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Turkey Safety

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By Don Mallicoat –

I’ve written previously about the NC WRC Home from the Hunter program that emphasizes hunter safety. With turkey season just around the corner, the regular season starts this Saturday on April 13, it’s a good idea to remember some safety tips specific to turkey hunting. Some of these from the National Wild Turkey Federation apply where ever you hunt and some are particularly important if you hunt turkey on public land.

Leave the area if you suspect another hunter is already working a bird. This is especially true on public land. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the realistic calls of the hen yelp and those of another hunter. When in doubt move on to another location. Whatever you do, resist the urge to stalk turkey sounds. You can’t sneak up on a turkey anyway and the clucks and yelps you hear could be another hunter. This puts both you and the other hunter in danger. One of the videos we show in Hunter Safety class is of a hunter stalking a hen yelp. The ending is not pretty.

Select a calling location in open timber rather than thick brush: wearing camouflage clothing and eliminating movement is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover. As safe as you may be, there are unethical hunters out there who will shoot at sounds and noises. Being in heavy brush makes you difficult to identify as another hunter making those enticing sounds. When selecting that calling location choose a large stump, blow-down, tree trunk or rock that is wider than your shoulders and higher than your head. That breaks up your outline but also prevents you from being shot from behind.

Never wear bright colors, especially not red, white, blue or black because these are the colors of a wild turkey gobbler. Even watch out for those colors on items like socks, t-shirts and sweatshirts. Wear dark clothing like camouflage and tuck your pants into your boots.

Remain still and speak in a loud, clear voice to announce your presence to other hunters if necessary. Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence. Sudden moves or turkey sounds may cause another hunter to turn and aim or fire his or her shotgun in your direction.

We all use camouflage to turkey hunt so we are difficult to see and its proper use is important. Part of your clothing should include gloves and a head net so another hunter will not mistake your skin for the color of a bird. Also make sure you maintain a clear field of view when using a camouflage blind or netting.

Turkey decoys have become increasingly important in calling in a wary gobbler. When transporting your decoy to and from your site in the field be sure to keep it covered. If possible stuff it in the pouch on the back of your vest or if it is a full size decoy put it in a bag. If you are fortunate enough to harvest a turkey, despite what you see on the TV shows, cover the birds head and body when leaving the field. Also, many turkey vests contain a pull out hunter orange panel that you can use when leaving the field. There is also a blaze orange carry strap available to haul your turkey out of the field.

And lastly, always remember these basic rules of gun safety: Treat every gun as if it were loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, and never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. If we all observe the above principles we will have a better chance of a successful and safe hunt, and come home safely to hunt again.

Three Jackson County towns — Sylva, Webster and Dillsboro — recently joined the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Mountain Heritage Trout Waters Program. Nearly 9 miles of trout streams in Sylva, Webster and Dillsboro are now classified as Mountain Heritage Trout Waters, where anglers can fish with a $5 Mountain Heritage Trout Waters license. This special license is valid for three consecutive days and only for the portions of streams designated as Mountain Heritage Trout Waters, which are clearly marked with green and black signs.

Anglers who currently hold a valid resident or non-resident North Carolina fishing license can fish Mountain Heritage Trout Waters without purchasing the special license. For more information on the program or to download Mountain Heritage Trout Waters maps, visit the trout fishing page at the Commission website, www.ncwildlife.org.

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