Several years ago, two younger turkey hunters I know over in west Alabama were out for an exciting morning of turkey hunting and they got more than they wanted in terms of excitement, the bad kind of excitement.
They got out of the truck at daylight and after a short “listening and locating session” they located what sounded like a pair of gobblers just “tearin it up” down in the hardwoods of a Tombigbee river swamp bottom. They struck out toward the gobbling birds and when they got close enough, they found a couple of big oak trees side by side to sit under and call to the gobblers. The first yelp brought back a thunderous response from what they described as a “whole drove” of gobblers! They had already made plans to try and “double up” and both shoot a gobbler at the right moment. When the ”toms” came in there was five or six of them, all long beards and all excited!
The two young “twenty-something” hunters, who were already veterans of many successful spring turkey kills, got ready for another great moment but, then the gobblers had a different plan. The gobblers came in from left to right and when they were just right for a double shot, the two hunters fired in unison. However, only one bird started flopping and the rest exploded in to full escape mode! Some running and others flying away! The hunter on the right swung his gun in pursuit of the fleeing gobbler, who was retreating the way he came in from the left and when he fired, he heard his buddy on the left scream! That is never a good thing to hear anytime, much less when you are out in the woods miles from medical attention!
He jumped up and ran to his wounded friend screaming an apology and asking desperately, “where are you hit?!?” In response, his buddy, who was laying over on his back, thrusts a bloody camouflage glove hand into the air and the blood is literally spurting out of it! Both of them go into a momentary panic but, they quickly recover their wits and after some first aid including a tourniquet from a belt and a tee shirt wrapped around it to stem the flow, they begin the arduous walk back up hill to the truck nearly a half mile away.
After a ”hundred yard stagger” toward the truck, the injured hunter passes out and his buddy literally drags him the rest of the way to the truck. At the truck he tries the cell phone but, has no coverage, so he fires up the truck and heads for the nearest hospital in east Mississippi. The wound, which cost the young man some of the functionality of his left hand, could have been much worse! In fact, the forearm of his shotgun took the brunt of the load since he too was aiming at the fleeing gobbler and the shot tore into the foream of the gun and his left hand as he held it. If not for the gun, the shot would have possibly taken his hand off!
That load of number four shot in a 3.5 inch turkey load shell coming out of a tightly choked 12 gauge shot gun would have probably killed the young man if the other fellow had swung a little more to the left before squeezing off the shot at the fleeing gobbler. They both estimated another two or three inches would have put the round in the right side of his skull from about 4 feet away! I heard their story about two weeks after it happened and while they tried to make light of it. I could tell that both of them were still shaken by the errant shot and the young man with the cast on his hand was still feeling the pain of the wound and the external fixator rods that were sticking out of the cast reminded him of the event every time he accidentally bumped his hand.
It brought to mind an event where my oldest son nearly shot me in the side of the head on a dove shoot when he was just a young boy. I was enjoying our hunt and paying close attention to keep him shooting safely and not allowing him to shoot unless there was a high degree of safety and also a high degree of probable success since I wanted him to gain confidence in his shooting ability. We were doing fine until a friend, who was one of the land owners where we were shooting, drove up on a four wheeler and offered us a cold bottle of water. My son, Hunter, was standing to my left as Jim and I chatted about the hunt conditions and how well people were shooting. Just then, a dove flew over and as Hunter swung after it to the right, his gun barrel hit the left side of my head about the time he pulled the trigger!
I would have sworn my ear drum had busted! I fell to the ground and grabbed my ear, hunter threw his gun down and started crying, scared he had killed me, and our dove shoot for the day was over! I was lucky though, had I been standing another 8 to 10 inches away, the barrel would have swung behind my head and likely I would have been a “goner”. As it is, just my left ear’s hearing ability is a “goner” and I get to “enjoy” the sound of tinnitus, a high pitched ringing noise, that I have heard ever since that day over 30 years ago.
Be careful when you are swinging your shotgun barrel at a moving target, you just might hit what you are NOT aiming for! Get out and practice a few rounds with your shotgun to get ready for the gobblers! But, watch out for your fellow hunters!
Until next week, Shoot straight and Shoot safe!