Youth turkey hunter’s patience pays off _lowres

Photo provided by CY D'AQUILA Olivia D'Aquila celebrated the first hunt when she was allowed to pull the trigger by taking the second of two gobblers she bagged on consecutive days duyring the youth-only hunt on family land in the southwest corner of Mississippi. The 9-year-old Catholic-Pointe Coupee third grader spent time with her dad, Cy, in turkey blinds during the last three years, and bagged a turkey on opening day before heavy rains set in, then returned to the hunt in the next morning to take an even larger turkey. She plans to hunt near her New Roads home when Louisiana's spring season opens Saturday on private lands.

It was an overcast morning, one that gave all indications that heavy rain was on the way.

At 9 years old, Olivia D’Aquila most certainly is classified a “youth hunter,” but even one so young knew the ominous sky provided only a small window of opportunity from the blind her dad, Cy, was setting up.

A gobbler was more than ready to come into the decoys near the blind. By the time she pulled the trigger on her youth-model 20-gauge, the rain wasn’t the only water hitting her face.

“She was crying,” Cy D’Aquila said. “And I asked her why, and she told me that she was so happy.”

It’s not like in a 9-year-old’s life that anything can be long in coming, but this day was. She’s been with dad for the past three years on turkey hunts, and it was apparent she took those days to look and learn. And it paid off twice, and maybe even more, when Louisiana’s season opens Saturday.

Cy D’Aquila made it easier on his daughter than most hunters would do for themselves, or for their kids. He set up a ground blind to provide cover and concealment, a move that reduces the effects of a youngster’s fidgeting in the set-up, and he sets out decoys.

“I also have her set up on (a tripod to rest her shotgun), and we use reduced recoil shells,” he said. “I put a scope on the gun, too.”

The telescopic sight makes a difference. It could help adult hunters, too, because in the heat of the moment, the time when a big gobbler comes into range, even adult hunters won’t put their cheek squarely on the stock to get the correct picture of the target before pulling the trigger. It’s as important a tip for turkey hunters as it is learning how and when to call and how and where to set decoys.

For Olivia, the lessons learned paid off on her first “real” hunt, and again the following day. Yep, she took another gobbler on her second “real” hunt.

“Both times she had to be patient and wait and wait for the turkey to come within her range,” Cy D’Aquila said. “The first day, the turkey gobbles all the way into the set-up. The second turkey came in silent and just showed up in the decoys.”

Her first gobbler had three-quarters of an inch spurs with a near 10-inch beard. The second had one-inch spurs and a beard measuring a little more than 10 inches.

And for this weekend?

“She’s hooked now,” he said. “And she’s happy.”

New closures

Rising water forced Wildlife and Fisheries to close Goose Lake, Lac-A-Sostien, Ross, Catfish Bayou, Dobbs Bay and Blount roads, the Patton Lake Loop trail, the Cheney Lake ATV trail and all roads on the east side of the Mississippi River levee on the Richard Yancey Wildlife Management Area. Last week, the LDWF closed turkey hunting on the Grassy Lake, Bayou Pierre, Big Lake, Boeuf, Loggy Bayou and Russell Sage WMAs.

Tags & safety

Turkey hunters, no matter their ages, are reminded to have state turkey tags with them in the field, and, if successful, to affix the tag to the gobbler before taking the bird from the field.

For safety, it’s a must to wear Hunter Orange to and from your hunting spots, and good to bring another Hunter Orange vest to wrap around your trophy bird before slinging it over your shoulder.