HOW DO YOU STOP A TURKEY FROM CHARGING?
As the old joke goes, you take away his credit card, of course.

That never worked for me, I was thinking as turkey season rolls around again. One of the reasons I have to take a box of shotgun shells with me on a weekend turkey hunt, is for self defense. Many times, wild turkeys get so close to me that a hand grenade would be a better weapon.

Why not shoot them when they’re farther away? Good question.

I’m not the type turkey hunter who holds with rifles, which are illegal in many states now anyway, praise the Lord. Therefore, a gobbler has got to be within shotgun range before I take a whack at him, or inside forty yards. That’s a long shot, and not advisable, for ethical reasons, so thirty yards is what I consider optimum. Then, you remember what President Andy Jackson said at the Battle of New Orleans: “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes!” Of course, he was shooting Brits, not turkeys, but the principle is the same: Closer is better, at least until they get within bayonet range.

With the Brits, Andy had his troops hidden behind cotton bales, or some such battlements, and they had their guns to their shoulders, ready to fire. With wild turkeys, hunters seldom keep their guns shouldered for the whole morning, unless they hear an approaching bird gobble. Being mostly deaf, I hardly ever hear it thunder, much less hear a turkey gobble. Therefore, of probably 400 turkeys I have fired at, probably 350 of them never made a sound, at least as far as I knew of. They just appeared, sticking their old red head out from behind a tree trunk 25 yards away, and me with my gun across my lap, or lying on the ground by my left hand, since I shoot from the left shoulder.

The guy who thinks he can draw on a turkey (as in “fast draw,” or “even break,” gunfighter style) is a guy who buys his turkey dinners at the grocery store. Your option, when a gobbler appears like this at 25 yards, is to wait until his head goes behind a tree in his approach, then swing your gun into action before he steps out.

Most of the time, remember, the hunter has been sitting there, camouflaged, patiently calling like a hen who would like for a big strong gobbler to come make love to her. That’s why the gobbler’s head turns red, much like a human man in the same circumstances has a blood rush. He expects to see a hen as he approaches, ready for some action, all worked up, and then – bingo! He sees movement!

And he charges, one thought in mind! LOVE!!!!

Please don’t misunderstand me: I have never had a gobbler make love to me. That is a great reason to carry a shotgun to the woods, actually, to keep that from happening.

What I’m trying to explain is the reason turkeys frequently charge me, and I firmly believe that my deafness is a major factor in my hunting experience. Other hunters don’t seem to have the problem, or maybe just don’t admit it.

My favorite shotgun, French Gun, had the stock broken when I swung it at a charging turkey I had already fired one shot at before he got within bayonet range – too close for a second shot! That was not the first turkey I had clubbed with that gun, nor was it the last for its successor, SouthPow, the left-handed 870 Remington. I actually had one gobbler run inside the little screen of branches I had stuck into the ground around me to camouflage my movements. As far as I know, he is still going, somewhere. It’s somewhat embarrassing to have a turkey close enough to touch and come away empty-handed.

Adam and Zac Whaley once had a turkey gobbler nicknamed Fast Eddie that close. Fast Eddie had a technique of slipping up behind a hunter, then sprinting around the tree they were blinded against, circling their blind within bad-breath-detecting range, and exiting around the other side of the tree before a shot had been fired. It brings to mind the custom some Indian tribes had of “coup-counting.” A warrior was had up for exceptional bravery when he rode into battle armed with, instead of a bow and arrow, a piece of 2X4, and could ride up close enough to a foe to touch him with the board, and still get away. I have always wondered if turkeys have the same sort of honor society. If so, there’s a whole room full of trophies devoted to those toms who have counted Neill coups!

I don’t mind. I’ve gotten my share, if I never get another one. And I’ve developed my own defense: I charge them right back! At the shot, I’m jumping to my feet and going after the gobbler, four more shells in the gun, and a bayonet when I run out of shells!

So if you ever read the headline, “Man Killed by Turkey,” well, now you know!