Mistaken for a turkey ...my story

Discussion in 'Turkey Hunting' started by zap, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. zap


    With these recent threads related to the shootings in the woods, let me share an experience I had a few years back.

    I was hunting near Butler at a small place I'd hunted for about 5 years or so. As is unfortunately typical these days, this place has a lot of guys going through it. You can't hunt on surrounding places...but those who can don't think twice about walking through this place. But, this is where the majority of the birds in the area roost.

    Typically, the other hunters always went to the gas line in the bottom. Most of the birds (jakes and 2s) headed down there right off the roost. In fact, they almost always roosted right there beside the right of way. So, I had found where the older birds roosted, and always went to that end of the woods --especially when someone else was parked at the end of the lane.

    This particular opening morning, I encountered a truck I didn't recognize parked right on the lane. A no no for this farmer. I figured like always he/they went to the bottom. So I went to the high end of the woods where there were trails cut into a central crossing which would increase the chances of a bird seeing my decoys.

    The leaves were a might noisy, but knowing how close I would be to the birds, I tried to be as quiet as possible. I set 2 hen decoys in the road crossing and backed up into a big sugar maple and waited for the birds to start gobbling.

    Once the birds started gobbling...the old boy close to me....I did a few tree calls and come clucks. I soon caught sight of a few birds pitching down to the hill in front of me. No gobbling after they flew down, but I stepped up a bit to be sure the hens would head my way. After about 15 minutes they did. I could see the hens working down the hill toward me, though it was still dim in the woods.

    About 80 yards out, the hens slipped out into the grass field and continued working down the hill toward me. I only clucked and purred now and then, and raked the leaves lightly with my hand. When they got about 50 yards out, they spooked. Heads up clucking....running into the field. I got on the call hard....and got them to calm down and come back toward the woods. They started to come into the woods by way of a heavy deer trail by another huge sugar maple right in the edge of the woods about 45 yards away from me.

    Then, I saw a fan open at the side of that tree. Big gobbler --so I thought. It opened from the top to the bottom like every bird does, right behind the side of the huge maple. I decided I'd give him about 5 more yards this side of the maple to be certain I could ID the beard.

    Get this picture. I"m seeing turkeys coming to me. I know there is a boss and subordinate gobblers with them. I see them turn coming in to me, when I see this 'fan' open just like I've seen in the woods so many times before. So I have my gun up, thumb on my safety, aimed at the spot where the gobbler is.

    Then, to my utter disbelief, a hunter stood up on this side of the big maple and looked around the tree to see the turkeys! Of course, they took off across the field clucking their heads off...then his FRIEND stood up and took a pot shot at them running away across the open field!

    I was mad. I was visibly shaking. I was so shooken up I could hardly comprehend what had just happened! The two 'hunters' started across the field to follow the turkeys! I yelled at them to hold up...they glanced my direction and kept moving. My second vocal admonition was more direct --this time they stopped.

    I walked up to them and found two highschoolers taking the day off school to go turkey hunting. This is pretty close to how the conversation went.

    me: Do you have ANY idea how close you came to just getting SHOT!
    them: Uhhh no....
    me: DAMN CLOSE!
    them: *speachless*
    me: What were you thinking letting me set up that close to you this morning??
    them: We didn't know you were there
    me: Bull! I was making all sorts of noise trying to get those decoys set
    them: We thought that was a coon. We thought that big tree must have been a den.
    me: Why didn't you call or do something to let me know you were there once I started calling?
    them: When you started calling, we thought it was a real hen. We weren't about to mess with that.
    me: What the hell were you thinking to take a shot at those birds across the field like that?
    them: I dunno, figured we might get lucky.
    me: NEVER EVER do that AGAIN! All you did was make that whole group of birds call shy. If you can't ID the beard, DON"T SHOOT. Had I shot at what I thought was a gobbler 15 minutes ago I'd have shot you right in the back of the head pal!
    them: *Heads down as things are starting to sink in*
    me: Don't ever let someone set up close to you like that. That is just an accident waiting to happen. Don't give up hunting, but learn how to do it right.

    I was still so shaken up that I called a good friend of mine who was my county game warden and related the story to him. I could hear the shock in his voice. He suggested the boys were certainly lucky it was myself or someone equally responsible in my spot.

    After our conversation I'd calmed down enough to drive, so I picked up my decoys and went home.


    Now, as I said in the previous thread, as a 15 year hunter ed instructor, and as a cop, there is NO JUSTIFICATION for these shootings. I don't call them accidents because these are NOT accidents. These are negligent shootings.

    As I related above, I fully understand HOW a man CAN be mistaken for game. However, that is the reason it is so very CRITICAL to be careful and doubly sure you can see a BEARD before you pull that trigger. I seldom if ever shoot at a turkey farther than 20 yards...and I bring them into the open. I don't shoot at birds in brush.

    This is a great, absolutely addictive sport. But we have to put it into perspective. As another member mentioned, its just a turkey, you can buy one in the store that tastes even better and is already clean!

    The sport is about hunting them...not killing them. Please....PLEASE....understand that distinction!

    Be safe gang....and good luck
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2015
  2. TMK


    Great story Zap.

    Fortunately you took the time to positively identify your target. Other hunters didn't and are now spending their lives regretting their mistake.

    I believe that our brains can take what our eyes see and make it fit whatever we're sure we must be seeing or what we're expecting to see.

    Guys really need to take the extra time to ID their target. Who cares if it means that the deer or bird gets away.