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Turkey-hunting fatality is grim reminder

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:23 PM

Prior to last month's opening of turkey season, I wrote a column about the increasing hazards of turkey hunting due, in part, to the fact that more hunters are taking it up. The fields and forests become more crowded every year.

Two weeks later a turkey hunter in Marion County accidentally shot and killed his friend.

With a sizable portion of the season remaining before its May 11 close, it would be a good idea for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and other hunting/wildlife organizations to issue reminders about basic safety rules. It might save a life.

Turkey hunting is probably the most dangerous of all hunting, for various reasons.

First of all, turkey hunters, unlike deer hunters, are not required to wear identifying blaze orange. Just the opposite. Turkey hunters dress from head toe in camo to blend in with their surroundings.

Also, turkey hunters mimic the calls of turkeys to lure in gobblers. In the process they sometimes lure in other hunters, some with itchy trigger fingers.

Once while hunting on a farm in Giles County I was calling softly when I saw a hunter slipping up a fence row in my direction. He thought he was stalking a turkey, and he held his shotgun at the ready.

I quickly slipped away, keeping a tree-line between me and the other hunter. What you should do in such a situation is shout out a warning to let him know you're there. Otherwise, any flicker of movement -- like getting to your feet -- could draw fire.

An outdoor magazine recently ran a story about turkey hunting in which the author was photographed displaying a foolhardy technique: as he sat camouflaged, he waved a turkey fan (dried tail-feathers) to mimic the fanning of a gobbler.

That might indeed be a good way to lure in a turkey, but it's also a good way to get shot.

Sitting hidden in the weeds and clucking like a turkey is dangerous enough without waving tail-feathers around.

Also, never wear "turkey colors" -- red, white and blue.

In the spring a gobbler's neck wattles glow bright red, and its head ranges in hues from dark blue to bright white.

The flashing of any of those colors could draw fire, and I'm sometimes guilty of doing it. I often wear white socks, which can't be seen when I'm standing up with the legs of my hunting pants down over my boot-tops. But when I sit down and squirm around awhile, the pants-legs tend to ride up, exposing tops of the white socks.

Nowadays, a careless act like that can get you shot.

Even when hunting on private land that is supposed to have no one else on it, it's wise to take precautions. Not everybody obeys "No Trespassing" signs. And hunting buddies in the same area can accidentally stumble upon each other -- as tragically happens every season.

No sound in the outdoors is more thrilling than the thundering gobble of a big long-beard. The sight of sight of him strutting and fanning, wattles glowing blood-red, coal-black feathers glistening in the morning sun, is breathtaking. Even for veteran hunters it starts the heart pounding and the adrenaline pumping.

Sometimes that surge of excitement can spark a trigger-happy response -- an ill-advised shot at an ill-defined target.

The result can be the haunting tragedy of a lifetime.

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