Turkey season is underway, and hunters are advised to proceed with caution.
Turkey hunting presents some unique safety challenges, and an accident is just one careless second away.
Unlike deer hunters, which are required to wear florescent orange hats and vests to make themselves highly visible, it’s just the opposite for turkey hunters. They dress from head to toe in camo, including face masks and gloves, making them virtually invisible to other hunters.
On top of that, they use calls to mimic the sounds of turkeys, which can attract other hunters.
One morning I was sitting in a fence corner calling, when I detected movement in an adjacent field. It was another hunter, slipping toward me, gun at the ready.
I ducked behind a tree and – keeping the tree between me and the other hunter – quickly and quietly slipped away.
I later learned that was the wrong thing to do.
In such a situation, never stand up, wave or make any sudden movement. Instead, shout at the other hunter and make sure he hears you and sees you before making the slightest movement.
It may ruin your hunt, but it beats getting shot.
If someone thinks he’s stalking a yelping turkey, then suddenly detects a flicker of movement precisely where the yelping is coming from, he may have an extremely itchy trigger finger.
Never wear springtime “turkey colors” – red, white and blue. Those are the glowing hues of a gobbler’s head, and a flash of color could draw fire.
Obviously, there is no excuse for shooting at a flicker of movement or a flash of color. Only bearded turkeys are legal, and in order to detect a beard, the bird would have to be in clear view and positively identified.
But common sense sometimes goes out the window in an adrenaline-juiced moment of excitement.
The situation becomes more precarious every season as available public hunting land shrinks and more hunters are attracted to the sport. More hunters squeezed onto less land creates increased potential for an accident.
Wildlife Management Areas provide wide spaces and good hunting, but they require considerably more preparation and travel than does hunting private land – and also tend to be congested in the more accessible areas.
The solution to hunting safety is simple: always make sure of your target before you shoot. A spit-second of carelessness can result in a lifetime of remorse.