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Four years ago while out hunting the eastern wild turkey during the month of May, I was a victim of a poaching incident. My decoys were setup in their rightful spot. Just twenty-five meters in front of me on the edge of my friend’s farm field. I was tucked away nice and low inside the tree line facing south with the dirt road just fifty-five meters away.

I had been in my shooting position well over two hours and managed to call in two hens and a large tom. Once the male turkey was within shooting range, I had slow pushed my safety off and was only milliseconds from taking my shot. The turkey had a long beautiful beard; unfortunately this is when another shot rang out and hit my bird which caused it to jump into the air yet only wounding the bird, it leaped and disappeared into the woods to the east.

The poacher had total disregard for my safety and I know he saw my decoys, additionally it was on private property, and his shot was right in my direction as he was hidden behind a dead tree to my front on my left. He took a shot from a distance of only forty meters. Luckily for me he was a poor shot but my season was a total bust as it was nearing its end, and I could no longer take any more days off, as for the turkey he was injured and I went home empty-handed.

I still get very mad when I think about the incident but this blog entry is not about the poacher and my lost turkey but rather the proximity of the danger and yet I was able to go home alive and un-injured that afternoon.

Turkey hunting and waterfowl hunting share some similarities and one of them is the fact that hunters are not obligated to wear the orange safety vests. Birds can see very well in color, therefore not wearing the vest gives us hunters an advantage. However this adds a whole new level of risk and potential for danger because if you are concealed in camouflaged attire and you find yourself moving around in the woods or open fields, a hunter can mistake you for game.

During the turkey hunter’s awareness course, they teach us to avoid wearing red, white or blue which are the colors of the male turkey head. We are also instructed on methods used to carry your decoys into the field either using a large bag or other safe methods of transportation such as bins, so that the plastic birds do not attract shots from other hunters.

Some experienced hunters suggest setting up your decoys the night before once you have located the roost using crow or owl calls and chosen your spot. This way you can avoid the risk of being shot during their setup and layout in the early morning hours often done in the dark. Additionally if you see another hunter approach your chosen shooting position, yell at them to alert them of your presence, do not stand up or wave your arms.

Another safety item I wanted to write about is methods on how to carry your successfully harvested game out of the field. Now that the hunt is done and you have successfully harvested your game, we should also take into consideration safety of transporting your harvest for registration. (This applies to turkeys, deer and moose) For more information on game registration please visit the ministry site.

I have often seen proud hunters, once they have harvested their bull moose, if they are in a remote area, they will often cut the moose into quarters which may be a necessity depending on where you are hunting but then the hunter will also attach the moose antlers across their backs attached the backpack. To an inexperienced hunter you could look like a moose moving through the bush and be shot. A good friend of mine’s father built a very light carrying wagon with bicycle wheels as an alternative, this way he avoids damaging his back muscles but also he can also place his game on the wagon and cover it with a tarp. Using this method the hunting party is much less of a moving target because the large body parts of a moose or deer are not exposed to the eye to see.

Once your hunt is done you may also want to consider putting your orange safety vest back on and maybe even carry a second pair which you can then attach to your turkey or game. The location of your hunt can also be a positive player toward your safety, for example if you are hunting at an outfitter who has exclusive hunting rights on that particular piece of land, then the likelihood of you being shot could be reduced, however in my case I was hunting on private property and was still shot at by a poacher.

Using motorized vehicles such as four wheelers and other such vehicles can also be interesting, when removing game from the hunting grounds. The sound of the motor will alert other hunters to be careful and make them aware that they are not alone in the bush.

Crown land during deer season can be a very dangerous place, because there are a lot of new eager hunters that are ready to harvest their first ten pointers during the first fifteen minutes of their hunt. Always be vigilant and practice safe hunting, know where your partner is at all times, maybe you can carry two-way radios to help with this. Know what is beyond your shot. I was out boar-hunting a few weeks ago, and I had many opportunities to hit my wild boar but I waited for the pig to be in a perfect shooting position with a ridge as a backdrop to catch my bullet, which was by the way through and through, therefore had to potential to hit another game or worse.

Always practice safe hunting techniques, whether it be handing of a firearm, setting up your decoys, or carrying your game out of the field. I was once told a story about a bear hunter who harvested his game and carried it out of the bush on his shoulders; he was shot five times and killed by other hunters. I know his cousin very well.

Please practice safe and ethical hunting and do not rely just on your hunting and wild turkey safety courses, conduct research, spend as much time as you can in the field, talk to experienced hunters, guides and outfitter owners and get informed, never stop learning.

When you are dead there is no cool factor, people who practice safe and ethical hunting are great hunters indeed and have my utmost respect.

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