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Advice for the Shooter

I visit some Internet forums each day. I like to keep up with what folks are interested in and also current trends in shooting and hunting. When I feel I can be of help, I will contribute to the conversation or at least attempt to answer a question.

There are some distinct differences in some of the forums that I visit. Some are friendly places and even when folks disagree, they are civil to each other. Others, not so much. Some seem to revel in controversy and being disagreeable. There are others that allow the use of “bad language” and vulgar expressions and I try to avoid these altogether. We are judged by the company we keep.

Recently, I’ve seen an ongoing conversation about body shooting turkeys on one of the better run hunting and shooting forums. I could not in good conscience remain silent on this subject. I tried to introduce the matter of choice but I’m not sure that it really got the attention of the party who was advocating body shooting.

Here’s his argument. When a turkey is so close to him that he’s not sure he could shoot it in the head or neck, he’ll shoot it in the body to make sure he kills it. He further stated that he was taught that by a relative many years ago.

My response and I believe that of most ethical hunters is that a hunter always has a choice. He can as easily decide not to shoot as he can decide to shoot.

Most often we discuss the decision to shoot at a turkey when we feel he’s too far away to make an ethical kill. I’ve seen debates on what is “too far” go on for days on end on forums. Some will set an outside distance, maybe 40 yards, and will never take a shot or advocate anyone taking a shot, beyond that distance. Having hunted turkeys for several decades and participated in still target shooting since 2001, I understand what happens to patterns beyond 40 yards and I consider that an extreme distance to cleanly kill a turkey.

Every turkey hunter should spend time at the range, in conditions similar to those in which he will hunt, with the gun, choke and shells he’ll use in his hunts. He should determine just how far his combination with him shooting it, is effective. He should also practice at closer distances to see just how his combination performs, so he’ll know what works and what doesn’t in the turkey woods.

Now, we have the matter of what to do when a turkey is too close. The answer seems very simple to me. Don’t shoot! If a turkey is too far away, any ethical hunter will not shoot. The same should be true if he’s too close. It’s really a very easy decision to make. If the turkey walks away to a distance that the hunter is comfortable in shooting, then he can take the shot. If the turkey disappears and no shot is possible, well that’s just turkey hunting.

One last point may need to be made. We must all be careful with the advice that we give others, especially if that person looks up to the person giving it. That advice, good or bad, could endure for generations.

Choice. We have a choice in many of our actions, certainly in those regarding when to shoot or when not to shoot. Let’s all make good choices that demonstrate our good sportsmanship and sense of fair play in all hunting situations. Like the company we keep, we’ll be judged by those decisions.

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