John's Journal...

What Are Your Personal Rules for Hunting Wild Turkeys?

Day 5: Hunting the Processional Tom and the Not Close Enough Gobbler

Editor’s Note: Every turkey hunter sets-up his own set of rules about what’s fair and not fair within the laws of the area where he’s hunting when he hunts the wily gobbler. Often a turkey hunter believes his personal ethical turkey-hunting code should be implemented by every other turkey hunter. Many wild turkeys earn their names, because of their characteristics or actions. The men and women who hunt them have intimate relationships with these gobblers. In the situations we’ll describe this week, you’ll make up your own mind as to whether the hunter should have taken the gobbler or let the tom survive another day.

The Processional Tom:

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewEasing down a logging road just after fly-down time, a hunter heard footsteps off to the left of the road. He could tell by the purring and clucking that there were hens and possibly a jake just out of his view. Sitting down on the side of the road, he waited. As though a script had been pre-written, the turkeys filed in a long procession across the opening. At the end of the parade, a longbeard appeared, and the hunter took the shot.
1) Was this a fair hunt?
2) Would you have taken the shot?
3) Would you be proud of the bird you took?

The Not-Close-Enough Gobbler:

The turkey was less than 30-yards from my hunting buddy, Smiley Shaw. The bird was in full strut and showing all his male finery. Shaw was locked into his shooting position. All that should have had to happen so he could fire was for the bird to break his strut. But when the turkey dropped his feathers, stuck his head up and looked around for the hen, Shaw’s gun failed to report. Instead the turkey walked off. Forty-five minutes later, I asked Shaw why he didn’t shoot, to which he replied, “If I can’t get a tom to within 15 steps, then I don’t take him. To play the game fairly, I believe the hunter should make the turkey come that close before he shoots. If the bird doesn’t get that close, he’s earned the right to walk off.”
1) Should Shaw have shot the bird?
2) Would you have taken the bird?
3) How close do you let a bird come before you shoot?
4) How far is out of range?

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewA turkey hunter’s ethical code dictates when, where and how he’ll shoot. A lucky hunter for some sportsmen may be a breach of moral code for others. Therefore the conflict arises. In your opinion, if the hunter misses a shot – no matter what the circumstances – has he earned the right to take the bird? Or, is there a fair way, an acceptable way, an ethical way to bag a gobbler. If the gobbler doesn’t come in to where the hunter is, in compliance with the code, is the hunter honor-bound not to shoot? What’s your opinion?

To learn more about turkey hunting from the masters, get these Kindle eBooks by John E. Phillips, including: “The Turkey Hunter's Bible (available as an eBook or in paperback),”PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the World,” “Turkey Hunting Tactics” and his latest eBook, “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting.” Click on the links above, or go to, type in the names of the books, and download them to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.


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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Check back each day this week for more about What Are Your Personal Rules for Hunting Wild Turkeys?"

Day 1: Is the Sport of Turkey Hunting and Turkey Calling the Same?
Day 2: Taking the Flying Turkey Gobbler and the Slow Tom
Day 3: Hunting the Lightning Turkey and the Air Gobbler and the Dirt Road Tom
Day 4: Hunting the Field Turkey and the Spooked Gobbler
Day 5: Hunting the Processional Tom and the Not Close Enough Gobbler

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Entry 763, Day 5