Have you heard the story about Daniel Boone’s Kentucky turkey hunt, way back in the spring of 1771? He called in a gobbler by making hen yelps using a blade of grass between his lips. With the longbeard at about 20 yards, he pulled the trigger on his smoothbore fowling piece and the turkey flopped around. Boone ran to the big bird and did a dance over it, whooping, hollering, and pumping his fists. Maybe you’ve seen the video.
Now that I’ve planted a ridiculous scene in your mind’s eye, let’s think about it. You probably HAVE seen victory dances over downed game on modern videos. Some people justify it as the natural way to burn off the adrenaline of the hunt. Some say it’s a normal celebration over the harvest. Sometimes it’s nothing but an act put on for TV viewers. But most hunters do no more than give their hunting partner a fist bump, a slap on the back, or a quick hug. I can’t imagine a hunter who is alone (least of all myself or Daniel Boone) twerking out a bizarre victory dance.
When videos show over-the-top emotional exhibitions, some viewers get the idea that it’s a big deal to shoot a gobbler (or a buck, for that matter). Daniel Boone and his contemporaries wouldn’t have thought so. They hunted less for sport and more for supper. Their joy came from being thankful that their families’ nutritional needs would be met. If our hunts were as much about the meal as some hunters say they are, maybe we’d feel more thankful and less like we just won the Super Bowl.
Fast forward to a 2017 news story. Like Boone’s imaginary hunt it wasn’t captured on video, but this one is true. By now, maybe you’ve read the report about three hunters who had driven up from Arkansas to Kansas and leased a place to hunt. One hunter was dropped off at a spot, while the other two headed for a different location on the property.
When the lone hunter heard a gobbler sounding off, he began calling and saw the turkey coming. The news report doesn’t say whether the hunt was in an open field, mature timber, or some other type of vegetation, but when the hunter judged the gobbler to be in range he took the shot. His target turned out to be his two buddies, hiding behind a tail fan of a turkey. They were seriously injured. Thankfully the injuries weren’t fatal.
The two victims were using a relatively new turkey hunting tactic called “reaping” or “fanning.” The hunter hides behind a turkey tail fan and moves toward a real gobbler that thinks another turkey is approaching. This shot-in-mistake-for-game incident raises many questions, but makes one thing clear—we can never be sure no other hunters are around.
The question I wonder about every time I hear of a turkey hunting accident is whether a contributing factor might be the idea that it’s a really big deal to shoot a gobbler. I wonder if videos overplay the excitement, or if competition with a buddy can cause hunters to fail to positively identify the target and take risky shots. When that happens, hunters can easily throw caution to the wind and lose the real purpose of the hunt. Whatever the reason, accidents can happen when the kill becomes the priority.
I’m not saying that’s the only reason accidents happen, nor am I saying that’s what happened in the Kansas case. I’m only saying that when killing becomes the highest priority, the chances of an accident increase. Realizing that is step one in avoiding a terrible hunting mistake.
Maybe I’m wrong and maybe others disagree with me, but I doubt Daniel Boone ever danced over a dead gobbler.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.