I thought it might be a good idea to document the second annual Turkey Hunt – a scavenger hunt meets Geo-caching meets family fun activity I developed last year and decided to continue again this year. I knew that I had to at least maintain the level of complexity to fun ratio that we all had last year, but I was really trying to do better. I’ll let you be the judge…
The participants were my brother and his family and my family – not even my wife was privy to the workings of the Hunt, which meant she could play right along. We also had to do this on Friday night after the Arkansas vs. LSU game (we won’t go into detail on this subject) because Saturday was supposed to be rainy all day. Luckily, I planned for rain.
This year started with three anonymous texts to my wife, brother and his wife. Each with one word each that when you put them together kicked off the Hunt officially. The words were UNDER, WELCOME, MAT. There they found an envelope with a letter stating the Hunt was now underway should they want to play.
It gave no specific direction, and just like last year, contained a clue to the next step. On the letter were three words in red, which again, when put together led to the RETURN, AIR, VENT. Behind the filter was another envelope tacked to an exposed 2×4.
Inside that envelope was a small notebook and a piece of paper with a series of symbols on it. The notebook was a journal that I wrote like it was from 1911. In it was a short story that told of how the page with symbols was obtained and some clues about how to decipher those symbols.
Let me stop for just a minute and tell you that I thing I had just as much fun watching them try to figure this out as they were working on the puzzles. So far, it was working out just like I envisioned it.
They received a cipher as part of the story for 6 of the symbols, which were actually numbers. From the 6 given, they could build the remaining numbers and thus assign a numeric value to each symbol. My brother provided the next breakthrough when he started writing down the numeric equivalents to the alphabet. They then translated the symbols to “turkeyhunt us”, which they quickly remembered from last year as the web address for the Hunt.
They went to the computer and pulled up the website. On the home page was a congratulatory message and a riddle. Once solved, the page revealed a set of GPS coordinates. We all got our coats on while my brother programmed my GPS with the coordinates. Out the front door and down the street we went in search of the next piece of the puzzle.
After a few wrong turns, they finally got to the location and started looking for a small plastic bottle with red reflective tape on it. It didn’t take long and they had it. Inside was a QR code (mobile bar code) and when scanned with an iPhone QR app, it took them back to the website and another riddle. Solving it revealed another set of coordinates. This process happened 9 times.
Back inside and after the little kids were in bed, the bottles were all put on the table where everyone sat staring at each other wondering what was next. One of my nephews noticed a patter on the back of each of the QR codes and quickly ascertained that each one was a piece of a larger QR code. They put it together, scanned it and had the final set of coordinates. This took them to the shed in the backyard where they found a box with the Hunt logo on the side.
It was locked with a combination lock and the code was another set of four symbols in the notebook. Inside were two boxes of BeyBlades and a stadium as well as a scroll outlining the tournament rules. It was family against family for an all out battle to ten wins. The two top winners would then battle it out for top honors and become the Turkey Hunt champion. My wife was the champion when we finished the next morning after having to call it quits so the kids could go to bed.
I almost forgot to mention that I also hid in the house a shortcut that would have allowed them to bypass the walk through the neighborhood. All they had to do was discover the clue, which was a tiny Turkey Hunt logo taped to a cabinet door. Inside the door was a small metal tube containing the location of the treasure box. Nobody found it, but now they know to look next time…
I love designing these hunts and puzzles and seeing people engage them while making memories with loved ones. If you are around next Thanksgiving and want to participate, come join us.