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Is Wild Turkey Hunting Safe?

Hunting the wild turkey is one of the safest sports there is – much safer than riding your bike to the corner store or playing a few sets of tennis. In fact, turkey hunting is four times safer than playing Ping-Pong, and you are 50 times more likely to take a trip to the emergency room if you play golf. 

Why is turkey hunting so safe? All evidence points toward great success in educating turkey hunters on safe hunting due to the efforts of the NWTF, the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) and state agencies. 

Statistics show a tremendous drop in turkey hunting incidents during the 1990s, while turkey hunter numbers continued to grow. The latest available national report from the IHEA (year 2001) shows only one turkey hunting fatality for that year. However, one fatality is too many. 

The NWTF and the IHEA, in a continuing effort to improve turkey-hunting safety, are gathering data from state hunter education coordinators on recent turkey hunting incidents in their states. The IHEA website contains a turkey hunting incident reporting form that state hunter education coordinators can use to speed up the gathering and analysis of incident data. 
Defensive Turkey Hunting Tactics
During the Hunt
1. Select a large stump, blow-down, tree trunk, or rock that covers the width of your shoulders and is above your head. Place your back against the stump or rock when calling; a hunter is more likely to spot another hunter when moving to the front or side than from behind.
2. Do not wear any white, red, black or blue on your hunting outfit; this includes handkerchiefs, socks, underwear and even items like candy wrappers.
3. When calling, select a spot that is in open timber rather than thick brush:eliminating movement is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover.
4. Be discreet and careful when imitating the sound of a gobbling turkey.
5. Always be alert. A good woodsman can always detect movement in the forest by watching other game or listening for the alarm cries of bluejays, crows, squirrels, or woodpeckers. 
6. Continue to be on alert. When songbirds, crows or your turkey shuts up—look out; there's a good chance another hunter is moving in on your bird.
7. When another hunter is in your presence, never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert the other hunter. You need to remain still and call to them in a loud, clear voice to get his/her attention. These tactics are safer than quick movements. Use common sense.
8. If you are calling over decoys and elect to move to a new location, check carefully to ensure that no one is stalking your decoys. Check before leaving your set up. Should you see someone in the area, the rule above applies.

A number of reports generated by the new system have already been received at NWTF headquarters, and a review of the reports shows some clear trends. By far the most commonly reported turkey hunting incident involves one hunter mistaking another for a turkey. Most of these incidents occurred when the victim made some movement, either while calling or moving from one location to another. 

Many incidents involved red or white clothing, which was mistaken by the shooter for the colors on a turkey’s head. In several incidents in Pennsylvania reported this spring, the victims were shot when they were wearing orange. When questioned by investigating officers, the shooters said they interpreted the orange hat or vest of the victims as the red color of a turkey's head.

Waving at approaching hunters instead of speaking out continues to contribute to incident occurrence, as the shooters identified the movement as a turkey rather than another hunter. Stalking by the shooter toward the source of turkey calls contributed to some incidents, and the lack of good, defensive hunting tactics by the victim contributed to others. 

Older, experienced shooters were often involved in incidents, but so were young shooters fresh from hunter education classes. No hunter should think he or she is immune to becoming involved in a incident, and we can all benefit from reviewing the NWTF's list of defensive turkey hunting tactics.

** For lots of excellent Wild Turkey Recipes check Cooking Turkey With SusieQ

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