By Jeff Kurrus
About 10 years ago, while dove hunting during the Christmas holidays in Tennessee, a group of friends and I got on a hot streak shooting dove that were feeding in a sorghum field. Over a 5 day stint, I limited out each day, shooting no more than 2 boxes of shells on any day (most often shooting just over a box). On the last hunt, a bird flew in early and my first thought was “that bird’s out of range,” but I had been shooting so well that I took a shot anyway. The bird dropped from the air. When I retrieved it, the bird fell 52 yards away from my shooting location. That day, I had my worst shooting morning of the week, killing 10 birds while shooting more than 2 boxes of shells. It was a lesson learned about knowing your range and staying within that range, regardless of how itchy your trigger finger is. Or so I thought it was a lesson learned.
Fast forward to last year when a long stalk on a turkey left me tired, weary, and also slight out of range. But I was shooting 30-inch full choke No. 4′s, so I took a shot at a bird at 55 yards. The bird rolled over, and I felt like I was Tom Selleck from Quigley Down Under.
Fast forward to early this turkey season when I topped a hill with turkeys at about 75 yards. Remembering my shot from a year prior, I crawled nearly 25 yards, centered a tom up, and fired. The bird rolled, stood up, and ran like hell. I never got off another shot, and I never saw the bird again.
Fast forward one last time to this morning. I topped a hill and saw at least 3 birds, with at least one being a tom, at about 300 yards away. Conveniently, there was a woody creek bed right next to me, which I ducked in and walked, crawled, and scraped my way to within 100 yards of them. To which I then ducked back into the woods, crept closer, and crawled to the grassy edge at, you guessed it, 50 yards to the birds.
In this group there were 2 toms and one hen. Having no idea I was there, the birds were doing what I’ve seen countless birds doing in fields – they were feeding in large circles, having no particular place to be without a care in the world. But despite this knowledge and past experience, even though I had just shown great patience by coating my clothes with mud and debris while sneaking up the creek, I lost all semblance of patience for no good reason.
I took the first clear shot I had at a tom more than 50 yards away even though the birds showed no signs of distancing themselves from me. When I shot, the bird jumped, obviously hit. I shot again, and the bird again jumped. On the third shot, I heard the pellets hitting the bird. But it didn’t stop him. It barely slowed him down as he ran, flew, and escaped with me running through a field trying to close the distance between us before he finally disappeared.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I yelled in the woods. “DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! Stupid, stupid, stupid! You know better, you know better. You stupid $&!^.”
Now, no more than 2 hours removed from the woods, I can’t help but shake my head every time I think about it. I did everything…take that back…almost everything right, again.
Damn. How stupid can you get?
Know your range, know your quarry, know your pattern, and most importantly, know how you’ll feel when you take a bad shot.
Then just don’t take one.