Of all the hunting seasons in Mississippi, the safest may be exactly the one that often puts hunters in the most dangerous situations.
That would be the spring turkey season, which started for youths aged 15 and under on March 7 and opens to all hunters on March 14.
By its nature, turkey hunting is both beautiful and thrilling. The sight of a gobbler approaching in full strut can turn a 75-year-old man into a 10-year-old kid.
“Heck, even hearing one gobble makes me that way,” said Tommy Morrison, 75, of Brandon. “No matter how bad my joints may hurt after hiking in for a hunt, as soon as I hear one gobble, I feel like I could win the Olympic decathlon gold medal.”
Morrison said he has never gotten so excited that he forgot safety, but he has seen it affect others that way.
“I had a gobbler coming to me one morning and I saw a hunter walking in from another direction with his gun up,” he said. “I had a couple of decoys out there, including a jake gobbler and they were between me and him. It scared me. Luckily, he realized they were decoys and lowered his gun and I was able to speak to him.
“It spooked the gobbler, but at least it ended with everybody safe.”
All hunting done with a firearm requires attention to safe gun handling, and that’s true in the spring turkey season. But gobbler chasing comes with some extra safety tips of its own.
These are courtesy the National Wild Turkey Federation:
* Choose a wide, solid background (tree or rock) to lean against, so you cannot be shot from behind.
* Never assume that what moves, makes turkey sounds or rustles leaves is a turkey. Positively identify your target before shooting.
* Do not wear red, white or light blue colors, which are the identifying colors of a gobbler’s head.
* Never assume you are the only hunter in the area, and know where all the members of your party are at all times.
* Obey all firearms safety rules.
* While it is unwise to have hunter orange visible while hunting because of the turkey’s keen eyesight, it is wise to have some showing while walking. Also, it is a good idea to pack harvested turkeys and decoys in hunter orange material for transportation out of the woods.
* If another hunter enters your area, do not wave or stand up or make any movement at all. Simply announce your presence in plain English before standing or removing your mask.
* If using decoys, especially a gobbler, make sure your line of sight is clear at least 75 to 100 yards on the other side of the decoy. That is the only direction another hunter can shoot at your decoy and hit you.