Words & Photos by Seacat Creative
Each year, a tight knit group of families and friends gather at Bobby Warner’s Tucker’s Ridge Farm in Meigs County, Ohio for the opening days of the youth turkey season – a restricted season allowing kids the opportunity to hunt before the general public. Mark Seacat and Bobby Warner have hunted around the world together, but this unique season is a special opportunity to focus on the kids.
In 2017, Townes Seacat’s older brother, West, killed his first wild turkey - a jake. West was only 5. That night, as the entire camp was reliving West’s experience, Townes (3 years old at the time) stood up and announced he would come back next year and kill a gobbler at 4 years old. The fire of competition in his eyes matched his tousled red hair, and he smiled as he looked around the room.
He practiced with the determination usually reserved for those much older. As days ticked off the calendar, spring crept closer. When April arrived, the Seacats were on their way to turkey camp for the second year in a row.
4,000 acres of pristine turkey and whitetail habitat surround the basecamp at Tucker’s Ridge. Comprised of a cabin with 20 bunks, 30 whitetail deer mounts, countless turkey mounts, a pond with trout and bass and a dock for swimming, Tucker’s Ridge is a dream setting for any aspiring hunter.
“It’s a kid’s paradise,” said Mark. “There are very few rules. We hunt in the morning and fish and swim in the afternoon. There’s a campfire and s’mores every night, and I let the boys choose what we do. This is always their trip.”
This year, 6-year-old West was up to hunt first. He, Townes, Mark and the Warner family Patriarch, Boyd Warner (Bobby’s dad), set off to the “Short Ridge” blind, where West succeeded in tagging his first tom.
The next day was Townes’ turn, nestled into a blind on his father’s knee, his arm draped around a small pump-action .410 shotgun. The back of the stock rested in Mark’s hand as his son calmly looked through the sight, eyes and barrel trained on the two jakes approaching a hen decoy 20 yards away.
“Here comes your turkey,” Mark whispered. Townes remained calm, in adult-like steadiness, studying the two jakes. After 45 seconds, he then turned to his dad.
“Dad,” he said, “I really want to shoot a gobbler.”
“Ok, Townes, but there’s no guarantee a gobbler will come in.”
“Oh no, a gobbler is going to come today.”
“There was this quiet confidence about him when he chose to pass on those jakes,” said Mark. “I switched the safety back on, and we waited.”
Later that day, they spotted a tom through one of the blind windows. Slowly, the tom worked his way across the field 125 yards away – bobbing and strutting toward the decoy.
“Don’t move,” Mark said to Townes. “Stay very still and watch out of the corner of your eye.”
45 minutes later, the tom had walked himself into Townes’ sight, as he quietly and calmly took his own aim.
Click. Safety off.
“Whenever you're ready,” Mark said. “Take all the time you need to make the perfect shot.” Townes squeezed the trigger – nothing. He tried again with the same result.
“Dad, something’s wrong.” He whispered.
Mark looked, and put a new shell in. The commotion seemed loud from inside the blind. There was movement, but the gobbler remained within range. The tom folded in and out of full strut as he focused all his attention on the decoy. Townes had all of his attention on the bird.
Seconds later, after a perfectly placed shot, Townes had his first gobbler down at 4 years old.
“I was so proud of him,” said Mark. “What a cool life lesson - to set a goal when you’re 3, remember it, and follow through. It’s a big thing for a 4-year-old to have a loaded gun with a legal animal in front of him – then to pass it up because he had set out to fulfill a goal. I think we can all learn something from that.”
Both West and Townes decided rather than eat their turkeys at camp, they would take them home to share with their family. And in July, Mark fired up his smoker and cooked all four breasts with his boys. Bringing it full circle, and passing down the tradition.
Get the Seacat Smoked Bourbon Turkey Brine recipe here.
SEACAT CREATIVE is based in Bozeman, Montana and has been in the game for 10 years. They’ve had a hand in almost all the stories told by your favorite brands: YETI, Sitka Gear, GORE-TEX, and Hatch, to name a few. Hunters, anglers and mountain people, they thrive off time spent outdoors, pursuing game, beautiful places, and stories that make a difference and fuel their passion.