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Turkey Hunting Safety at Cabela's

Turkey Hunting Safety

Author: Chip Gross

Could this happen to you?

Always aim for a turkey's neck and head.
It felt and sounded like a firecracker exploding in my left ear. I was knocked down, but not unconscious, and my mind immediately tried to figure out what was wrong-what was happening. At first, I thought that my shotgun had blown apart. I had been turkey hunting and carrying the 12 gauge on a sling over my shoulder and thought that one of the three-inch magnum shells in the magazine had detonated for some unexplained reason. But I had been carrying the gun over my right shoulder, so why was my left arm and the left side of my face stinging as if a thousands hornets were attacking?

I remember sitting up and seeing my camouflaged shotgun lying intact on the ground. It was then that my mind registered the terrifying and unbelievable fact: "I've been shot!"

Within seconds I could hear brush cracking about 30 yards uphill from where I lay.
"Help!" I yelled in a coarse voice that didn't sound quite like my own.
"Where are ya?" came a reply from up the hill.
"Down here," I said. "You shot me."
A plaid-shirted hunter stepped from a downed treetop and yelled, "Where ya hit?
I'm hit in the head. Go get help!"
"Where should I go?" he asked without coming closer, his voice now starting to sound shaky.
"There's a farmhouse over the hill. Go get help!" I repeated.
"Oh, my Gawd...," he said, and I could hear him running away through the woods. I could only hope that he was not leaving me for good.

It was then that the heaviest bleeding started. The leaves on the forest floor beneath my head were quickly covered with blood, and I remember thinking, "I'm bleeding too much, I might die here." I said a short prayer and then took a handkerchief from my pocket and pressed it to my head. The cloth quickly filled with blood, but within a few minutes the bleeding began to subside. However, it was then that my left eye gradually began filling with blood. It's a strange feeling watching your own eyesight growing dimmer and dimmer until it's eventually gone...

Don't use a gobble call, having another hunter think you are a gobbler is an unsafe situation.
Elements of an Incident...

That hunting incident happened to me on May 5, 1986 in Mohican Memorial State Forest in Ohio. I was hit with about 20 pellets from the other hunter's shotgun at about 30 yards. I still carry most of those lead shot with me today in my left upper arm, neck, and the left side of my face. The doctors said that it would do more damage to remove the pellets than leave them in. But my left eye had suffered the worst of my injuries-a pellet had penetrated the eyeball. Unfortunately, after three surgeries over a period of several months, I eventually lost all sight in that eye.

One irony of the incident was that at the time I worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife, as a certified hunter education instructor! I trained new instructors who in turn taught students hunter safety. And I always thought that if I hunted safely I'd never be involved in a hunting accident. But now I was a statistic.

W. H. (Chip) Gross is the author of the turkey hunting novel, Home, At Last, Is The Hunter, in which he incorporates a fictionalized account of his incident story. To order an autographed copy ($14.95), you may email him at, or write to him at WORDsmith, 6108 Township Road 88, Fredericktown, OH 43019.

What Every Turkey Hunter Should Know...
The following eight tips will help you hunt more defensively in the turkey woods. And besides making you a safer hunter, these suggestions will also make you more successful:
1. Never stalk a turkey - Trying to sneak up on a wild gobbler or turkey sounds is a hunting method that could easily result in you being involved in a hunting incident. A wild gobbler's eyesight and hearing are so acute that your chances of successfully stalking a bird are remote. Always attempt to call a turkey to your location.
2. Dress for success - Eliminate the colors red, white, and blue from your hunting clothing, the colors of a gobbler's head. Wear complete camouflage when calling from a stationary position, including a head net and gloves. When moving through the woods, display some hunter orange.
3. Remain still - When approached by another hunter, don't move, wave, or make a turkey sound to alert him/her of your presence. Instead, yell or speak in a loud voice. And always assume that any turkey sound you hear is first another hunter.
4. Don't use a gobble call - Gobble calls are great for locating birds prior to the hunting season, but should be left at home once the turkey season begins. Obviously, having another hunter think you are a gobbler is an unsafe situation.
5. Choose a safe calling position - Whenever possible, select a large tree or rock to sit against when calling. The object will not only break up your outline, but will protect your back as well.
6. Positively identify your target - In most states, only bearded birds are allowed to be taken during the spring turkey hunting season. Make sure that you see a beard before pulling the trigger, and never ever shoot at just a sound or at movement.
7. Know your range - Pattern your shotgun prior to the turkey hunting season with the ammunition you plan to shoot. Numbers 4, 5, 6, or 71/2 size shot are good choices. Know your gun's effective range, and keep in mind that most turkeys are killed at 30 yards or less.
8. Where to aim - Always aim for a turkey's neck and head. Wild gobblers are large, heavy, big-boned birds that are seldom killed by a body shot. You may knock one down by shooting it in the body, but the result is usually a crippled and lost bird.
Basic Turkey Hunting Safety Gear:
Shooting glasses
Hunter-orange hat or hunter-orange pull-out turkey vest (to be worn while moving through the woods)
Hunter-orange carry bag or surveyor's tape (for transporting your turkey safely from the woods)
Small first-aid kit
Snake-bite kit (for southern hunters)
Two-way radio or cell phone for emergencies (if legal to carry while hunting in your area)
And for older hunters, hearing enhancement (such as Walker's Game Ear)