John's Journal...

How to Miss a Turkey

Day 2: More Turkey Misses

Editor’s Note: You know two things about anyone who says he’s never missed a turkey - either he lies about everything, or he’s never hunted many turkeys. We all miss, and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy the “Truth” videos that Will Primos of Primos Calls does, because he also shows all the misses in these videos. A fact of life is that if you hunt turkeys long enough, you’ll miss your share of them.

Click for Larger ViewFor the next 20 years I didn’t fail to bag any bird that walked into my gunsights - until the spring of 1988. I’d just scaled a mountain near Raton, New Mexico, and was breathing hard. My gun rested on my knee, my cheek was down, and my eyes focused on a giant Merriam gobbler not more than 25-yards away. My hunting companion, Dale Faust, who sat next to me, whispered, “Shoot! John!”

Click for Larger ViewBut the turkey was behind a tree and in full strut. I waited for him to break the strut and stick his neck straight-up so I’d have a better target. As I leaned-out and around a tree, he broke his strut and put his neck straight-up, alarmed at spotting my move. Faust hadn’t brought his gun to his shoulder. He knew this was an easy shot - one I should have no trouble making.

I fired. Instead of falling over, the turkey ducked and ran. Faust picked-up his gun, fired and missed. We both jumped-up to chase the gobbler. But before I could get my feet under me, I crashed headlong into a pine tree and saw those little white spots before my eyes that football players see when they get their bells rung. I staggered for a few minutes and then regained my feet. I took-off on a dead run, chasing that tom and hoping that maybe Faust or I had inflicted a mortal wound. But as we watched, the tom ran off the side of the mountain, took to the air and flew away.

Click for Larger ViewWhat happened next was the most-humiliating moment in my whole career of turkey hunting. Faust looked back at me in disbelief and asked, “What happened?” I tried every excuse I could think of to explain the miss, but none of my excuses stood-up to the close scrutiny of this master woodsman. We returned to the tree I’d been leaning against when I shot, and I replayed the shot. As I leaned around the tree with my gun at my shoulder and attempted to aim, Faust said, “That’s it, you’re canting your shotgun.”

Click for Larger ViewI looked down and noticed I had rolled the gun off the side of my shoulder. When I was looking at the turkey, the shotgun was pointing about two feet to the other side of the bird. Let’s look at some of the other ways that hunters miss or wound wild turkeys.

To learn more about how to hunt turkeys successfully, click here, or visit, and type in the name of John E. Phillips’ latest turkey-hunting book, “Turkey Hunting Tactics,” that’s now available from Kindle books and contains information on all aspects of turkey hunting, including: how to set up on turkeys; how to hunt turkeys; what equipment is best; what’s the differences in western and eastern turkey hunting and how that influences the way you hunt and more. Phillips’ other information-packed turkey books, also available on Kindle, include “The Turkey Hunter’s Bible” and “PhD Gobblers.”

Tomorrow: Misjudging Distance

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Miss a Turkey "

Day 1: You Will Miss Turkeys If You’re An Avid Turkey Hunter
Day 2: More Turkey Misses
Day 3: Misjudging Distance
Day 4: Not Seeing the Aiming Point Will Keep You from Bagging Your Turkey
Day 5: Arrowing A Gobbler Turkey

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Entry 661, Day 2