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Top tips to get the most from this year’s special youth turkey hunt 

BY Randy Zellers

ON 04-03-2024


LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’s turkey season is kicking off with the annual youth turkey hunt April 6-7, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has a few helpful tips to keep young new hunters chasing longbeards instead of asking when it’s time to head to the truck.

Initiated in 2004, the annual Arkansas youth turkey hunt offers two days for hunters 6-15 years old to get to the woods with a mentor to learn the ropes of the turkey woods. Wild turkeys can be one of the most challenging animals to pursue in Arkansas, so the AGFC is offering the young guns the first opportunity at the birds before experienced hunters begin to take up their shotguns and slate calls.

Prepare for success
The first step to any successful hunt is to make sure you have a valid hunting license. Youth hunters aren’t required to purchase a license, but they will need a customer identification number to check their turkey once it is harvested. By logging into the AGFC’s licensing website, you can set up a profile for your youth hunter and get their free youth CID (labeled YCID) in a matter of minutes. If you already have your profile set up, you can link your youth hunter’s profile to your account, but any turkeys they harvest must be checked to them, so be sure you’re entering the harvest information under the right profile.

Remember, you must tag a turkey before moving it if you have not yet checked it. You must check the bird within 12 hours of harvest, and once it is checked you no longer need the tag. If you’re able to check the bird in the field, you can forgo tagging it altogether. If you won’t be able to check the bird on-site, it’s a good idea to have a blank tag like those available on Page 23 of the 2023-24 Arkansas Hunting Guidebook. 

The best route to check a turkey is through the AGFC’s smartphone app. Even if you don’t have a cellphone signal, you can still check the youth hunter’s turkey, and it will complete the process when you get back to civilization. The AGFC’s website has all the information you need to download the app, create and link a youth profile to your account and secure their free turkey tags with a Youth CID Number. (If they received a YCID during the 2023-24 deer season, that is the YCID you’ll use, or you can get one through the app and licensing system now.) Visit to get started.

Practice Patience
Take some time before the hunt to make sure your youth hunter is well versed in how a turkey hunt can go down. Some birds may come to your calls as if on a string, but most seasoned gobblers are going to take their time. Ground blinds can help with restless feet, but most turkey hunters tend to move to the birds. This means hunters have to know when to be dead still to avoid the sharp eyes of adult gobblers. Practice sitting motionless on the floor, propped up against the living room couch as a backrest just like you’d be against the trunk of a tree when you’re waiting for a bird to pop his head over a ridge and come to your decoy. Check to make sure your youth’s shotgun is completely unloaded and have them position it on their knee so they know how to shift it around silently when their bird has his head behind a tree or the decoy.

Keep It Comfy
Even if you don’t see any turkeys, you can still have a great experience as long as your young hunter is comfortable and has plenty of snacks. Little Debbie has saved so many boring hunts she should be granted an honorary lifetime hunting license. Unfortunately, those little plastic wrappers have a way of making that death metal garage band down the street sound quiet. Unwrap a few and put them in zip-sealed sandwich bags to keep the noise down when your little hunter begins to search for those Swiss rolls and fudge rounds. (Someone report back if Easter Basket Cakes are as good as Christmas Trees, please.)

Be sure to keep your Thermocell handy and spray down with insect repellent containing DEET. Turkeys don’t care what you smell like, and swatting mosquitoes during a hunt will definitely give away your location to the game. Ticks are coming back out with the warmer weather, too, so pre-treating your hunting clothes with permethrin insect repellent can prevent some uncomfortable post-hunt removal sessions and protect your youth from tick-borne illness like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Alpha-Gal (a lifelong reaction that makes people allergic to red meat).

Kid Friendly
The number one recommendation for the upcoming youth hunt is to keep it fun. Remember that little legs can’t cover the same amount of ground as an adult, so be patient and encouraging while your young hunter is making their way up a hillside to head off a bird in the distance. Lighten their load as much as possible so they remember how fun it was “climbing that mountain” instead of dwelling on how heavy their gear was.

Success isn’t always measured by a filled tag. Mark milestones and make them a big deal. Did they get to hear their first gobble? Did they see their first bird up close in the wild? Did they notice something new and exciting along the way? Years from now, moments spent on the tailgate before and after the hunt will stand out just as much as the moment they connect with their first bird. It’s all part of what makes us hunters.

Only hunters 6-15 years old may hunt turkeys during the youth hunt. Youths who have completed hunter education may hunt on their own at their parents’ discretion. Youths who have not completed hunter education must be under the direct supervision (within arm’s reach) of an adult who is 21 or older. Youth hunters may harvest one male turkey during the youth hunt. They may shoot one immature gobbler (jake) as part of their yearly limit. Birds harvested during the youth hunt count toward the youth’s yearly limit.

Visit for more information on Arkansas’s turkey season and AGFC turkey conservation efforts.




Arkansas’s youth turkey hunt is April 6-7. AGFC photo.

Hunters 6-15 may hunt turkeys during the youth hunt, and may harvest one male turkey.

The youth hunt is a great opportunity to teach young hunters about the excitement of spring hunting.

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