A cliché holds that if you haven’t missed a turkey, you haven’t hunted them much. That’s true, but it doesn’t make you feel better when the inevitable happens. Here’s how to bounce back after you whiff on a gobbler.
Follow up if possible: Don’t let shock or a bruised ego prevent you from staying focused. Sometimes, gobblers just jump or move a few feet after being shot at. If that happens, readjust your gun, regain your focus and shoot the bird. This does not mean you should shoot at a flying turkey or one racing through thick timber. That often makes matters worse.
Also, make sure a miss was clean. Watch a fleeing gobbler for any sign of injury or odd behavior. If he flies away low, locks his wings and glides down a short distance from you, follow up. He might have taken some pellets to the chest or neck. Likewise, check the shot site for feathers or other evidence of a hit. If you find black-tipped breast feathers, follow up as best as possible. Wounded turkeys don’t leave much of a blood trail, so this can be tough. Note where the turkey ran or flew, and search the area on a grid pattern. Pay special attention for an injured turkey crouched low or hiding in brush.
Determine the cause: First, check your surroundings. Unseen saplings or stumps can derail your pattern. If you don’t find evidence of a deflection, remember the shot. Were you steady? Did your aim feel true? Hit the range to see if your gun’s point of impact has changed. Also, check your sights or scope to make sure they’re locked down tight.
Sometimes, you can’t figure out why you missed. That’s OK. Hunters are human, and we make mistakes. Double-checking the area and your gun will remove doubts and let you hunt with confidence.
Concentrate: You’ll think about a miss when you shoot at a turkey again — guaranteed. There’s no need to panic, though. As a bird approaches, go through your mental checklist for success. Follow the turkey with your gun as it moves through the woods. Don’t rush the shot, but don’t pass up a good opportunity in hopes of a slam-dunk, either. Make sure your gun is shouldered securely and your bead, red-dot or cross-hair is centered just above a gobbler’s wattles. Then squeeze the trigger just as you would any other time. A flopping gobbler will make you forget all about your earlier gaffe.
Get Over It: Don’t let a miss ruin your season or even the next day afield. Remember, turkey hunting is supposed to be fun. Laugh off your mistake, and resolve to avoid further whiffs. You’ll be back to killing turkeys in no time.