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Safety key as spring gobbler season approaches

Spring gobbler season is a heady time.

A winter's worth of cabin fever dissipates instantly as opening day dawns and tom turkeys' first gobbles echo through the treetops. Anticipation runs high.

Sometimes, too high. Each season, turkey hunters get injured or killed because they or their fellow hunters fail to heed a few simple safety guidelines.

The National Wild Turkey Federation, the nation's largest turkey-hunting and conservation organization, has drawn up a series of safety tips. Follow them when West Virginia's season opens April 23, and your chance of a safe and successful season will sharply improve:

  • Leave the area if you suspect there's another hunter already working the same bird.
  • Resist the urge to stalk turkey sounds. Stalking is one of the most common causes of incidents. Besides, it is nearly impossible to sneak up on a turkey - they see and hear the slightest movements.  
  • Pick your set-up spot in open timber rather than thick brush. Eliminating movement and excess noise is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover. Camouflage clothing also helps.
  • When calling turkeys, place your back against a large stump, tree trunk, rock, etc., that is wider than your shoulders and higher than your head to avoid potential confusion from other hunters.
  • Never wear red, white, blue or black - those are colors of a wild turkey gobbler's head and body - even on socks or buttons. Do not wear any bright colors. Wear dark undershirts and socks and pants long enough to tuck into boots.
  • Remain still and speak in a loud, clear voice to announce yourself to other hunters if necessary. Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence.
  • Keep your hands and head camouflaged when calling.
  • Maintain a clear field of view when using a camouflage blind or netting. Set a perimeter of no more than 40 yards.
  • Make sure your decoy is not visible when you are transporting it. Stash the decoy in your vest and check that the head is not sticking out. If you harvest a wild turkey during your hunting trip, you should cover the bird's head and body when carrying it to your vehicle.
  • Put your gun safety on and approach a downed bird with your firearm pointed in a safe direction after firing. Never run with a firearm.
  • Reach John McCoy at johnmccoy@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.


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