All over the nation, the mercury is rising even as America moves into its second month of quarantine--and as NRA Families know, the outdoors is still open and a great place to practice "social distancing." However, as we move from April to May, it's important to note that it's not just a terrific time to get the kids out of the house for some exercise; it's also turkey season. Turkey hunting--in fact, hunting in general--is safer than golf, and American turkey hunters are dedicated to hunting safely. Not all NRA families hunt, and that's okay, but are some things you should know about how turkeys are hunted that will help keep your time in the outdoors fun and safe...even if you're not out there chasing "thunder chickens."
1. You Will Not See the Turkey Hunters Unless They Want You To People who don't hunt turkeys often aren't aware of just how impressive these funny-looking birds are. Specifically, their vision is every bit as sharp and color-rich as a human's (if not more so), and because their eyes are mounted on the sides of their heads, that excellent vision is in 270 degrees. So turkey hunters tend to cover ourselves from head to toe--including our faces--with carefully matched camouflage. Some of us get pretty elaborate with it, donning ghillie suits or constructing deep-concealment blinds. And it works...sometimes a little too well.
A few years ago, I was hunting a private ranch with a group of five...three shooters and two guides. We were arrayed in a treeline, looking out over an open field where we knew turkeys would pass through. Mid-morning, a car containing two people who had "gotten lost" and "mistaken" our (admittedly very realistic) turkey decoys for the real thing appeared. They gleefully disembarked and ran towards our setup, shotguns in hand, and didn't stop until all five of us stood up and started yelling at them. (They then got to have a very pointed conversation with our guides about the nature of private property, at which point they figured out that they musta took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and vamoosed.)
The upshot for non-hunters is this: Just because it doesn't look like there are turkey hunters, doesn't mean there aren't turkey hunters.
Image courtesy NWTF
2. Spring Gobblers Wear Patriotic Colors (So You Shouldn't) Wild turkeys are as different from the Butterball you have at Thanksgiving as a buffalo is from a Holstein cow. They're the same size and shape, but wild turkeys can fly (albeit a bit awkwardly and not for very far). And they're also very different in terms of their coloration. Tom turkeys--the males--develop some highly characteristic coloring during mating season, and if you look at that picture above you can see that it's patriotic: red, white and blue. It's important to note here that NRA's rules of gun safety demand that hunters be sure of their target and what lies beyond it before they even think of touching fingertip to trigger. It's the responsibility of the shooter to be certain of their legal, ethical and safe shot. That said, let's not make it any harder for the turkey hunters to do that than it has to be...just to be on the safe side. During turkey season, it's best to avoid wearing red, white and blue out in the woods and fields because that red, white and blue happens to coincide with the exact part of the turkey that we're aiming at. (Okay, technically we're aiming for the base of the wattle because that's where the bird's brainstem is, but the shotgun's spread usually means the head is hit with pellets as well.) Far more preferable is a garment in blaze orange, especially if it's a hat. Blaze orange is a universal "Don't Shoot, I'm a Human Being" message for hunters. It's also a color that's visible even to profoundly colorblind people. The high-visibility neon yellow that often adorns the vests of construction and highway workers does very well at this, too.
Whether you're hunting, hiking, biking, deep-woods camping or backpacking, welcome to spring--and stay safe out there!