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Probing the Mysteries of Improbable Turkey Misses

If you have a few years on your butt pad, you’ve probably missed a turkey or two.

No shame there. Misses are part of the game, whatever their cause. Sapling? Done it. Unfamiliar gun? Check. Miscommunication with a videographer? Bingo.

Those aren’t really excuses. They’re legitimate reasons for missing. In each case, I still should have made the shot, but at least there was an extenuating factor.

I can live with that. Mystery misses, however, really drag me down. What’s a mystery miss? That’s when you botch an absolute gimme shot with no explanation why.

Five years ago in Texas, a buddy and I pulled a great end-around on a traveling breeding flock of Rios. We sat down against some live oaks, yelped once, and then got ready for a full-frontal smash as the birds bee-lined right to us. When the lead gobbler got within 30 steps and craned his neck, I leveled my gun’s fiber-optic sights above his wattles and fired. The bird showed no reaction.

In disbelief, I broke open the single-shot and tried to cram another shell in the chamber. The turkey — which still had no idea it had been shot at — caught my movement and slowly walked over the hill.

“Stupid gun,” I yelled, as my buddy giggled hysterically.

Off to the range I went, ready to vindicate myself. Trouble was, the gun shot a dead-on, head-blistering pattern at 30 steps. It was official: Somehow, I’d whiffed on a wide-open turkey at 30 steps — with an audience. I’d never live it down.

Well, until this past spring, perhaps. With the memory of my mystery miss long faded, I hit the Wisconsin woods early one morning and stumbled onto a sure thing. A roosted gobbler hammered at my first set of tree yelps and then really cranked up after that. Within minutes, he pitched off his roost and sailed 100 yards across a hayfield, landing only 20 steps to my left.

With my gun ready, I watched as the bird dodged his way through the brushy bottoms. When he passed behind a large blow-down, I readjusted my aim and readied for the shot. Then, as he stepped out and periscoped his head to look for the hen, I sent 2 ounces of shot his way.

At least that bird jumped. Actually, he hopped twice and then trotted away on a deer trail. Dumfounded, I didn’t even attempt a second shot, even though I had one.

You’ve no doubt guessed that I let the bird get too close. Actually, he was at 14 steps.

However, in my defense, I didn’t really have a clear shot until he stepped out from behind the blow-down. And sure, it was still fairly dark (though legal). Yes, but I’d double-checked my sights during the bird’s approach to make sure I could line them up correctly.

Nope, no excuses. Just another awful miss. I checked my shotgun later that day just to make sure, but as expected, it was right on.

Of course, things eventually get better. A day after my Texas debacle, I managed to take two Rios. And the day after my Wisconsin whiff, I shot a gobbler at the same farm. Those redemption turkeys surely erased the sting of missing, right?

Well, no. Not really. But at least it was nice to have a fresh gobbler feather in my hat while recounting painful failures.


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