ORIGINAL: Fan Club
The degree of ineptness required to be fooled by and sneak up on decoys boggles the mind. Or to shoot at what they "thought" was a turkey. There was a story posted here last year where a father had shot and killed his own son. Truly tragic and senseless. Most of us are seasoned enough to avoid any of this nonsense, but just like driving, you always have to watch out for the other guy.
Actually, it's the seasoned ones that are most likely to shoot another hunter. It's a scary thing, but your mind will play tricks on you. I'm drawing on various articles I've seen over the past 20-some years. The stats say you're wrong-- it's guys like us, good seasoned turkey hunters, that cause most of the fatalities.
The problem comes from the brain's ability to take small bits and pieces of sensory input and synthesize what it is most likely to be. It may be only the red flash on a hunting sock, but your brain puts it together as a full-blown gobbler. The more experience you have, the more likely it is to happen. It happens to guys with an average of 8 seasons under their belt. I probably read about it for the first time in Outdoor Life Magazine about 1988. Before that, it was word of mouth from the turkey hunters that helped get me into the sport.
I'm sure you've all heard about not wearing any article of clothing that has red, white, or blue in it, right? This is why. I'm sure if you wore a red sweatshirt it won't happen-- the red field is probably too big to trigger the illusion. It's when it's just a wee bit of one of these colors that it's a problem-- enough for the brain to confabulate a turkey head out of what it's getting. Then you have trouble. I've been at this 26 seasons. I can say it's never happened to me, but I have had several close calls in the woods where I was hunted by another hunter. In one case, I just called out to the hunter and he gave me wide berth. In the other case, I didn't know he was there until the shot and we were less than 50 yards away.
The scary part of it all is that most turkey hunters who shoot someone in this scenario SWEAR they saw a turkey. This isn't about hearing a noise and firing into a bush, or walking with the safety off and their finger on the trigger. This is a veteran turkey hunter doing the best he can to be safe and his brain manufactures a turkey where there is none.
Please don't think I'm calling any of y'all a bunch of dimwits, or inexperienced, or careless. The point of this all is that it is good guys like us that do the most of the killing. It is probably also something that we can't help from the giving end of the shotgun. What is required is to be ever vigilant when we're sitting somewhere that we watch out for ourselves, not use gobbling or gobbler yelping unless we're sure we're alone, and especially not have anything red, white, or blue in our kit. Above all, use gobbler decoys with extreme caution.
One thing I did from my first season on was get a few pair of olive drab wool socks that were just for turkey hunting. They had no flash at the top. They lasted over twenty years, but they finally gave out. I tried everywhere to find replacements, and finally found 5 pair of green and brown socks with no red flash at Bass Pro. These are kept just for hunting turkeys.
If you have not heard of this phenomenon, then I suggest to anyone to go over to the public library and look at back issues of Outdoor Life and dig until you find what I'm talking about. I've only taken T&TH for a few years, so I'm not sure if it was in this magazine. I know I've seen it written about elsewhere, but I cannot say where.