When I was a kid, there was a guy named James Carr who visited my hunting club in Harpersville, Ala., with his son, Jimmy, every year on the opening day of turkey season.
Neither of them hunted anymore, but they showed up every opening day to tell a story they hoped would help others hunt safely for years to come.
James had grown up turkey hunting, and he had an impressive collection of beards and spurs to prove just how good he had been with a diaphragm call in his turkey hunting prime.
But when he was 38 years old, a tragedy brought his turkey-hunting career to a screeching halt and changed his life forever.
James was walking into the woods just after daylight on the opening morning of the season when he said it felt like a bomb went off inside his camouflage cap.
"I was easing into the woods, holding my shotgun in one hand and a box call in the other hand," he said. "Then all of a sudden, I was on the ground and it felt like my face was on fire."
In the midst of the terrifying situation, James wasn't sure what had happened.
Fearing that his gun or one of his own shells might have exploded, he crawled as far away from them as he could. But then his worst fears were confirmed.
Another hunter -- a man James had never met before -- came running in and knelt at James' side. The man had seen James slipping through the woods, mistook him for a turkey and hit him in the face with a No. 4 shot from a Remington 1100 12-gauge.
The man could have fled the scene and left James lying there, perhaps to die. But to his credit, he owned up to his tragic mistake he'd made and went for help.
James said while he was lying there on the ground waiting for the other hunter to return with help, he heard three different turkeys gobble.
But the gobbles didn't mean anything to him -- and he knew they never would again. He was blinded permanently.
Now every year when turkey season rolls around, I think about that story.
You should, too.
As deer hunters during the fall and winter, we've all come to rely on florescent orange as our safety net.
We dress in camouflage clothing from head to toe and top the ensemble with a bright orange vest and hat -- and since deer can't see warm, bright colors like florescent orange, we're hidden from our quarry but plenty visible to other hunters in the area.
Wild turkeys are much more complicated.
Head-to-toe camouflage is a must for turkey hunting -- and if you top your turkey camo with an orange vest, you might never see the first gobbler.
In fact, I've spooked more than one turkey through the years by accidentally leaving a little patch of my white tube socks visible above my boots. They're that observant.
Turkey hunting requires a different approach than deer hunting -- and because of that, hunters have to expend a little extra effort to remain safe.
On today's page, I've included 10 safety tips from the National Wild Turkey Federation that can help you stay safe in the woods. But the tips are designed to help turkey hunters avoid getting shot.
Always remember that accidental shootings often ruin lives on both ends of the gun.
The guy who mistook James Carr for a turkey was a lifelong hunter who, by all accounts, had never made a mistake anywhere near that magnitude before.
Apparently, the guilt was too much for him because he took his own life eight months after accidentally robbing James of his sight.
As turkey season begins this weekend, use the 10 safety tips from the NWTF to avoid avoid being shot.
Then use some common sense to avoid shooting anyone else.
If you're not 100 percent sure that your target is a legal wild turkey, don't shoot.
If it is a turkey and it gets away, you'll get over it.
But if you take a shot like the one that blinded James, there will be no guarantees.
by: Bryan Brasher
10 TIPS FOR A SAFE SPRING TURKEY HUNT
Leave the area if you suspect there's another hunter already working the same bird.
Resist the urge to stalk turkey sounds. It is nearly impossible to sneak up on a turkey. It is also unethical and could lead to an accident.
Select a spot that is in open timber rather than thick brush: wearing camouflage clothing and eliminating movement is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover.
Sit against a large stump, blow-down, tree trunk or rock that is wider than your shoulders and higher than your head when calling wild turkeys.
Never wear bright colors, especially not red, white, blue or black because these are the colors of a wild turkey gobbler. Watch out for red, white or blue on your socks, T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, hats, bandannas, etc. Wear dark undershirts and socks, and pants long enough to be tucked into boots.
Remain still and speak in a loud, clear voice to announce your presence to other hunters if necessary. Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence.
Keep your hands and head camouflaged when calling.
Maintain a clear field of view when using a camouflage blind or netting.
Ensure your decoy is not visible when you are transporting it. Stash the decoy in your vest and make sure the head is not sticking out. If you harvest a wild turkey during your hunting trip, you also should cover the bird's head and body when carrying it out from your hunting spot.
Put your gun's safety on and approach all downed birds with your firearm pointed in a safe direction after firing. Never run with a firearm.
Source: National Wild Turkey Federation