Turkey Hunting: Expect the Unexpected

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It was that perfect morning that every turkey hunter lives for.  There was no mystery on what was going to happen, as we had listened to the gobbler the morning before as he hammered away from the first light of day until he began losing his voice around 7:30 AM.  I was hunting with my good friend, Everitt Drew, who owned the property and was almost certain that he knew what tree the ol’ gobbler was roosting in.  Everitt had even built a ground blind of branches the year before in the area, which was going to be the perfect set up for us to call and shoot from.  If there was such a thing as a money-back guarantee in turkey hunting, this particular morning was sure to be it.

We arrived at his farm well before daylight and parked some distance away as not to disturb the gobblers’ sleep.  We gathered our gear and began our mental check list of the things we needed….our favorite slate calls, assortment of mouth calls, shotgun shells, mask, gloves and my sitting stool.  As I have done a hundred times before I put my hunting/turkey vest on with all my calls and such, I loaded my shotgun, checked the safety, and pulled the stool strap over my back.  Lastly, I slung my shotgun over my back with my gun sling to secure it.  The time had come to head towards our mornings’ venue.

With the cover of darkness and not a word spoken, Everitt and I made our way to the edge of the hardwood bottom where we were sure the gobbler had been roosting.  We found the old ground blind from last year, so now the only thing we needed to do was put out a couple of hen decoys for his pleasure and set up for our morning hunt.  As Everitt was holding the decoys, I bent down to drive the stake in the ground for the decoy to rest on.  That was when my life came to an unexpected complete stop.  

I cannot remember the sequence on what registered first.  Was it the flash of light from my shotgun muzzle or was it the horrifying blast from my shotgun that was slung across my back?  All I could comprehend in that instance was that for some reason, my shotgun had discharged and one of my closest friends was standing just a couple of yards away from me.  The feeling of nausea that I felt almost immediately was only overpowered by a feeling of relief that by the grace of God a freak accident had not just taken the life of my hunting companion and dear friend.  As we stood together in the darkness, both of us paralyzed and bewildered by what had just happened, we embraced each other; me out of sadness of what could have tragically happened, him out of the understanding that it was a terrible accident.  As we gathered our composure the first question that we each had was, “How could this have happened?”

I have been hunting passionately for over 40 years and have never come close to a hunting accident of any kind.  I lost a cousin, who was also one of my closest friends, to a hunting accident my senior year in high school, so hunting safety is paramount for me no matter the type of hunting involved.  As I discovered in the morning described above, even those that are cognizant of safety can sometimes have accidents or close calls.  We must never let our guard down.

I believe you will agree, as I explain what happened that “perfect morning,” it is going to be hard to grasp the cause of the shotgun discharging.  What I did that morning never registered to me as being unsafe.  I loaded my gun and checked my safety.  I slung my resting stool across my back.  Then I slung my gun across my back securely by my gun strap.  As the shotgun nestled down over the stool, the safety slid across the leg of the resting stool.  This released my safety.  When I bent over to drive the decoy stake into the ground, the pressure from the leg or rail of the stool pushed on the trigger, and caused the shotgun to discharge.  I have replayed this in my mind over and over and reenacted the safety sliding against the leg of the stool and pressing the trigger at every angle possible; and yes, it can happen.  It might take 1,000 attempts for it to happen again, but please believe me for the sake of a friend or family member, it can happen. 

The bottom line is: you should carry your gun in your hands or hang it from your shoulder, load your gun at the last possible location before you hunt, and always pray for a safe hunt every time you head out by yourself or with friends. The unexpected can happen to any one of us at the most unexpected time, and turn a perfect morning into a tragic one.
Brian C. Proctor
Brian C. Proctor is an avid turkey hunter and wildlife photographer from Tallahassee, Florida. His pictures of the wild turkey are featured throughout Wild Turkey Report. For more information on Brian’s pictures, please visit www.briancproctor.com!
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February 29, 2012, 7:00 AM