammer ceramic slate call, the big bird strutted within gun range in front of their camouflage blind, looking for the hen it just knew was hiding in the woods nearby. The problem was, Susan couldn’t pull the trigger.
April 19 was a day set aside especially for youth turkey hunters in Pennsylvania, and the fifth-grade science whiz from Palmerton, Pa., was suffering through a bout of “turkey fever.” As badly as she wanted to shoot, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it, and 20 minutes later, the gobbler sauntered off looking for another willing mate.
Susan was crushed. “Daddy, I should’ve pulled the trigger. I should’ve pulled the trigger,” she told him. John Missal, a 43-year-old flooring company account executive, consoled his daughter and reassured her that this wouldn’t be her only opportunity to shoot a wild turkey.
And it wasn’t. Three weeks later, under a stream of rain in 50-degree weather, a hen decoy and a few well-timed yelps from John convinced four juvenile gobblers — called jakes — to approach their pop-up blind in the Pocono Mountains. This time Susan leveled her youth-model, 20-gauge Mossberg Bantam 500 at one of the birds and shot. The bird immediately crumpled to the ground.
“She was so excited, she tried to climb out of the window of the blind to get to her bird,” John said. “She was ecstatic and really didn’t know what to say. She was just jumping up and down.” The bird, which sported a 4-inch beard and weighed 14 pounds, was Susan’s first wild turkey. Her trophy is at a local taxidermist’s shop with orders to create a full-body mount.
“I think it’s just great to get the kids out,” John said. “Susan has been hunting with me since she was 4 years old. I can’t go hunting without taking her. She won’t let me. People can’t believe how enthralled she is with hunting. If I’m tracking a deer, she wants to get right in there with me. She just wants to go.”
Susan didn’t need a hunting license for the 2008 youth turkey season. Created in 2006, Pennsylvania’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program allows kids 12 years old and younger to hunt before taking the hunter education class as long as they are accompanied (within arm’s distance) by a licensed adult aged 21 or older. Mentored youth may hunt antlered deer, spring turkey, squirrels or groundhogs, and only one firearm may be carried. The mentor must carry the firearm while moving.
The opportunity allows kids to check out the sport before investing the hours of classroom work and study time required to pass the state-mandated hunter education program. Not surprisingly, however, Susan had passed her hunter education class just a week before turkey season began. She is now qualified to buy a hunting license for the upcoming deer season and for a lifetime of hunting game animals in the Pennsylvania woods.
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.