According to the National Safety Council, hunting is a safe activity. In fact, hunting results in fewer injuries per 100,000 participants than do many other sports, including cycling, bowling, golf and tennis. However, as with any activity, you must always use good judgment and take responsibility for your actions. Turkey hunters should follow safe, ethical hunting practices.
Basic Rules for Safe Turkey Hunting (Regular Spring Turkey Hunting Season started April 21 and ends May 11):
• Know and obey all wildlife laws.
• Know and follow the rules of gun safety.
• Make sure your equipment is in good working condition and your firearm is properly sighted in.
• Never walk through the turkey woods without first putting on hunter orange. Should you bag a turkey, always wrap hunter orange around it before carrying it out.
• Never wear red, white, blue or black in the turkey woods. Dress defensively and remember that partial or improper camouflage can be just as dangerous as red, white, blue or black.
• Never wave, whistle or make turkey calls to alert an approaching hunter to your presence. Always shout to reveal your presence to an approaching hunter.
• Be very cautious when approaching wild turkeys. Remember-any calling you hear may be another hunter trying to call in birds that have already been scattered.
• Never identify a turkey by sound or movement. Always see the bird clearly.
• If you hunt from a tree stand, always wear a safety harness. Serious accidents occur annually when hunters fall from tree stands.
• If you hunt on private land, be sure to obtain permission from the landowner and respect his or her property as if it were your own.
• Scout the area you plan to hunt so you know where the boundaries, houses, roads, fences and livestock are located on the property.
• Never use shot sizes larger than No. 4. Missouri turkey hunters are restricted to No. 4 shot or smaller. Shot larger than No. 4 is unnecessary for turkey hunting and increases the chance of serious line-of-fire accidents.
• Never shoot at a turkey beyond the effective range of your shotgun. Pattern your shotgun, learn its effective range and learn to accurately judge distances. Always shoot at the head and neck and remember that 30 to 40 yards is about the limit for a clean kill, depending on how your gun patterns.
• If you do not kill your turkey instantly, make every effort to find the wounded animal. Permission is required to enter private land.
• Clean and care for your game properly.
• Pick up all litter, including spent ammunition. Leaving an area better than the way you found it is a sign of thanks for the privilege of hunting.
• Respect the land and all wildlife.
• Report observed violations of the law to a conservation agent or local sheriff as soon as possible.
• If you are involved in a firearms-related accident, the law requires that you identify yourself and render assistance; failure to do so is a Class "A' misdemeanor.
• Be sensitive to others when displaying harvested game.
• Remember, hunting is not a competitive sport.
When using a camouflage blind, other hunters cannot see you even if you are legally wearing hunter orange. To be safe, tie hunter orange on each side of the blind so it can be seen from all sides.
Each year conservation agents spend time tracking down poachers who disregard regulations protecting wildlife. Here are some of the illegal activities that agents dealt with last year:
• Hunting from the road.
• Disposing of carcasses and other body parts in streams, rivers, ponds and lakes.
• Using a spotlight to harvest a turkey.
Rewards are available for information leading to the arrest of game-law violators. Information can be provided anonymously by dialing the toll-free hotline number: 1-800-392-1111. All information is kept in strict confidence.
If you see a possible poaching violation in progress, immediately call your conservation agent, sheriff or the toll-free hotline number. Help put game thieves out of business.
*Co-sponsored by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Conservation.