Take precautions to prevent turkey hunting accidents
Last week, I ended by talking about turkey hunting safety. With the first period of this spring’s regular turkey hunting season starting today, let’s pick up there.
Turkey hunting has a lot of incidents falling into the category of “hunter mistaken for game.” We’re told as turkey hunters not to wear red, blue or white, which mimic the colors of a turkey’s head. But how does that account for hunters who are not wearing red, blue or white — just wearing green camouflage — getting shot?
It doesn’t. “Hunter mistaken for game” really means that the shooter failed to properly identify what they shot at. It occurs when a hunter shoots at color, movement or sound. It occurs when the hunter doesn’t control their emotions. It occurs when there isn’t enough daylight. It’s part of the third main safety rule, “Be Sure of Your Target and Beyond,” and the “beyond” part also means in front of, and alongside of the target.
A hunter shooting at sound most often involves a hen yelp, and I’ve never understood this. I don’t buy the theory that they think a tom might be with her. Maybe they should think, “Hey, this might be another hunter,” because what often ends up happening is they do find another hunter, resulting in a serious hunting incident.
This often happens when a couple hunters split up after not finding turkeys. Once they split up, communication stops and several times one ends up stalking the calling, or the decoy of the other, and/or shooting at movement.
Movements like adjusting eye glasses or covering their mouth to muffle a cough or putting a piece of gum in their mouth have all triggered shots. Most of these incidents involve hunters from the same party.
Shooting at even a realistic decoy of taxidermist quality is not an excuse. If you didn’t see the turkey take a few steps, strut and relax — you know, turkey stuff — it may be a decoy. If you called in the tom, it’s a good bet it’s not a decoy. If you walked up on it with your clod hoppers close enough for a shotgun before it sees you, there’s good chance it’s a decoy.
Several years ago, a video clip of a turkey hunting incident made the rounds. It involved several hunters probably trying to start a YouTube channel. While the host/hunter and caller were calling turkeys, another hunter stalked up from behind them, shot at their low quality decoy and hitting the caller. The victim was in between the decoy and the shooter. Even worse, two poorly concealed cameramen were filming the hunt sitting behind the victim less than 10 yards from the shooter. The shooter shot from across a property fence line. The shooter was stalking a hen yelp and saw a decoy. Or he just shot at the victim who may have moved his leg in camouflage pants. Almost 20 years ago in the Rock Dam area, hunters were reporting poachers shooting at their turkey decoys with deer rifles. Don’t you think with a scoped high-powered rifle you should be able to tell the difference between a real turkey and a regular decoy? The casings on the road were from a .30-06 rifle. This wasn’t night poaching, this was daytime poaching. And it’s just as dangerous. It’s just as dangerous with a shotgun or with a rifle. And the opponents of hunting and the 2nd Amendment use these incidents against us.
Reaping turkeys has become a popular hunting method. It involves using a reaping decoy to conceal a hunter that low crawls toward a tom. The hunter often uses a gobble call while crawling in. Be aware that, nationwide, several serious incidents have occurred. And I suspect someone will, if it hasn’t already occurred, try to reap in on a tom decoy for someone’s set up.
When using tent blinds, don’t set decoys behind you. Keep the back window closed, and if another hunter walks in on you, use your voice. If you see another hunter approaching, use your voice; don’t wave at them.
When not using a tent blind, try to sit with your back against a tree at least as wide as your shoulders. Follow all the other turkey safety guidelines — never wave at other hunters, don’t wear certain colors, etc. Don’t stalk hen yelps and clearly identify the bird as a male.
Good luck this year and please remember that Safe Hunting is No Accident!
CHUCK K OLAR LOCAL OUTDOORSMAN