turkey huntingTurkey hunting can be particularly exciting, especially when there’s a tom strutting and gobbling in front of you. For this reason, it also takes extra planning to stay safe during the hunt. Because turkeys have good eyesight, an effective hunter has to blend in well with his or her surroundings to be successful. But that also increases the risk of injuries or fatalities if other hunters mistake you for the bird, or fail to see you behind or in line with your decoy(s) or in your blind.

Follow these important tips to keep yourself and others safe while you bag a bird:

  • Don’t wear ANY red, white, blue, or black. These are turkey colors, and another hunter may mistake you for a bird.
  • Be absolutely sure of your target. That extra second of verification could save a life!
  • If you do see another hunter in the area, don’t move—call out to alert them that you are there.
  • Don’t stalk turkey sounds; it could be another hunter.  Call the birds to you.
  • When selecting your spot, protect your back with a large tree, rock, or other large natural barrier. Same thing for choosing where to place your blind.
  • After bagging your bird, wrap it in either camouflage or a blaze orange bag for the haul out. A decoy should be handled the same way.
  • Always leave a hunt plan telling someone of where you will be and what time you expect to be back. This way, if there is an emergency, help can arrive more quickly.

Turkey hunting is a challenging and rewarding sport, but remember, no bird is worth your health. Follow these guidelines and what you learned in your hunting safety course and you’ll have many more hunts in your future.

There’s no better feeling than doing something you love with someone you love, and that includes hunting! While spending a cold day in the great outdoors may not be for everyone, couples who hunt together know it’s an awesome way to bond and spend time with one another.

Read on to see what Mitch Strobl, our newlywed Director of Customer Relations, and SevenGen’s TJ Unger have to say about finding love in the blind.

TJ & Liz

image2.jpeg

Who got you into hunting?

My father introduced me to whitetail hunting when I was 9 years old. I’ve since developed my passion for the outdoors and now get to share all that our hunting heritage has to offer with my best friend—my wife, Liz.

What do you love most about hunting with your wife?

Liz and I enjoy the adventure of new experiences where we have an opportunity to explore, learn and challenge ourselves. Hunting has been an ultimate avenue for us to share in these experiences and build lifelong memories along the way.

Has hunting brought you closer together? How?

Today, we are a society of constant connectivity—social media, television, Internet, etc., which often comes at the unfortunate expense of “family time.” Hunting is an exception and has, without question, made Liz and my relationship stronger and brought us closer together. The frequent “downtime” of the hunt allows us to grow through communication and involvement. We share stories, we laugh, argue, and sometimes even cry. Yes, we have the occasional “disagreement” in the tree stand, but we always persevere from 20 feet up! Whether it’s spring turkeys or autumn whitetails, the seasons afford Liz and me an opportunity for pure togetherness.

image1.jpeg

What was your most memorable hunt together?

Liz and I share countless hours hunting together each year. One of our most memorable hunts was in the foothills of Nebraska, chasing turkeys with good friend Cory Peterson of Hidden Valley Outfitters. It was the afternoon of our last hunt, and my turn behind the trigger.  I had my heart set on bringing home a true Merriam gobbler and, with daylight fading, odds were not in my favor. We sat in our ground blind reminiscing on the week, when unexpectedly a true Merriam tom silently strutted into the open. At less than 10 steps, I was instantly ready to squeeze that trigger. Instead, I heard the whisper of my wife, coaching me to be patient and let things unfold so that we could enjoy the moment together.

Can hunting be romantic?

We, as sportsmen, know that it’s not just about the trophy — it’s about the experience, and together we are making memories that we will both cherish for a lifetime. We also remind each other that hunting takes much patience … and so does love! And when asked if hunting can be romantic, Liz and I have two words: “Blind date”!

Mitch & Stephanie:

mitch n stephanie.png

Who got whom into hunting?

I introduced Stephanie to hunting, although she didn’t really have a choice. If she wanted to spend time with me, she HAD to go hunting.

What do you love most about hunting with your wife?

It’s pretty simple for Stephanie and me. Hunting equates to quality, uninterrupted time together. Too many times during everyday life we have responsibilities that limit our time together: work, family, etc. When we go hunting, it’s dedicated time where it’s just the two of us and the great outdoors. Having that time together is special; we’re out in nature and there are no distractions so that time is valuable to both of us. I believe that’s why we make such a great effort to hunt all the time!

Can hunting together be romantic?

Well, I guess it depends on what your definition of romantic is! Stephanie would be quick to tell you about how we put makeup on together in the bathroom mirror during waterfowl season. She’s really taken to my forest green, brown and black combo! And let me tell you, she looks good in camo! Okay, in all seriousness, hunting together is very romantic. Quality time is important to both of us, and hunting allows us to have plenty of uninterrupted quality time together. Plus, the fact that Stephanie takes the time and makes the effort to explore my hobby is very romantic, too.

