Ken Bailey

Gunning for your first gobbler? Check out these 6 essential tips

The Greenhorn Gobbler Guide

A turkey tenderfoot’s take on how to topple a tricky tom (or not)

Tim McEachern
Tim McEachern

Lesson #6: Closing

Back to those two toms I took last season. Well, I didn’t exactly kill two birds. I should have, but instead I learned a lesson about how resilient turkeys can be if not anchored. Twice.

When my first tom came in to about 35 metres and hung up, I hit the switch and he went down in his tracks. I immediately lowered my shotgun and, as if on cue, the bird regained his footing, took a few steps forward and went airborne. Fortunately, I was able to rise, shoulder my gun and swing on him, getting off two shots in quick succession. The tom, exhibiting the classic brain-shot symptom common to waterfowl, spiralled high in the air before spinning back to earth, stone dead, while I breathed a sigh of relief.

The next day, from the exact same location, I had another tom respond to my calls and decoy. I shot him at a measured 28 metres and watched as he collapsed on the spot. With other turkeys still in the field, I waited patiently, not wanting to scare them off and ruin a possible opportunity for Tim or Patrick. Ten minutes later, when the lingering birds finally waddled off into the bush, I went to collect my prize. I was about halfway to the lifeless turkey, however, when he jumped to his feet and took off at a full run into the forest. I stood stunned in the field, my shotgun propped up against a tree back at my set-up.

Despite the considerable effort we made to track that tom, we didn’t see hide or hair of him again. Tim, amid his barely contained chuckles, advised that wasn’t the first time he’d seen a turkey rise from the dead, but it was a definite first for me. The final lesson here? Turkeys are tough, so don’t assume you’ve got a dead bird until he’s firmly in your grasp. Instead, always be ready for a follow-up shot. When turkey hunting, a bird in the hand is definitely better than, well, a bird in the bush.

Also see hunting editor Ken Bailey’s roundup of 2017’s best new hunting gear.

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