The Everyday Hunter
Turkey season is almost here, and if you want to start a good fight, tell another turkey hunter you’ve never missed a gobbler. He’ll have a stock answer ready. He might try to belittle your hunting experience by saying, “Then you haven’t been hunting for very long.” He might say, “Your memory must not be very good.” Or he might challenge your integrity and say, “You’re a liar!”
Some hunters set goals for their hunting. And some goals are worthy — say, 100 legally harvested gobblers. It takes hunting more than one state to do that, but what do you do when you reach a goal like that? Do you quite hunting turkeys? Probably not. You just keep counting.
Some hunters want to accomplish the “Grand Slam” of turkey hunting — harvesting one of each of the five subspecies of wild turkey. Others make it their goal to harvest a turkey in every state where turkeys can be hunted.
I have a simpler goal, one I can accomplish every time I go turkey hunting. My goal is to never miss. I don’t get a shot every time I’m out, but if I do I don’t want to miss. So far, I’ve achieved that goal.
How is that possible? It’s not only possible, it’s relatively easy. Here’s how:
Call them in close. One thing that makes turkey hunting so exciting is a close encounter with a bird that’s big, beautiful, and born to be wild. Hunters miss turkeys at ranges I’d never shoot them at. “He was in range, about 50 yards away,” one hunter told me.
In my opinion, 50 yards is too far. My shotgun can kill a gobbler at 50 yards, but I’ve never taken a shot that far. I limit my shots to 35 yards. Why? Because it’s easy to make a mistake estimating range. Shooting from an awkward position at a live turkey estimated to be 40 yards away is not the same as patterning your shotgun on a silhouette of a turkey’s head from a stable rest at a known distance. Here are three reasons:
First, no matter how many turkeys you’ve shot, your adrenaline faucet is always running. Turkey hunting is exciting, and in the pressure of excitement things can go wrong.
Second, shooting at a live turkey makes you fail to notice that sapling that might be in the line of fire. Often some obstruction is between you and the turkey.
Third, it’s common for your position to be less than comfortable. Maybe the angle is awkward, or your arms are tired from holding the shotgun way too long.
Turkey season will soon be here. In order to avoid missing a turkey, you should pattern your shotgun. Whether you’re lining up two beads with the gobbler’s head, using a low-power scope, or some other sight picture, make sure you have a dense pattern of hard-hitting shot at a distance where you will always get a clean kill. And never shoot beyond that distance.
As for me, this year I’m switching from a scope that has popped me in the forehead too many times, in favor of a red-dot sight. But what will stay the same is what I will be thinking when I pull the trigger on a big bird. It won’t be, “I think I can kill him now.” It will be, “I know I will kill him.”
I shot my first gobbler 45 years ago. I suppose one day will come when I do miss one, but I’ll keep doing everything I can to make sure that day never arrives. I’ve passed up a lot of shots on turkeys I probably could have killed, but I’ve also harvested plenty of turkeys. For me, missing is not an option.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting , he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.