Has hunting brought you closer together? How?

Absolutely, for two reasons: quality time and sacrifice. Hunting allows us to get away from our everyday life in the city and we can just “be.” Some of our best days together have been in pursuit of a deer, turkey or hog. Everything that goes into a hunt contributes to the experience: the planning, anticipation, getting ready, the drive there, the hunt, pictures, video, preparing the meat, cooking it, and eating it. It all adds up to a monumental experience together where we accomplished something. Plus, I’m grateful for the sacrifice on her end. I appreciate the fact that Stephanie proactively took the time and made the effort to experience a hobby that is and always will be very important to me. Of course, I do the same for her, so there’s equal appreciation and that significantly helps our relationship.

Stephanie & Mitch-0091.jpg

What is your most memorable hunt together?

While my archery buck in Ohio is a close second, I’d have to say Stephanie’s first turkey hunt is our most memorable trip together. For those who have been turkey hunting before, you know what I’m talking about… when that first gobble cracks the morning silence, it sends goosebumps through every square inch of your body. I’ve never seen her eyes light up the way they did when she heard her first gobble. Well, except for when I proposed to her. I laughed because I knew exactly how she was feeling at that moment — she was hooked!

Now, here’s the thing with Stephanie: She talks A LOT. So the second she heard that gobble, question after question ensued, to the point where I thought SURELY there can’t be any more! Looking back, the questions are what I loved the most. It reminded me of what it’s like to be a new hunter. Of course, I was more than happy to answer them.

The gobblers continued doing their thing for 20 minutes or so, and I was able to give Stephanie the full play-by-play of what was about to happen with my mad calling skills (not). I’d been turkey hunting before, and my call does nothing but scare those turkeys the other way! But I couldn’t help myself. I sent out a few clucks and purrs and sure enough, they flew down the opposite direction. Panic mode set in. Stephanie was convinced that I blew it. I assured her they’d be back around, it would just take patience. It was that point in the season where if you couldn’t pull a tom away first thing in the morning, you’d better wait until late morning, so that’s what we did. They went on their way and we repositioned in a high-activity area. Sure enough, they eventually came by our setup and everything worked out perfectly.

 

There was a huge group of them, which worried me. We were tucked up under a cedar bush, so we were definitely concealed, but with a group of 10 or so turkeys I thought for sure they’d bust us. Luckily, one of the gobblers ventured out on his own, a fatal mistake. Steph did everything just like we practiced, made me so proud! She asked to turn off the safety, I confirmed. She aimed at the neck and put a good ethical shot on him! That’s when the tears came… which, is something I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but it turned into one of those moments we still talk about on a regular basis. It’s a big deal, taking an animal’s life. I tried my best to prepare her for the seriousness of the situation, but it’s truly something you have to experience in order to fully understand it. After the initial shock eased, then the laughter and excitement came in. Looking back on the video, we had such a good time. We made fools of ourselves, yes, but it was totally worth it. What an experience to share together, something we’ll definitely remember forever.

 

Image and Story credit: TJ Unger, Pro Staff Member for Dominator365 and Director of Business Development for SevenGen 

Most of us go into the hunting woods each year concerned with safety. We keep our chambers empty, safeties on, full-body harnesses for hunting from tree stands cinched and buckled tight. Here in Texas, a lot of us wear snake-proof chaps or gaiters to thwart rattlesnakes — the little scorpions and ever-present fire ants are harder to avoid. However, outside of grizzly and brown bear zones like Alaska, Montana and Wyoming, most hunters really aren’t concerned about becoming the hunted instead of the hunter.

Whether because the Internet makes news more accessible, or because attacks are actually increasing, we’re seeing news all the time about hunters and other outdoorsy folks being attacked by animals. Many of the attacks are by animals we don’t expect to be a danger, like the coyotes that killed a woman hiking in Canada a couple of years ago. All hunters need to have situational awareness to be effective hunters — and to avoid danger. We’re going to look at five of the more common situations where hunters face danger from animals and steps that can be taken to avoid them.

The classic: Wounded animals

Hunter-ed.com Hunter Safety CoursePeter Capstick and Robert Ruark have eternally embedded in the minds of their readers the classic scenarios of a wounded lion or leopard charging hunters with fangs bared and claws extended. The stories will get your adrenaline racing, even if it’s extremely unlikely you’ll ever face that situation. On the other hand, there are plenty of stories of having wounded non-predatory animals defend themselves with horns and hooves. In North America, the most likely situation for a hunter to encounter is to have a wounded grizzly bear or coastal brown bear in your lap. Mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, and especially wounded hogs can all turn defensive and deliver nasty wounds when cornered.

