On The Ridge with Joe Judd: The history behind those little green stickers

Published: 03-13-2024 4:01 PM

A few weeks back during this year’s Springfield Sportsmen’s Show, I found myself in conversation with many different people regarding the green “hunt safely” stickers that are required by law in Massachusetts to have positioned on your gun during turkey hunting season. And, of course, accompanying these conversations were many negative comments, with people expressing their own uneducated thoughts and ideas about being required to use this “hunt safely” sticker while turkey hunting in the Bay State.

Some of these comments went way beyond the simple nonsense of someone not knowing what the hell they’re talking about. For example: “If anybody needs a sticker to hunt safely, they have no business being in the woods,” or, “Requiring someone to put a “hunt safely” sticker on their gun to hunt turkeys is one of the dumbest regulations on the books.”

Then there was “It’s totally absurd,” which is just a stupid comment! But the best one I heard was, “What if you were using a fine shotgun? Would you want to put a sticker on the wood of a beautiful stock?” Egads!

And as this continued throughout the entire weekend, eventually leading me to several social media pages with even worse rhetoric than what I was hearing at the show, I realized that people just don’t understand the history of how this sticker came to be. So after giving this matter some serious thought, I decided that a history lesson was in order.

The issue of the how the “hunt safely” sticker in Massachusetts became a law came to a head during the early 1990’s, when the first official death during turkey hunting season was reported. This brought sadness and great confusion to everyone involved, as this was something that no one had experienced in our brief history as a turkey hunting state. It was a very difficult thing for many people to absorb! During this period, Wayne Macallum, the Director of Mass. Fish & Wildlife back then, was working hard to keep things calm while searching for solutions. That eventually led to bringing in the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation to participate in those first discussions, giving us a role that we’d never had before. To his credit, Wayne listened, as our first Regional Director, Gary Tanner, Gary Miller, and myself, brought an idea forward which was later brought to the State Wildlife Board of Directors for more deliberation. This Board also listened to our idea, which was to invite representatives up from Edgefield, S.C. to explain a different approach to this issue, as people whose experiences in these matters outweighed ours by decades.

And it was through these meetings that the confusion slowly began to subside, with reasonable ideas surfacing during a period when turkey hunting in Massachusetts was still in its infancy stages, but in jeopardy of massive changes. And in the end, what started as a very hard conversation became productive talks that spawned an idea that, I believe, changed the course of turkey hunting history in Massachusetts. And that idea was the “hunt safely” stickers campaign which we were hearing about for the very first time, and that other states had already implemented with great success.

This sticker, that is still in use today, works to keep Massachusetts hunters aware, alert, and safe as a constant reminder to “hunt safely.” And this little green sticker truly saved the day back then and kept us from sliding backward into an abyss that may have taken decades to recover from. Every time I look down and see that sticker, which by the way goes on the top of where the receiver and the stock wood meet, I think back to those days, and will always be grateful for being allowed to help with a decision that would eventually alter the course of wild turkey hunting in Massachusetts while having a long-lasting effect on the sport, right through to this very day. Wayne gave us credibility and respect by allowing us to participate at that level, he opened the door to our partnership, through this one decision, while saving the lives of more turkey hunters, both in this state and beyond, than we may ever fully realize.

So to the unaware critics, get over it! Because the bottom line is this; the worst thing we can do as a hunting community is to ridicule the rules that are in place to keep us safe. Safety is not something to be taken lightly when it comes to using firearms. If every turkey hunter that looks down at that sticker knows WHY it’s there, then accidents and unethical shots can be avoided. Even if it’s just a little green sticker helping us to remember that!

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff. He can be reached at jjontheridge@comcast.net

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