I actually wore my first turkey miss with pride. After all, I’d been told that you weren’t a true turkey hunter until you’d missed.
The hunt — on a gorgeous Alabama morning almost two decades ago — should have been a smash. But somehow, I got my signals with a videographer mixed up, and two dandy longbeards ran away unscathed.
It was funny stuff. My second miss, two years later, wasn’t as amusing. No. 3, which occurred the same day as No. 2, left me pretty grumpy.
There have been more, of course — 16, to be precise. I missed three turkeys one spring and have had four two-miss seasons. And as I mentioned, I’m a member of the distinguished two-misses-in-one-day club.
All those whiffs have stories, and many even come with excuses, which I include in my hunting log for posterity.
“April 1998. First trip to Texas. Had a gobbler run in behind us and then sneak toward our decoy. Thought the cameraman said “shoot.” Turns out he said, “Shoot when you’re ready.” Guess I wasn’t ready. Shot a mesquite tree.”
That was OK, though. I got my first Rio soon afterward. Well, two years later.
Then there’s this gem.
“May 2007, Wisconsin: Worked two gobblers for three hours, repositioning twice. Then had a longbeard run in from the other direction, followed by 10 jakes. Stopped him at 40 steps and fired ... directly into an elm sapling five yards from my barrel.”
Have you ever seen 10 jakes and one boogered gobbler sprinting through the woods as you try to pick out the longbeard and save face? I wouldn’t recommend it.
Here’s one of my favorites, even though the excuse is pretty lame.
“May 2008, Wisconsin: Ran into the hottest turkey I’ve seen in years. Gobbled his head off on the limb and flew 120 yards across a hayfield to reach me. Waited until he cleared a deadfall to shoot, and then watched him run through the swamp. Let him get too close. Bird was at 14 steps when I fired. Checked my 14-yard pattern later. Roughly the size of a golf ball.”
I can look back at those and other misses and say, “That’s turkey hunting, and I learned from my mistakes.” Others, however, defy explanation.
“May 2007, Minnesota: Cold-called near a public wildlife area. Two gobblers hammered back and jogged to the call. They were gorgeous in the mid-afternoon sun. Not quite as pretty when they flew away after a ball of No. 5 shot whizzed past them.”
Probably my worst miss, on which I’ll elaborate in a future issue, occurred this past spring in Missouri.
“Bird stopped at 31 steps and raised his head. Shot a foot behind it and six inches over his back. It sure was quiet in the blind after that.”
To be fair, I’ve shot more turkeys than I deserve, too. In fact, my hunting records indicate I’ve killed 86 percent of the turkeys I’ve shot at the past 20-some years.
Should it be 100 percent? Probably. Can I realistically achieve that from this point? Nope. It’ll never happen. No matter how careful a shot you are, you’ll eventually hit a tree, lift your head off the stock or — yes — misjudge range and take a poor shot.
When it happens, learn from it, laugh at it and continue hunting. Almost every miss is followed by a successful hunt, whether that day or a week later. In the end, the miss will make a great story.
Still, I’d prefer that you didn’t bring up that humiliating Missouri hunt. I still can’t believe I missed.