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The Commonwealth is home to a strong population of wild turkeys and many enthusiastic turkey hunters. Spring Gobbler Season runs through May 14 this year in Virginia.
The sharp eyesight and acute hearing of wild turkeys make them challenging game for hunters to pursue. Taking one of these wily birds requires patience, accurate shooting and lots of turkey know-how. Part of the lure of turkey hunting is the strategy hunters must use to outwit them. Before heading into the woods turkey hunters need to take extra preparation time to improve their chances of taking a gobbler.
Dressing right is the key to both safe and successful turkey hunting. While sitting still is most important, full camouflage helps hunters blend into the surroundings and elude the turkey’s watchful eyes. Those aren’t the only eyes that could be fooled. Other hunters could mistake a hunter dressed in full camouflage using a turkey call for a wild turkey. Keep in mind, when you hear a turkey call or see movement, it could very well be another hunter. Assume you are not alone in the woods and act accordingly. Your firearm, clothing, and turkey calls are all-important equipment, but thinking safety is the best tool a hunter can use.
Ultimately, every hunter is responsible for identifying his target and beyond before pulling the trigger. Most hunting fatalities are the result of the hunter not making sure of his or her target, or shooting at sound or movement. To ensure a safe and enjoyable day afield, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommends the following guidelines for Spring Gobbler hunting:
1) Because a gobbler’s head is distinguished by its bold white, blue and red colors, NEVER wear white, blue or red clothing – not even socks or undershirts – because a flash of white could be mistaken for a turkey. Even a red bandana or blue snack food wrapper could be misread in the woods during turkey season.
2) Turkey hunters should wear blaze orange when walking to and from their calling positions and when setting up or moving decoys. Wearing blaze orange is always recommended. However, if you choose not to, tie a strip of blaze orange to a nearby tree to alert others of your presence.
3) Choose a calling position that will provide you with a backstop as wide as your shoulders and will protect you from the top of your head down. A large tree is best. A small tree will not hide slight movements of your hands and shoulders and these movements may cause other hunters to misinterpret what they are seeing.
4) When choosing a calling position, don’t hide so well that you cannot see what is going on around you. Select a calling position with a good view of your surroundings and where the sun does not distort what you are seeing.
5) Never shoot at a sound or movement. Wait until you have a good, clean shot at a legal bird.
6) Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence. Instead, call out in a loud voice and remain hidden, until the other hunter acknowledges your presence.
7) Never stalk a turkey. Another hunter could be behind that gobble and those birds could be decoys.
8) When you harvest a gobbler, carry it out of the woods draped in blaze orange. Otherwise, another hunter might just see the bird and not you.
By taking these basic precautions, hunters protect themselves and protect others. Bring home that gobbler safely, by following these guidelines.
Submitted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries