Let’s get back to turkey hunting! It is April after all! Let me tell you a story about what happened when circumstances aligned in a way that, even as an experienced hunter, I found myself in a potentially harmful situation.
It was early in the season and I was hunting in the Slate Lick area. That morning, I decided to park at the handicap gate in Buck Lick Run and follow the road to the top of the ridge. At the top of the ridge, if you follow a path on an old logging road, it isn’t that difficult to make your way up to a higher top. In my prime I could get there in about 20 minutes. From this vantage point you can hear a turkey gobble from all around in the ridges below. Not only that, but you are in a good position to go anywhere you happen to hear one.
I have done a lot of pre-season scouting from that location. It was a nice morning. The air was a bit crisp and the sky was clear. Just after daylight I heard a gobble down in the low ridges on Buck Lick Ridge. I moved around the ridge top to better pinpoint the location and debated if I should go after it, or wait to hear another gobbler that would be easier to get to. You never know if they will keep gobbling or shut-up about the time you get there.
The gobbler was fairly close by, at least as the crow flies, and was gobbling fairly often so why not go for it? I scrambled down the steep brushy slope, crossed Buck Lick Run and made the short climb up the other side. That area of Buck Lick Ridge is covered with undergrowth, so any contact with a turkey would be at close quarters. Of course, by time I got there the gobbler had stopped gobbling. I set up in the best area I could find, with very little field of view, in hopes of waiting him out. After making a few calls I heard the low yelp of a turkey. I answered and the soft yelps began getting closer. I figured the gobbler had gotten with hens and had stopped gobbling. That being the case, since the yelps were getting closer, the gobbler could be getting closer too. All I had to do was wait, but I had to be ready. As the soft yelps got even closer, my senses were on high alert to see movement, or a red/white head. Any shot would be at close range and quick, so I had the shotgun up with my finger near the trigger, and ready to fire.
To add to the suspense, the sun was rising over Buck Lick Ridge, making seeing anything in front of me nearly impossible. So, there I was, very much on edge, with turkey’s very close by and soon to be in sight and the sun directly in my eyes. At that moment I saw movement at the top of the ridge! It was the silhouette of a man as he walked out of the bright yellow sun, directly in my line of fire!! My stomach did a flip-flop as I immediately lowered the shotgun, took a deep breath and calmed myself down. I would not have pulled the trigger until I was sure of my target, but that was too close for comfort. I get nervous just watching the Andy Griffith Show when they wave Barney’s pistol around and it goes off, and when Gomer puts the shotgun in his mouth.
Each year you hear about hunting accidents during spring turkey season. I had always wondered how someone could mistake a man for turkey. Many accidents are due to carelessness or inexperience, but I can see now how circumstances can align to make a dangerous situation even for an experienced hunter. To this day I don’t know for sure if I was hearing a turkey or the other hunter calling as he moved along the ridge top. Maybe both. I doubt he knew another hunter was close by. Lesson learned! Be safe out there!!