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From One Generation to the Next

Knowledge does not automatically flow from one generation to the next. Recently, I have seen several examples of that.

When I began hunting turkeys several decades ago, safety was stressed as much or even more than the killing of a turkey. I remember stickers that were to be placed on the receiver that said "look for the beard". We talked about never wearing red, white or blue because these colors were the same as an excited turkey gobbler's neck and head. We also stated that you should always sit with a tree at your back that was as least as wide as your body. That was good advice then and it's still good advice now.

Hunting turkeys on the ground at the same level as a turkey and perhaps another turkey hunter, while wearing full camo from head to toe and making "turkey sounds" is inherently dangerous. That is why we used to dwell upon all the safety precautions. We did not want turkey hunters to be injured or killed while enjoying the sport. If we saw another hunter approaching us, we were advised to call out to him without waving our arms or making other movements that might attract a shot.

So, what happened to all of that knowledge that had kept us relatively safe for the last few decades? It was not passed on to the legions of hunters that have joined the ranks of turkey hunters in the last few years and it did not automatically flow down to them.

I visit several Internet forums dedicated to turkey hunting on a pretty regular basis. There are many sites in which you can view patterns, enter into discussions of which barrel length is better or many other subjects. Few if any of these discussions center on the basics of safety in turkey hunting. Have we forgotten safety or have we just not wanted to introduce what may be considered a "negative" subject?

I see this problem compounded now by the emphasis by some on long shots at turkeys. In years past, a 25 yard shot at a turkey was considered to be the maximum at which a responsible turkey hunter would shoot. With the development of shotshells and turkey chokes that kept patterns tighter, a maximum 40 yard shot became pretty common place. More emphasis was placed on the length of the shot than on calling a turkey in to a closer distance. There were several reasons for calling a turkey to a closer distance.

When a turkey is at 25 yards, you can clearly see him, his beard and you can see what's behind him and around him. You can make sure of the background, before the shot is fired. As distance lengthens, even to 40 yards, it becomes much more difficult to see the beard and the background. Even though some like to talk about long shots to kill turkeys, maybe, they don't realize just how far the shot in modern shotshells with modern chokes carries. Maybe they don't realize that another unseen hunter could be hit by that shot.

Just this morning, I read of a turkey hunter shooting a turkey at over 70 yards. I read again about one hunter shooting another who was using a turkey fan to sneak-up on a turkey and saw a video of a hunter being shot by another hunter in a woodline many yards away. We seem to have forgotten that this is a sport and not a means of survival. The Internet has turned "bragging over the fence" into the new national pastime of bragging by keyboard.

If we want to preserve the sport of hunting turkeys, what should we as responsible hunters do? I have a few ideas.

First, stop this ridiculous quest for longer and longer shots at turkeys. Remember that it's a sport not a means of survival.

Second, go back to the basics. Learn to call a bird. Use woodsmanship to properly and safely position yourself against a large tree or other obstacle that's wider than your back.

Third, make sure you can see the beard and the background, all around, where you plan to shoot...before you shoot.

Fourth, let's consider this motto: "Call Him In, or Hunt Him Again." We can't always be successful if successful means killing a turkey. We can always be successful if we enjoy the hunt and act safely and ethically.

Let's all remember that the knowledge and experience that we have does not automatically flow from one generation to the next. Let's make a real effort to communicate what we know to every turkey hunter that we encounter, over the back fence or on the Internet.

Lastly, we should not congratulate shooters who brag about long shots. We don't congratulate folks who engage in other bad behavior. Let's save our congratulations for folks who behave ethically and responsibly.

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