Range Estimation Made Easy
Is that boss tom strutting your way within range, or should you wait just a little longer? It's a dilemma that many turkey hunters experience every year. Shoot too soon and you could make an unethical shot; wait too long and you risk having a bird get spooked and fly away.
Range estimation is a skill that must be learned through repetitive practice. A lot of novice turkey hunters do their homework (practicing calling, patterning their guns and outfitting themselves in full camouflage) only to go afield without a skill that is equally as important.
It has been proven in military field tests that the average person estimates range with a probable margin of error of 30 percent. If the average untrained person has a 30 percent error handicap it's a pretty sure bet that a lot of turkey hunters go afield ill-prepared.
Borrowing a method from the bow hunting fraternity is the simplest way to accurately judge distance. Several range-finding devices are available to help you estimate distance in the NWTF's Turkey Shoppe.
Waiting until that big gobbler is coming to your call is obviously not the time to try out a range finder. Instead, find various landmarks, trees, rocks, etc., measure and memorize their distance when you first set up. That way, by the time a tom strolls within range, you will be ready to shoot instead of fumbling with the rangefinder.
There's another method that works well if you don't own a range finder. Have a partner place a turkey decoy at an unknown distance in the woods, sit down and guess the yardage. Vary the terrain, lighting conditions and thickness of brush to offer true hunting situations.
Remember to sit down to estimate range because things look deceptively different from different heights. Take turns at this game and your range estimation will dramatically improve. Several NWTF chapters have incorporated this game into their JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) youth events with a lot of success.
Turkey season is just around the corner, so take the opportunity soon to sharpen your range estimation skills. A little practice now will make you a better turkey hunter.