The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Belly-crawling turkeys has never been so popular.
Fanning. Stalking. Repositioning. Reaping. Ambushing.
Whatever you want to call it, turkey hunters are getting down in the dirt and grass and slinking like snakes to draw closer to strutting gobblers.
And killing birds.
And missing turkeys.
And changing the tradition in the process.
That's good. That's bad. And that's ugly - depending.
Like it or not, fanning turkeys has injected some trending interest in our hunting tradition. You either love it or hate it. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground.
Some are flat-out invigorated by the possibility of moving on a hung-up field gobbler by pushing a strutter deke with a real tail fan stuck in it toward the bird they want in their turkey vest.
Social media comments following a post on fanning and reaping contain enough argumentation and debate you could likely make a course petition for community college credit.
Seriously though, some of you have likely contributed to some discussions. And we'll likely hear from you below in our comments thread.
That's good. People love it. And since it's permitted in many places (not all, read on) why not, right?
Because for some, depending on where you live and turkey hunt, it's just plain bad - even illegal.
Stalking turkeys is illegal in some states like Pennsylvania.
"No stalking. Hunting by calling only," the specific PA regulation reads.
Elsewhere, where legal, belly-crawling birds can include some yelping and clucking of course. After all, you could move with a hen fake and do your best to make like she's a real bird.
Then again, belly-crawling with a gobbler decoy and/or fan usually relies the live male bird's sense of pecking order (and the perceived disrespect of dominance by the moving fake). Of course you could gobble, but . . .
Still, for the most part, this move to the gobbler tactic often ignores the established calling tradition whereby you fool a turkey into range by sounding like one. It's a visual deal.
And at times belly-crawling seems unsafe, especially in places where rifles are legal in the spring.
Imagine you see a realistic turkey decoy with an actual fan moving toward other birds. And let's say you're hunting with a rifle (legal in some spring states, even West Virginia). And you look through your scope and what you see appears to be a gobbler mincing steps through field grass. And you shoot . . .
Not good, right?
I wonder at times if all of this is cheating. Slacking. Maybe taking the easy track to killing a gobbler.
It can strike you as a violation of "fair chase" hunting tactics; maybe it's even unethical at times.
Yeah, some might argue that the use of hyper-realistic turkey fakes is also slacking just a little; well, maybe a lot. There are plenty of anti-decoy folks out there too.
Others may see it simply as another strategy to put your tag on a gobbler.
And that might be okay. Still . . .
Watch enough YouTube videos of fanning and reaping and you'll see some ugly shooting. Shots are sometimes taken sideways, at alerted and running turkeys, with feathers flying.
"Aw, you missed him cleanly," the video dude says. Um, I don't think that's always true.
My concern is that some of those gobblers, fired at with sloppy trigger pulls, get away only to die later from the hits.
And this bothers me the most.
Thoughts? Comment below.
Editor's note: This Realtree.com post was first published April 18, 2016.