Saturday, January 12, 2008
Costly Mistakes During Turkey Season
Outdoor writers are supposed to be pretty savvy hombres. Right? Well, yeah. most of the time but there have been some costly mistakes made during turkey season. You know, just applying for a spring turkey permit is enough to get me thinking about past hunts and some monumental mistakes that others have made.
How many ways are there to miss a longbeard? Let me recount several ways to totally miss a big gobbler. Some are easy for most people, and other sportsmen may have some rather innovative ways that have led to a miss.
A friend several miles away is seeing 25 birds daily. He is hoping for an early-season tag, and since I’ll do my best to call a longbear within 30 yards for him, I want him to know some of the many ways that a missed shot can occur.
*Missing a gobbler with a shotgun is something to ponder over the next three months. It’s been years since I teased three Toms close enough for a shot. My hunting companion lifted her head off the stock as she shot, and any head movement causes the shot pattern to go high. All three birds ran off unharmed. Moral: Make a conscious effort to keep your head down on the stock and squeeze off the shot when the sight settles on that area where the head and neck meet. Moral: The job is done right when the shotgun goes bang and the gobbler falls over without a wiggle.
*Another time a person got so caught up in watching a cautious gobbler approach that when it was time to shoot, she was hyperventilating so much she felt faint. Her companion shot and killed the bird. Moral: Take a deep breath, relax and concentrate on the shot. Another trick to remember is to take a breath every few seconds.
*A buddy tried to swing around a tree and shoot while big gobbler approached from the rear. A human has as much chance of swinging around, shooting and killing a gobbler from an awkward-angle as most people have of flipping the light switch and getting out of the room before the light goes out. Moral: Sit still, don’t call or move, and wait for the cautious bird to walk around your location and step in front of the shouldered shotgun. If the shotgun isn’t up to your shoulder long before then, you deserve to not get a shot. You also deserve to miss.
*One buddy of mine wasn’t paying attention. He had heard a bird gobble in front of him, and didn’t realize it was circling and looking for a hen. He eventually spotted the bird after he moved his leg to relieve a cramp. Moral: Once a turkey gobbles, and starts moving your way, don’t move. Let the cramp develop, wait for the gobbler to stick his head up out of cover, shoot him and then scream with pain.
*I can’t vouch for this one but it was told to me by a man who speaks the truth. He and a hunter were walking softly through the woods when a gobbler ripped off a full-throated gobble about 50 yards away. The two men sank against nearby trees, the hunter reached into his pocket for a shotgun shell, stuffed it into the breech of his 10 gauge magnum, and silently eased the action closed. One brief call, and the bird double-gobbled, and stepped out into the open. The hunter was set up perfectly, and the shotgun’s front bead settled on the head-neck area, and he softly clicked off the safety and pulled the trigger. A faint click was heard but the gobbler hauled his tail feathers out of the area. Moral: Do not do like he did and put a roll of Life Savers in the same pocket as the shotshells. Nothing happens when the firing pin encounters the end of a roll of candy.
*Don’t just slap a scope or red-dot sight on the shotgun, and figure you are set. A guy I once knew gradually learned that scopes or red-dot sights can be an asset in the turkey woods. It’s also important to sight them in so you know where the shot charge is going. He didn’t do that, and when he shot, a tree limb fell and almost hit the gobbler on the head. Moral: Do your homework and know how the shotgun shoots with a certain load. Never, ever mix shotshells of the three sizes (No. 4, 5 or 6 shot) in your pocket. My cornshucking pump 12 mag shoots No. 5s very well but a No. 4 or 6 shot leaves shot pattern holes big enough for a gobbler to walk through. Moral: Carry just one size of shot and pattern the shotgun long before the season opens.
*I took a guy out several years ago, and we had a long walk to the hunting area. We stopped so he could take a breather, and he leaned his unloaded scoped shotgun against a tree in the pre-dawn darkness. He got slightly turned around in the dark, bumped his shotgun, and the scope hit a big rock when it fell. I called a nice gobbler to him a half-hour later, and ... you guessed it. The scope was knocked out of kilter, and he missed the bird. Moral: Never lean a loaded or unloaded shotgun against anything. If necessary, unload it, leave the action open, and lay it softly on the ground.
*Almost last are these two dandies. I was calling for a first-time hunter, and this young lady was cautioned that the birds were circling and she had to sit still, don’t move a muscle and let the gobbler walk in front of her shotgun. I kept saying in a soft whisper: “Sit still. I can hear the birds 20 yards behind us. Don’t move and don’t make a sound. Five minutes later a gobbler walked up from behind her, passed within 10 feet of her right elbow, and she gave a startled “Eek!” Moral: This lady missed her bird without firing a shot because even though she had been warned, she wasn’t mentally prepared for a bird at very close range.
*Another woman, this one from out west, came to shoot a gobbler. She missed a standing quartering-away shot with her bow, and I handed her a shotgun. She insisted she had killed the bird but I knew she had missed. She said “I’ll shoot it with the shotgun,” and proceeded to miss it standing, head-up, at 30 yards. The shot charge tore up the turf 10 yards from the bird, and again she insisted she had killed it. The bird ran into the woods, and we flushed the big gobbler and it took wing. I told her that was her bird. She insisted her bird was dead so we ended that hunt. Moral: It’s easy to miss a gobbler, but if you miss, have enough common sense and guts to fess up and admit the miss.
Even I, believe it or not, have missed a turkey. But that is a story for another time.