SENECA - There is certainly a different feel out there today created by the COVID-19 pandemic and all the safety precautions attached to it. Things like washing our hands, not touching our face, and social distancing all help reduce the chances for acquiring and spreading this nasty virus. So that triggers the magic question: “just what can we do?” Or, “how do we handle the boredom that comes with this sedentary lifestyle?” Things I’ve seen (and even done) are going for walks, looking for shed antlers, hitting the area waters for fish, and even going for drives to glass for wildlife. These seem to work for some of us, but for a house-hold in SW Wisconsin it has been all about getting ready to turkey hunt!
The household I’m referring to is that of a rural Seneca couple, Tom and Deb Gallagher along with their three boys Jack (12), Max (10) and Sam (9). Like many homes across the country today, life took a sudden turn about a month ago. The routines of getting up and heading to school, hanging out with their buddies, being members of their sports teams and doing the typical things that young boys do day-to-day all came to a sudden stop. The safety precautions brought on by the quarantine have all but eliminated any typical social interaction (except online) and have certainly changed the way that all of us go about our day. There isn’t much that I can currently think of that hasn’t been affected in some way.
So as I try to reflect back on my childhood days in this same small community, it makes me wonder how this situation would have affected me…..my friends….and how we all went about our day. I guess it truly doesn’t matter now, as that was decades ago and many things like technology help make it all very different. But I’m guessing that same rambunctious energy that flowed through my veins during that time very likely exists as well among these three Gallagher boys as they sit home, practicing social distancing and working to complete the lessons sent to them by their teachers online. This setting has obviously become very fa-miliar among most house-holds today where we find school-age children, so long as a tech-device and the internet are at their expo-sure.
For these young Gallagher boys, the incen-tive is mostly intrinsic as the values of school and a sound education have been instilled in them from day one by both their parents and their grandparents. Get-ting the work completed and doing your best…things that are innate from the ex-pectations bestowed upon them over time. But there has also been an “outside” driving force, a carrot if you will, that has provided an extra stimulus for them. That carrot is the Wisconsin spring turkey hunt. And if I need to be more specific, the state’s youth turkey hunt scheduled to take place on April 11 and 12 this spring.
Tom has instilled a love for the outdoors in his boys. They have that desire to get outside and enjoy all the wonderful things its activities have to offer. Those may even be more paramount now with this shutdown created by the pandemic. He has put to-gether quite a turkey hunt-ing arsenal over the years, preparing for these days when his boys would be learning the ropes. His col-lection includes ground blinds, decoy spreads, shooting sticks, youth hunt-ing clothing and of course shotguns designed for smaller-framed people.
Now that all three of the boys are ready to hunt, the “prep” work began weeks ago……technically years ago. The most im-portant element in this preparation is that it heavily involves the boys. Getting them directly involved in each part of the preparation provides the value necessary for them to realize what it all involves. Its so much more than just firing a shot at a turkey. Tom has the boys involved in patterning their shotguns, going through various hunting scenarios and is always em-phasizing the aspects of safety associated with each hunt. He also includes the boys in scouting as they join him to glass for birds, check trail cameras, look for turkey sign and pop up some ground blinds. This is the pre-hunt prep and in turn creates what Tom refers to as the “info” he is looking for to help put the boys on birds when the hunt time arrives. The bottom line is that its mostly “boots on the ground” as well as some quality “dad time” both of which are great ways to deal with the restrictions of COVID-19.
So how does this story turn out? How did this year’s weeks of preparation with the three Gallagher boys all come together? This year’s state youth hunt did nothing to disappoint. At least not where these duos were hunting. Weather conditions on day 1 were ideal, (until later in the day), and when Tom’s alarm went off very early Saturday morning, he arose to three excited young men all dressed and ready to go! With Tom mentoring Sam, his youngest, family friend Bob Jelinek took out Max and Jack joined up with Tom’s brother Jimmy. Each pair headed to different areas, and all of them had their share of red-hot turkey ac-tion. To experience the gobbling, strutting, and drumming that they did was outstanding, as they were reaping the reward of all their scouting prep. Each individual hunt has its own specialness to it. Those hours of prep and time spent with Dad ended with three smiling boys holding their fanned-out toms: a “youth triple”. Their hard work paid off, creating experi-ences that they’ll all never forget. Even more im-portant though, they’ll soon realize that while luck is certainly a part of most suc-cessful hunts, it is also a situation where preparation meets opportunity.So now what? With these wonderful mem-ories still fresh in their heads, and the three tail-fan mounts soon to be displayed on a wall in their home, they’ll hopefully realize that you get out of things what you put into them generally. I hope that they look back some day, and think about all that went into this, as well as the fact that it occurred under some very odd circumstances created by this COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully the virus and its effects end soon, but in the meantime its time to get back to your online lessons boys! There is more work to be done……………and six more Wisconsin turkey seasons ahead to enjoy! You’ve only just begun!