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Turkey Fanning – The Controversy and Method
Turkey fanning has made a major comeback as a hunting methodology — here is what you need to know
A while back we got this idea that we wanted to switch up our turkey hunting season and try turkey fanning. Although relatively new to mainstream hunting at the time, it’s a tradition that goes very far back in turkey decoys. And it goes without saying that it has created a lot of controversy across the hunting community about the ethics and etiquette of the turkey woods. Many states have now moved to ban the practice if laws were not already in place. Nevertheless, we all have a lot of questions about fanning turkeys so we caught up with Will Downard, founder of Turkey Fan to go over the three big questions about turkey fanning.
Is fanning turkeys safe?
This is a lot of people’s question right out of the gate and understandably so. Safety should always be the first concern in hunting. Will had some solid guidelines that he suggested and adheres by, opening the statement by saying “as long as you use it responsibly it’s safer than traditional turkey hunting.”
- You need to be clearly visible on three sides when using the turkey fan: from behind and on both sides, making the only questionable direction in front of you. By only deploying the fan when live birds are in front of you, your best awareness of other hunters comes from the birds themselves.
- You should only have the fan deployed for live birds you are stalking directly in front of you.
- Use this method in open terrain.
- Do not sneak up on or stalk “calls,” only visible live birds.
- Be just as aware and responsible on private land as on public land.
- As in all hunting, be aware of your surroundings. Using common sense and responsible sporting can make this technique safer than traditional standards. It’s also important to note that as fanning is becoming more popular than ever, always remember someone else may be out there using a fan also. First and foremost, always identify your target and beyond before pulling the trigger.
Does turkey fanning work?
From firsthand experience I will say, yes it works. Some years ago I tagged birds in two states that fell victim to fanning tactics in under 15 minutes. The most impressive part for me was that one bird had proved to be nearly impossible to kill for myself, as well as for a bunch of other local hunters on a piece of state property. Once I introduced the turkey fan into the mix things turned in my favor in moments once the big tom saw the deployed turkey fan.
However, one must question the ethics as well as the sustainability of turkey fanning. The story above is the equivalent of entering a cheat code to beat a video game and the older I get the more I recognize that killing a bird with a cheat code negates the true experience of what turkey hunting is. The recent decline in turkey populations in some states only points further towards issues of the sustainability of the practice. And as the popularity has grown so have the issues surrounding safety.
READ: The Oxymoron of Success and Failure in Turkey Hunting
Maybe Will is a bit biased on the subject, but creating Turkey Fan was in and of itself a commitment to something he believed in. The internet is full of firsthand videos and success stories of fanning from all parts of the country. Although I have yet to have this method fail me, I am sure there are moments it is not foolproof.
According to Will, the turkey fanning method will increase the success rate of traditional hunting from 20 percent to 70 percent. “Using the right method and decoy that has natural movement to it, such as the turkey fan can increase those odds even more.”
Should I try it?
Project Upland recognizes that many issues surround the use of fans. Whether you use it as a tactic after that is truly up to your own judgment. Hunting is not a “sport” in the classic sense but rather a natural evolution of predator and prey. Our quarry will adapt to our methods forcing us to adapt with them. It is one of the greatest appeals of hunting while fanning maybe something you add to arsenal of turkey hunting tactics, it cannot replace the challenge that it should be. Furthermore the long term impacts and our personal decision on the use of this tactic is the moment that ethics meets true conservation.
Will from Turkey Fan put it like this. “If you want a chance to experience a dominant tom running in, gobbling, spitting, and drumming so close you can feel the vibrations, as he tries to intimidate you with only a thin turkey fan between you and him, then turkey fanning is the way to go.”
A.J. DeRosa founded Project Upland in 2014 as an excuse to go hunting more often (and it worked). A New England native, he grew up hunting and has spent over 30 years in pursuit of big and small game species across three continents. He started collecting guns on his 18th birthday and eventually found his passion for side-by-side shotguns, inspiring him to travel the world to meet the people and places from which they come. Looking to turn his passion into inspiration for others, AJ was first published in 2004 and went on to write his first book The Urban Deer Complex in 2014. He soon discovered a love for filmmaking, particularly the challenge of capturing ruffed grouse with a camera, which led to the award-winning Project Upland film series. AJ's love for all things wild has caused him to advocate on the federal and state levels to promote and expand conservation policy, habitat funding, and upland game bird awareness. He currently serves as the Strafford County New Hampshire Fish & Game Commissioner in order to give back to his community and to further the mission of the agency. When those hunting excuses are in play, you can find him wandering behind his Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in the mountains of New England and anywhere else the birds take them.
It says a lot about a person’s character in how they harvest a game bird or animal. Think about the significance of that statement. Social media has done so much to really screw up our hunting heritage and distort what hunting is really about.
“The most impressive part for me was that one bird had proved to be nearly impossible to kill for myself, as well as for a bunch of other local hunters on a piece of state property.”
That statement really gives you all you need to know about the ethics behind “fanning” or “reaping” a bird. It’s pretty well akin to spot-lighting a mature buck and then bragging about how well the method works. Like the comment above mentions, “It says a lot about a person’s character in how they harvest a game bird or animal.”
It’s also a fine way to be shot in the face by another hunter. Even if you are visible on three sides.