You can never be too safe in the turkey woods
New York hunters are generally a safe bunch, but the statistics we often boast about should never cause us to let our guard down.
For years I hunted spring gobblers with a guy who refused to even remotely hunt near another turkey hunter that wasn’t part of his group. If he encountered other hunters who also had permission to be on the same property, he just went somewhere else. And it was hell-fire if they didn’t have permission.
I was reminded of this on a recent turkey hunt on private property quite close to home that I often to head to for a few hours before work. Sometimes there are birds there, other times you can’t get a gobble, but at least I’m out there enjoying a spring morning.
On this hunt I’d set up on a hill across from a higher ridge where I’d just struck up a conversation with a group of toms, which I expected to fly down within minutes, letting the games begin. Then I heard a vehicle on the road down below, between the two hills, and having never encountered anyone previously here so early in the morning, and as a watchdog for the property, I figured I’d better go investigate.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw one of my deer hunting partner’s vehicles parked next to mine. But the question now was, where was he? Since he’s fairly new to turkey hunting and the gobblers were still sounding off on the roost, my guess was he’d head in their direction.
Still, erring on the side of caution, I just settled in on a hump within sight of the vehicles. Eventually the toms flew down and nearly landed in his lap and I heard him shoot twice (a miss). Sure enough, he was between me and the birds.
Later, as we stood at our vehicles figuring out the morning’s events, I realized just how close together we were. For the most part, it looked like a safe set-up, but one never can be sure when a 3-inch mag load of turkey shot is sent on its way. So, following that hunt we figured we’d better communicate prior to heading to this spot and either hunt together, or go in opposite directions.
With that, here’s a few suggestions on what to do when encountering fellow turkey hunters:
If someone is there before you, concede to them and go somewhere else. You never know where they are set up and you can’t be absolutely sure a hen call is a hunter or a real hen. Therefore, have a Plan B;
Never infringe on a fellow hunter’s set-up, at least intentionally. If you are hearing toms it’s likely they are too, and will be working them. Again, if they’re there before you it’s the proper etiquette for you to back off;
Absolutely be sure of your target and especially beyond. Again, you don’t know where the other hunter is;
Always put some blaze orange near your set up. I have an orange ribbon attached to my turkey hunting vest which displays easily;
If you knowingly share property with other hunters, establish a communication system to avoid conflicts or even consider hunting together;
If you find yourself in a situation with another hunter, don’t try to out-call or battle them. If you can do so safely, back out and don’t even think about making a play on the birds by stalking or reaping. If you can safely let the other hunter know you are a person, all the better.
Let’s do all we can to keep turkey hunting safe and fun for all. Good luck.