CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Spring gobbler hunting is an exercise in stealth.
Hunters dressed head-to-toe in camouflage sit quietly for hours on end, making sounds like hen turkeys, fervently hoping some love-starved longbeard might gobble a reply.
Sometimes a gobbler responds. Unfortunately, sometimes another hunter responds - and that's when accidents happen. Either the hunter sneaking toward the caller gets shot, or the hunter doing the calling gets shot.
Neither should happen. If hunters followed simple guidelines set forth by the National Wild Turkey Federation and state wildlife agencies, no one would get shot.
The cardinal rule, of course, is to properly identify one's target. That means knowing, with 100 percent certainty, that the target is indeed a bearded turkey gobbler. Most of all accidental shootings occur when hunters shoot at sounds or movements instead of clearly defined targets.
Other rules include:
Make sure there's an adequate backstop for any shot that might miss the gobbler. Avoid shooting at birds silhouetted against the sky.
Pick your set-up spot in open timber rather than thick brush. Eliminating movement and excess noise is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover.
Maintain a clear field of view when using a camouflage blind or netting. Set a perimeter of no more than 40 yards.
When calling turkeys, place your back against a large stump, tree trunk, rock, etc., that is wider than your shoulders and higher than your head to avoid potential confusion from other hunters.
Leave the area if you suspect there's another hunter already working the same bird.
Resist the urge to stalk turkey sounds. Stalking is one of the most common causes of incidents. Besides, it is nearly impossible to sneak up on a turkey. They see and hear the slightest movements.
Remain still and speak in a loud, clear voice to announce yourself to other hunters if necessary. Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence.
Keep your hands and head camouflaged when calling.
Never wear red, white, blue or black, even on socks or buttons. Those are colors of a wild turkey gobbler's head and body. Do not wear any bright colors. Wear dark undershirts and socks and pants long enough to tuck into boots.
Make sure your decoy is not visible when you are transporting it. Stash the decoy in your vest and check that the head is not sticking out. If you kill a wild turkey during your hunting trip, you should cover the bird's head and body when carrying it to your vehicle.
Put your gun safety on and approach a downed bird with your firearm pointed in a safe direction after firing. Never run with a firearm.
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.