15 Yards or Less – 50 Yards or More: The Toughest Ranges for Turkeys
That Turkey Out-Quicked Me
Editor’s Note: Knowing your distance from the turkey when you prepare to take the shot and resisting the urge to shoot when the bird is too close or too far away drastically will increase your odds fortaking a tom each time you hunt. This week, we’ll see how 15 yards or less and 50 yards or more are the toughest ranges for taking toms.
I stood so close to the turkey in full strut that I almost could see his eyelashes. I felt certain he could see me, too. Although I’d estimated the bird was within 15 yards of me, he actually stood 10-yards-or-less away from me. I felt I had to take the shot. The tom clucked, dropped his strut and craned his neck to look straight at me. I aimed the bead of my shotgun at the base of the turkey’s neck. I made my final adjustment and squeezed the trigger. Then a turkey hunter’s worst nightmare occurred. Imissed. I watched the gobbler dart behind a nearby bush. Before I could reposition my gun for the second shot, the turkey flew into the air. I couldn’t believe what had happened and neither could my hunting partner, David Hale, the co-owner of Knight and HaleGame Calls in Cadiz, Kentucky. “I can’t believe you missed that bird,” Hale said. “If I’dhad a long stick I could have knocked him in the head.” I felt bad enough about the miss before Hale spoke. Without the big, reassuring grin on Hale’s face, I’d surely have felt lower than a snake’s belly. “Don’t worry about missing,” Hale said. “I miss birds, too, sometimes. You just let your bird get too close. I bet you didn’t see what happened, did you?”Dejectedly, I answered, “Yeah, I saw what happened. The turkey got away, and I didn’t cut a feather.” “No, the turkey just out-quicked you,” Hale explained with a laugh. “When you made that last little adjustment just before you squeezed the trigger, the gobbler spotted you and ducked just as you fired. Your entire pattern went over the turkey’s back. When you let a turkey get in that close, you drastically increase your odds for missing him.”
Ifyou’ve ever been to Las Vegas or Reno, Nevada, Atlantic City or Biloxi, Mississippi, you’ve seen the palatial casinos with millions of lights, larger-than-life decor and thousands of employees to meet your every need. If you’ll think for a minute, you’ll realize that no one’s built these palaces from profits the casinos have made from winners. The casinos make so much money because they know how to play the odds and the percentages on a wide variety of games. A hunter also will find turkey hunting a game of chance with dependable percentages that can tilt the odds either in his favor or the turkey’s. During the course of his turkey-hunting career, a hunter will have many opportunities to take both high- and low-percentage shots. Having hunted with some of the most-skilled turkey hunters in America today, I’ve observed that the best hunters don’t take the low-percentage shots. Instead they’ll let the gobblers walk off and play the game again with a different set of cards and often in a different place on another day. You’ll generally have your best chance to bag a tom when the bird is 18 to 33 yards from you. You’ll have your lowest-percentage shots when the bird is 15-yards-or-less or 50-yards-or-more away from you. Too, if you know your distance from the turkey when you prepare to take the shot and resist the urge to shoot when a bird is too close or too-far away, you’ll drastically increase your odds for a tom each time you hunt. I know because I’ve learned this truth the hard way.
Tomorrow: What Happens Up Close