Take a deep breath, give thanks and follow these steps next ...
The longbeard you want gobbles on the roost. Gobbles on the ground. Gobbles in range. And you make a clean, ethical shot. In the rush of sweet moments after killing a wild turkey, it's sometimes hard to catch your breath. Of course, a lot of folks first check the spurs and beard (or beards). That's a given. Consider doing these nine things after you take a bird as well. Some are strongly suggested.
1. Check Your Shotgun's Safety
No options on this. For safety's sake, check it. Twice. Turkeys sometimes have a way of coming back from the dead, so stay ready as you approach the downed bird.
2. Unload Your Gun
Assuming you're done for the day, unload that shotgun. Or take care of those arrows. And be sure to pick up the one you arrowed the bird with ... and the empty shotgun hull.
3. Give Thanks
If you're like me, your fingers are trembling with the power of it. Turkey hunting is special because killing a gobbler can be so difficult at times.
Take a minute. Enjoy the moment.
4. Tag Your Turkey (If Required)
Know the rules for this. Some states require transport tags for carrying your bird to the truck. You often wrap it around the turkey's leg. Sometimes signing it, with the time, location of the kill and so forth is required. Some states have detailed requirements for notching the day of kill, or inking it out, and so forth. Follow the rules exactly.
5. Shoot Photos
Some turkey hunters will wait until they get back at camp or home to take photos. Still, there's no substitute for a handful in the place where you took the bird. Carry an iPhone tripod for this, or at least snap a few selfies with your turkey.
6. Take Care of the Bird
If you have a long walk out, gut the bird with cooking to come in mind, especially on a warm spring afternoon. I like to tuck its head under a wing, then slide the bird into the back of my vest for the trip to the truck.
7. Check the Turkey In
For some states, it's required you call your kill in via an "automated attendant" system. For others, you can or must take the bird to a local checking station to register it. Still others allow you to mail in a card. And yet others don't require any kind of turkey registration. Know the laws.
8. Tell Your Friends and Family
Don't text while you drive. Don't text while you drive. Don't text while you drive.
Text before you get in the truck and head home or back to camp. Or after. Or sync your phone to talk as you motor home or back to camp. Or wait.
In truth, all of this can wait. Savor the moment. (See tip No. 3 again.) Some buds may still have unfilled tags and your news might be seen as bragging and boasting. Seriously.
And social media posts can be handled in a number of ways. Some turkey hunters create an album at the end of the season. Some post every bird they kill. Twice. Some never show pics of a single bird they've tagged.
9. Make Use of the Whole Turkey
Breast meat. Leg meat. Thigh meat. Wing meat. And other parts. Prepare meals to savor the hunt and celebrate your turkey.
Full-body mounts. Tail-fan mounts. Spur necklaces. Beards dangling down from homemade wall hangings. Fly-tying. Wingbone yelpers.
Use as much of that wild turkey as you can. Go here for some ideas ...
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.