By Adam Crews (Updated from April 2017)
There are just certain things you do, and things you don’t do. Men should open the door for women. You chew food with your mouth closed. If you are driving slow—get in the right lane. If you see someone in a treestand, you don’t hunt under—or near their tree.
Most of us were taught these rules as a child, and we have a solid grasp of proper etiquette. In general, people go out of their way not to be rude and break these rules. However, some break these rules because they genuinely do not know better. Yet some people break these rules, and really couldn’t care less what you, or I think.
This article is for both. If you are making the journey to becoming a turkey hunter, you should also make an effort to learn how to practice good etiquette in the woods.
If you are a jerk, and you don’t care—please go and pound some sand.
My nightmare experience with rude turkey hunters: The boys from Arkansas
Like most hunters, I don’t own land. I hunt public, lease, or get permission. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate and found some solid places to turkey hunt. The place I hunt the most and holds the most birds, I lease—and pay good money to hunt.
This weekend, my brother and I make a move on a bird gobbling from the roost. We hurry to set up a blind where the bird will likely come, and as we are setting up we see two side-by-sides driving down the dirt road where our truck is parked. In an effort to shy away from the riders I flashed my light to let them know where we were—we didn’t care who, or what they were doing, we just wanted this bird at the moment. After all, it could be the landowner getting out early to do some work.
It wasn’t though, it was hunters—and not anyone that paid towards the right to lease with us.
These guys knew birds were close because they left the landowners house which is close by. Yet, they still had the nerve to drive right up to our blind while we are preparing to get in.
I’m trying my best to compose myself and get these two chuckleheads out of my hair. Yet here they are, trying to tell us their friend is where we are and that they’ve killed a few birds over the last couple of days (on the property I am leasing)!
Mad is not the word I would use to describe my feelings, but I let it go and politely asked them to leave so we could try and kill this bird.
I’m sure you can guess that with all of this commotion our gobbler didn’t fly towards us. What happened next is worse. We hear three consecutive shots. I’ll not speculate and say these guys were shooting from the vehicle, but I have my opinion. I do know the entire property was covered with their vehicle tracks, and for the first time in a very long time, we didn’t see one gobbler.
Reasons why it’s important to be thoughtful while turkey hunting
1. Time Investment: Most hunters have a limited amount of time to actually hunt. If you mess up someone else’s hunt, they may not have many other chances. Time is an investment, and if you encroach on that investment it’s not something the other hunter can get back. He/She may not have another opportunity to go.
2. Work: Most hunters do a certain amount of scouting and preparation for turkey season, not to mention the financial investment. To lease or purchase property takes money, money that someone had to work hard for. Scouting takes time, and as mentioned—you can’t get that back! Speaking of work, if you’ve ever hunted public land you truly know the definition of work that goes into a hunt; scouting, researching, map reading, and the list goes on.
3. Just being a decent person: The hunter you are encroaching on may not have time, money or the ability to put in much work. This person may dream of getting to hunt just that one day all year, and here someone comes along and ruins that day. Don’t be that person.
Below is a list of some of the basic things not to do while turkey hunting. I compiled this list from comments taken from members of the Facebook Group: Turkey Hunting, in a thread that relates to this post. I’ll not cite the names of the contributors, but if you want to view the conversation check it out Here. Please do join the group!
Turkey Hunting Etiquette 101
- When scouting—leave your calls at home!
- When you go to a property and someone is where you intended to be, back out and give them room, and find a place where you will not cross paths. If possible.
- Pick up your trash.
- Never Trespass.
- Do not knowingly approach another hunters setup (this could be fatal).
- Take ethical shots that ensure clean kills.
- Never shoot birds off the roost.
- Never shoot birds from your vehicle.
- Do not call birds from your vehicle.
- When you see a hunter is working a bird, don’t try and jump in front of him, or call the bird in the opposite direction (this again could be fatal).
- Do not knowingly scare off a turkey that another hunter is working.
- If another vehicle is parked in an area where you plan to hunt, consider another location.
- Do not shoot unless you have positively identified your target.
- (My personal favorite right now) If someone is leasing the land you want to hunt—don’t hunt it!!
In summary, follow the golden rule, and you’ll do well in the turkey woods with your turkey hunting brethren. If you treat others like you want to be treated you might even make a new hunting partner. If in doubt, Show Grace to Thy Neighbor!
If you are from Arkansas and ran into me in Tennessee this past week—consider giving me a call. The members of my turkey hunting lease would love to receive some cash from you as this year’s new leasing partners.
If you have any advice for new turkey hunters on proper etiquette, please contribute by commenting below.