We all know the best way to avoid a wounded animal attack — make the first shot a good one. Beyond the ethical, humane reasons for making a one-shot kill, safety is the next most important factor. Unwounded animals are far less likely to confront a human. When hunting for game, hunters should always work in teams. A pair or group of hunters are more intimidating to animals and better able to thwart an attack or help a wounded friend. When trailing a wounded animal, tracking dogs (where allowed) can divert an attack, and their additional agility often keeps them unharmed. If you must trail a wounded animal, extreme caution and attention to details in front of you and to your sides is very important.

When you take a game animal

Perhaps the most likely scenario where you might face confrontation with a predator is a fight over a game animal you’ve taken. The brown bears of Kodiak Island, Alaska, are famous for coming to the sound of a shot, like a dinner bell ringing, to steal a hunter’s Sitka black-tailed deer. Similar tales are told in Montana and Wyoming by elk hunters who faced grizzlies over their downed elk. In the southwest, if you wound a white-tailed deer and trail it later at night, you may encounter coyotes or bobcats taking advantage of an easy meal. In the east or the Rocky Mountains, that could be a cougar or black bear.

Never approach your game animal without a firearm or other protection. You never know what might get there first. (Actually, you never know that the game animal isn’t still alive.) Now, that doesn’t mean you can automatically defend yourself with a firearm. Because of the protected nature of grizzlies, shooting one to recover an animal is a bad idea. Bear spray is your friend — and often more effective than a firearm at deterring bear attacks. Pro tip: Bear spray works on everything, not just bears. Ultimately, don’t put yourself in danger. No amount of venison is worth losing your life, or really, even worth a hundred stitches or a course of rabies shots.

Using calls that attract predators

Bugling in a bull elk is one of the most thrilling experiences any hunter can have worldwide. Likewise, rattling in a procession of big bucks in the South Texas brush is a thrilling experience. Imitating animals to get them closer goes back thousands of years, whether through decoys for waterfowl or imitating the mating sounds of a larger animal. But, you know what else recognizes those sounds? Predators. They know as well as you do that rutting bulls or bucks are distracted. They also know their prey can get injured in battles over mates. So, when you call, predators can come running. Every year grizzlies come running to bugling elk hunters in the Northern Rockies, and deer hunters rattling horns in the brush see bobcats respond frequently.

There’s nothing you can do to signal game that won’t signal predators. However, calling in animals is often more effective when two hunters are working together anyway. One hunter calls, and since the game animal is focused on pinpointing the location of the call, the other hunter goes unnoticed. Two sets of eyes and ears can detect a predator better and avoid a confrontation. Situational awareness is again the key. Don’t get tunnel vision on a single animal, trail or shooting lane. Keep your head on a swivel and notice everything you can.

Surprising a predator when camouflaged

Hunter-ed.com Bowhunting CourseAbout 15 years ago, I was backed up against a tree, in full camouflage, hunting for squirrels. I hadn’t noticed how close I was to a game trail until a coyote crested a rise about 10 feet from me. Thankfully, he was more surprised than me when I whistled at him. I didn’t know an animal could turn inside out to reverse directions! Later, in that same spot and in the same situation, a bobcat followed the trail past me and never knew I was there. Modern camouflage and scent covers are amazingly effective. They work on game and predators, just like game calls. But, if you find yourself in close quarters with a surprised predator, you never know if they’ll choose fight or flight.

In a situation like I faced, it’s always better to alert the predator when they’re as far from you as possible. You never want to spoil your hunting, but making some movement or noise to alert a predator to your presence is a better option than fighting one off. Backing up to a large tree or rock face is a good way to use your camouflage most effectively, as well as protect your back from approaching danger.

Non-predator attacks

Fangs and claws are not prerequisites for animal attacks on humans. Rutting white-tailed bucks injure people every year — those antlers are sharp and deer are far more powerful than humans, pound for pound. Wild hogs are so widespread, and can defend themselves very effectively with their self-sharpening tusks, that they probably injure more people now than any other game animal. Even turkeys have been known to injure hunters with spurs, sharp beaks and bruising smacks from hard wings.

Every single wild animal can hurt you, whether they’re defending themselves or think you might make an easy dinner. You can’t drop your guard when you’re hunting. Just the same as firearm accidents happen when we become complacent and make assumptions, treating animals and the wilderness like we treat our pets and living rooms is the surest way to find out how hard animals fight to survive. Be aware, be cautious and be safe.