Gobbler chasing

Tips on turkey hunting safety

Louisiana’s spring gobbler season began on March 25 in all three areas, and the youth and physically challenged hunt weekend was March 18-19.

Hunting in Area A will extend to April 23. Area B will wrap up on April 16 and Area C on April 9.

Be sure to check wildlife management area, national wildlife refuge and federal lands schedules for season dates.

Limits remain at one gobbler per day and two per season. I doubt we will ever see the three-bird-per-season limit of years past, but most hunters have adjusted and are good with two.

That’s more than enough for me, since my definition of a great season is a harvest of one followed by guiding and calling for family and friends.

Few things in the hunting world are more fun than a gobbling tom at sunrise. Getting into position, setting up and making enticing hen music all challenge the hunter’s skills.

If it all goes well, the hunter is rewarded with thunderous gobbles from the approaching bird and the incomparable thrill experienced when a strutting tom comes within range.

Just thinking about it has me looking forward to opening day.

So while we scout for sign, test those new turkey loads and tune up our calls, let’s consider a few things we can do to keep the hunt safe and trouble free.

While gobbler chasing is among the top hunting experiences involving concealment and calling, it also has unfortunately led to a number of accidental shootings.

I have never liked referring to such shootings as “hunting accidents.” We hunters are already frequently perceived as trigger-happy idiots, thanks to liberal media and film portrayals.

Given my way, such mishaps would be designated as reckless injury with a firearm and handled as criminal offenses. But be that as it may, we’ll just call them accidental shootings and talk about how they might best be avoided.

How such accidents happen is understandable. The hunter wears camouflage clothing and uses concealment. Calling might fool and lure the wary tom, but it can also have the same effect on another hunter.

The hunter doing the calling is at risk of being shot, and the hunter trying to quietly sneak in for a closer look is in just as much danger.

I’d like to say that private-land hunting with controlled access makes things nice and safe, but it doesn’t always.

I know of at least two turkey season shootings on private land where one hunter shot another. Both were lawfully hunting the property, but neither knew of the other’s presence.

Let’s not rule out the poacher or careless hunter lured across the property line by gobbling or calling.

The rules on our hunting lease require starting and ending a hunt by signing a log book at the main camp. The date and location are recorded, so all members know each other’s hunting locations for a given morning or afternoon. We stay out of each other’s way and also know where to start looking for someone who might be overdue on returning from a hunt.

Using decoys can increase risks, too, especially those life-like gobbler or jake decoys. Consider the risks and benefits before using decoys, and never set up where they might be seen from a public road — no matter the distance.

If you think some people won’t take a shot at a distant turkey (real or not) with a rifle, well, you haven’t seen what I have.

I have always had safety concerns regarding popup blinds for deer hunting, since the blind conceals the blaze orange or pink worn by ground hunters. But, in my opinion, the blinds offer a measure of safety for the turkey hunter.

Due to the square or dome-shaped profile, the blinds are readily visible to the human eye and easier to spot than a well-concealed hunter sitting snugged up to a tree. So they might be a good idea for the turkey hunter with or even without a decoy setup.

Safe hunting practices reduce risk of accidents. Keeping a sharp eye out for bait will keep us out of trouble with the law.

The illegal placement of bait and hunting over it are common turkey hunting violations. When hunting on public land or unfamiliar territory, be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of bait.

Areas where turkeys have done a lot of scratching and feeding or the presence of an abundance of turkey tracks are strong indicators of the presence of bait.

On our lease, we empty deer feeders and remove all feed at least 15 days prior to the opening of turkey season. It keeps things simple, and no one has to worry about whether a feeder is throwing corn at a food plot or opening where turkeys are gathering.

When hunting as a guest on private land, ask your host about any active feeders or feeding locations before venturing out for a hunt.

Have a great season.

About Keith LaCaze 100 Articles
Retired Wildlife Enforcement Lieutenant Colonel Keith LaCaze spent 34 years with the LDWF beginning in 1977. LaCaze is happily married to wife Mitzi and the father of two children.