And of course, solutions and suggestions for never missing again. Maybe.
It hurts. Memories of that strutter stepping into range, and that 10 inches of swinging beard running out of your life after you pull the trigger and miss. The memories haunt you in the middle of the night. All veteran turkey hunters have been there. If you haven't yet, brace yourself. A miss is coming. Just try to minimize them by avoiding these five excuses.
1. I don't know how I missed that gobbler. He was standing right there.
The Fix: Pattern your gun and load. You know how to load and shoot your shotgun but haven't a clue as to how the shell you're using patterns on a turkey head and neck. It might be a foot to the left (I've seen it happen). Head to the range to acquire this essential information, in addition to actually shooting a lot. Ditto for your archery tackle.
The Fix: Don't panic. A wild turkey gobbler in full strut at close range is an amazing thing. The sight of that big red, white and blue head might just take your breath away. You might just fall apart and turn to jelly. And miss. And while part of the thrill of turkey hunting is your wildly beating heart when that longbeard stalks your position, find a way to temper it a bit – if only to kill that bird stone dead.
3. I was twisted up like a pretzel and couldn't shoot right.
The Fix: Bad positioning causes many a miss. Turkeys can come in from behind, from the side and straight into your sights. You have got to be ready for all scenarios. You've pretty much got to envision possible shots before each one materializes in the field. Shooting from difficult positions, after patterning your shotgun under fixed conditions, may help.
The Fix: Gear failure happens to all of us. It's almost as painful as a miss to have a gobbler in range, fooled into that killing zone, only to have a trigger-pull fail you. It happens, just ask any veteran. The key is to keep your shotgun clean and ready. And maybe that old shell-shucker just doesn't cut it anymore. Treat yourself to a new one. Don't miss out on your best chance to bag a gobbler because your equipment isn't ready.
5. I was on that bird – but still missed.
The Fix: There’s a common saying in sports that athletes need to have a short memory, especially with failure. That’s true for missing, too. Turkey hunting is hard. It takes time, years of experience, a fair amount of suffering and steady effort. The wild turkey has an uncanny ability for escaping situations that seem like sure bets for a kill. Deal with it. Accept it. Now lighten up. And kill that next turkey in range.
Misses are part of the deal. There's even something memorable about those experiences, too. With time – and future gobblers you'll kill cleanly added to the score – those hunts when you whiffed will become stories you share with others who have been there, too.
Steve Hickoff is Realtree.com's editorial director and turkey hunting editor. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country.