How to Avoid Turkey Hunting Accidents
Turkey hunting accidents rarely happen — but sometimes they do.
The guy kept following me. I stopped yelping. He didn't.
In 20 years of turkey hunting the location, I'd never seen another spring gobbler hunter in there. After sitting down in the dark within fly-down distance of a longbeard I'd roosted the night before, and feeling satisfied at my prospects, I saw a flash of movement in the field as the false dawn came on, maybe a hundred yards from me in the woods.
At first, I thought: coyote. The movement was that low to the ground, stalking like a predator. Next, I realized it was a guy, shotgun in hand, crouch-crawling toward the sound of my bird and calling on a box like it might conjure the gobbler right out of the woods into his lap . . . Assuming the gobbler couldn't see him, which it likely could, as the woods grew silent then. New to the game? I had a hunch he likely was. Honestly, I wasn't sure what he was doing, there in the wide-open field, arriving late, moving fast. I called to let him know another guy was in there: me. Mistake. He jerked his head up and now veered in my direction.
I won't lie to you: anger and disappointment kicked my once confident thoughts into Plan B mode — and then fear. I stood, blowing my chances at this hard-earned scouted gobbler. I shouted, Hey! He just kept coming, yelping the whole time.
I cussed under my breath. Just then, another gobbler fired up, a good distance off on the nearby hill. I gathered my gear and hustled straight in that direction. He could have the other bird. I called, had the new gobbler answer, minced steps closer then made my setup. Maybe my Plan B would work after all. I watched as a handful of hens pitched down within view — then a jake. The big boy flew down last. They milled about and I yelped, cutting hard on the finish.
All heads shot up, and the lead hen started pulling them all my way. I felt satisfied this hunt looked like it would lift itself right out of the ashes of defeat. I froze, looking down the shotgun barrel at a wedge of turkeys with one full-fan strutter following. It was only a matter of time until the longbeard was in range.
Then disaster happened. They stopped, started alarm putting, looking through the woods in the direction of the field. At that, they ran off. Less than a minute later, the guy appeared again, calling urgently. I could hardly believe my ears and eyes.
And then I saw him stalking my way, veering above me, calling crazily the whole time on that blasted box call. Should I have said something then? Maybe. But it hadn't worked the first time. Did he think he was alone in here with the turkeys, even though I'd shouted "Hey" at him? Possibly. Maybe he didn't care. I'd parked a mile in the other direction, with landowner permission to hunt this property, while this guy had used the posted off-limits access — or so his initial direction had indicated.
I let him walk past, and as his footsteps faded with the calling he made, I quickly gathered my stuff and marched the mile back to my truck, never to hunt there the rest of the season. Good news is I killed a different gobbler late that morning elsewhere, so all was well — mostly. I still think of that morning and what could have happened.
Below you'll find a number of news stories about turkey hunting accidents. In truth, on average turkey hunting is far safer than many other outdoor sports. In these instances something went wrong:
From The Anniston Star: Turkey-hunting accident lands man in hospital.
From the Lakes Region Weekly: Hunting accident victim . . .
From WVLT: Hunting accident.
How could these bad outcomes have been avoided? Let us know in the comments section below and thanks.
Steve Hickoff is Realtree's turkey hunting editor and blogger.