Safety tips for spring turkey hunters

As turkey seasons draw closer, now's a good time to refresh basic hunting safety rules as well as those specific to our spring gobbler pursuits. A safe turkey hunter, like a safe driver, is defensive minded. Here are some tips from the National Wild Turkey Federation that every turkey hunter, even the most experienced, should review every spring:
 
•  Be discreet when imitating the sound of a gobbling turkey. 
•  A good woodsman can always detect movement in the forest by watching other game or listening for the alarm cries of blue jays, crows, squirrels or woodpeckers. Be alert. 
•  When songbirds, crows or your turkey shuts up, look out. There’s a good chance another hunter is moving in on your bird. 
•  Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence. Remain still and speak in a loud, clear voice to announce your presence. These tactics are safer than quick movements. Use common sense. 
 
Dress for safety and success
•  Never wear bright colors, especially not red, white, blue or black because these are the colors of a wild turkey gobbler. This includes handkerchiefs, socks, underwear, etc. 
•  Wear dark undershirts and socks, and pants long enough to be tucked into boots. 
•  Camouflage your gun. 
•  Keep your hands and head camouflaged when calling. 
•  Select a spot that is in open timber rather than thick brush: wearing camouflage clothing and eliminating movement is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover. 
•  When using a camouflage blind or netting, maintain a clear field of view. 
 
Decoy safety
While decoys can increase your chances, they can also increase risk of an incident occurring. Today’s decoys are very lifelike and can draw fire from unknowing hunters. When using decoys, be sure to: 
•  Never transport decoys uncovered. Many of the new decoys fold up for easy storage in turkey vests. 
•  Always set up against a tree that is taller than your head and wider than your shoulders. 
•  Establish a clear line of vision for at least 100 yards and then set up the decoys 20 yards from your position on the line. 
•  If you see another hunter, call out in a loud, clear voice to alert them to your position. 
•  Always check carefully that no one is stalking your decoys before leaving your position. 
 
Proper firearm handling
When handling firearms you should: 
•  Treat all firearms as if loaded. 
•  Always point the firearm in a safe direction. 
•  Never point a firearm in the direction of anyone or anything you don’t want to shoot. 
•  Never put your finger on the trigger until ready to shoot. 
•  Know your target and what is behind your target. 
•  Know the firearm and its mechanical characteristics. 
•  Never rely solely on the firearm’s safety. 
•  Use the correct gauge or caliber ammunition. 
•  Never handle a firearm during or after using alcohol or drugs. 
•  Be sure the barrel is not obstructed before shooting. 
•  Wear eye and ear protection. 
•  Store firearms unloaded and in a way to prevent unauthorized use.
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