Are You and Your Shotgun Set For Spring Turkey Hunting?

Each spring I am fortunate enough to guide spring turkey hunters from across the United States and Canada. I have watched spring turkey hunters come into camp with vests filled with calls, decoys, high-dollar turkey guns and knowledge. And each season these hunters miss their Chautauqua County spring longbeard only because their gun isn’t sighted in.

Choosing a firearm is a personal choice. Some folks make their choice based on money and while that is an important element in purchasing any piece of equipment, when it comes to a firearm it shouldn’t be the primary reason.

In today’s world there are dozens of choices for turkey guns. From pump to semi-auto to single shot, and from wood, to camo and to synthetic, picking a turkey gun is a personal decision.

One of the first things I tell hunters is to know what type of hunting you are going to do. If you do a lot of run-and-gun style of hunting, which means you’ll be moving around a lot, a lighter gun will serve you well. If you hunt primarily fields and are not moving so much, one can get away with a heavier gun.

There are many important aspects to spring gobbler hunting, but it is all for naught if you can’t hit your target.

I have a couple turkey guns and although I know their range and how they shoot, each year I take them to my local rod and gun club to site them in with different makes of shells. While I know what shell shoots best in each gun, I am always looking for that perfect turkey load.

Over the past several years one of the biggest additions to turkey hunting has been the advent of choke tubes. OK, I know chokes tubes have been around for a long time, but today’s choke tubes aren’t your grandfather’s choke tubes.

Most of today’s shotguns are able to accept choke tubes, so if your gun is fairly new, you’re in business.

Depending on what you are looking for your gun to do and the distance that you are comfortable with, I am sure there is a choke tube on the market that will help you out. For those who aren’t sure what a choke tube can do for you, just put in an improved choke tube and stand back away from a paper target 40 yards, shoot a load of No. 5s and then do the same with a full choke. You will quickly notice the difference in the number of pellets in and around your aiming point.

Next, screw in an extra full or special turkey choke tube and you will quickly see the difference. Here is another example that with a turkey choke (or what some call gobbler-getter chokes which are classified as super or extra-full) you’ll find a much higher percentage of pattern in the kill zone on a turkey target than you would with just a standard full choke.

Each year, as with most things, companies introduce new products and choke tubes aren’t any different. Through some informal field testing that has been conducted in a secret location in southern Chautauqua County, I have come up with some suggestions on turkey choke tubes.

HeviShot Dead Coyote choke tubes work best when used with HeviShot or Dead Coyote No. 5s.

The Undertaker Ported turkey tubes worked great and delivered 90 percent of the pellets inside a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. The Undertaker choke we worked with patterned better with lead or copper-plated lead shot.

As a guide I have seen it all, but the most frustrating thing is when I get a bird into range and my hunter misses the bird. Now I am not going to tell you that I haven’t missed birds before. Heck, that is a part of the sport. Any spring turkey hunter who tells you he has never missed a turkey is either not being truthful or hasn’t hunted a lot. Either way, misses are a part of our sport. Actually I would prefer to have a guy miss a bird than hit him and not find him.

The majority of gun manufacturers have discovered that turkey hunters will spend the bucks for a special gun for their favorite pursuit. In today’s world of specialties and micro-management, there are several choices for every style of turkey hunting.

For spring birds I like a shotgun that will shoot an excellent pattern at 40 yards or more than half the load in the kill zone. Some use folks use 4s, 5s or 6s for spring gobblers, but I prefer 4s or 5s. Also, it’s important to shoot the heaviest load your gun and you can handle, but one that won’t “blow out” the pattern. In today’s spring turkey world it’s best go with 3 shells in a 12 or 20 gauge. A 20 gauge is best for young or female hunters.

When sighting in a gun, it’s important to realize that a head and upper neck shot will put any bird down for the count. It’s imperative to know where your gun patterns and then shoot there. I generally encourage hunters to aim just below the head on the neck, which will maximize your pattern.

Whichever gun, shell, choke or load you choose, it’s vital that you test it and know it’s kill zone.