With Idaho’s youth turkey hunt beginning April 8 followed by the general spring turkey season opening April 15, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is encouraging hunters to think "Safety First."
"Turkey hunting is a safe sport, but hunters often make split-second shooting decisions, so it’s imperative that they positively identify their target before shooting," said Pete Gardner, Fish and Game volunteer/hunter education coordinator based in Coeur d’ Alene. "Every hunter has an obligation to know exactly what he or she is shooting at, and ensure their zone of fire is clear."
The primary cause of turkey hunting accidents is hunters not properly identifying their targets. These incidents occur when hunters hear sounds, see movement or perceive a flash of color they believe to be made by a turkey. Before positively identifying the target as being a legal bird, they shoot.
Improvements have been made in recent years through education, but there is still room for improvement. Hunters can make hunting even safer by following these safety tips:
- Never shoot at a sound or movement.
- Never presume that what you hear or what answers you is a turkey. Assume that all sounds and movements are made by another hunter.
- Never shoot at a portion of a turkey. Make sure you can see the whole bird to determine if it is legal to shoot.
- Eliminate the colors red, white and blue from your hunting clothing. Red is the color hunters count on to differentiate a gobbler's head from a hen's blue colored head. White can look like the top of gobbler's head. Turkeys can see these colors as well.
- Be particularly careful when using a gobbler call. The sound may attract other hunters. If a hunter does approach you, yell to alert him to your presence.
- Select a calling position that enables you to see 50 yards around you. Remember that eliminating movement is your key to success, not total concealment.
- Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
Other important reminders include unloading guns before getting into vehicles, always asking permission before entering private land and being aware of what is beyond your target before you shoot. Some hunters wear a blaze orange garment when walking to or from their calling spots, and even attach orange flagging to their harvested bird when carrying it to their vehicle.
Additional safety tips are found on the Fish and Game website at https://idfg.idaho.gov/hunt/upland-game/turkey/safety.