The most obvious shot to those unfamiliar with turkey hunting might be, just like with deer, trying to take a shot at the biggest part of the animal, the chest area and vitals beneath it. But that is a mistake that will more often than not wind up with a wounded bird.
"Avoid body shots on turkeys at all costs," said Turkey Call magazine Editor Jay Langston in a recent episode of Turkey Call television. "Their breasts are heavily muscled and tough to penetrate with even the heaviest turkey load."
The only ethical and reliably effective area to place your shot is in the head and neck of the turkey, where lead shot can easily penetrate the skull and spinal column for a quick, humane kill. This is an area about the size of a five iron, so possessing the ability to accurately place a tight shot pattern is crucial.
Langston recommends waiting for the gobbler to extend his neck, because when a tom is strutting, his spinal column is compressed and his head partially hidden by his feathers, making for an even smaller target area.
What if the bird doesn't come out of strut? Give him a loud cluck with your call or a sharp whistle. Some hunters even simply shout a "hey you" at the bird. Either way, be ready when he looks, because the next thing you're going to see after he lifts his head and realizes you're a hunter is his tail feathers as he makes a quick escape.
Another key aspect to making a clean shot on your bird is the correct choice of loads. Turkeys are not easy to bring down, but a dense pattern of hard shot will do the job. Most shooters have their own preferences, but the real test should be put on paper.
"You should be able to put at least eight or 10 pellets in the vitals at 40 yards," said Langston.
The only way to tell is to head to the range and set up a target at 30 yards. Then, try a few load and choke combinations to see which one puts the most pellets in the vital zone.
Winchester has an excellent turkey load with their Supreme "Black Box" turkey loads.
These shells throw lead at around 1300 fps and scored four straight victories at the National Wild Turkey Federation's "National Still Target Championship". In this competition, shooters take aim at a target from 40 yards away with various shotguns, loads, and chokes. For four years straight, the winner had a Winchester Supreme load in the chamber. They also broke the "more is better" rule, by winning with the 12-gauge 3-inch magnum shell with 1-3/4 ounces of shot. They are not only the fastest on the market, but they also deliver denser patterns.
Remington Premier ® and Duplex® Turkey Loads
Remington has two fine offerings in the turkey load arena. Their Premier Magnums
are their original turkey load and still one of the finest to carry into the woods. When combined with a tight turkey choke, the Power Piston shot cup and buffered Copper-Lokt® shot gives you impressive knockdown power.
Remington's Premier Duplex Magnums give you the versatility of having two shot sizes in one shell. With layered #4 shot over #6, you get the benefits of increased energy and pattern density.
Originally, chokes were integral to shotgun barrels and were non-changeable. However, in the last 20 years chokes have evolved into a changeable design that now comes standard on most shotguns. While changeable choke tubes have increased the versatility of shotguns, most did not achieve tight enough patterns to be effective on turkeys at longer distances. It has only been in the last ten years that "turkey choke tubes" have evolved and begun to play a vital role in extending the effective range of turkey guns.
A few years ago, the most common turkey choke was the factory full choke. Then, factories began offering "turkey full" tubes which were nothing more than more tightly constricted models of their "full" offering. Today, more specifically designed turkey tubes are available than ever before.
M.A.D. and Comp - N- ChokeTM
both offer a great selection of after-market turkey tubes for many common shotguns. The big advantage to these tubes are that they both are extended, which allows for a more gradual constriction of shot, translating to less pellet deformation. Both tubes are a ported design, reducing the amount of rearward recoil as the ports bleed off some of the gas from the muzzle and direct it to the sides. By bleeding off this gas, the tubes also create tighter, more consistent shot patterns as the gas does not disrupt the shot pattern.
Pattern Master also makes a unique extended turkey tube that encompasses many of the same features as both the MAD and Comp-N-Choke, but with some added advantages. In addition to the gradual tapered constriction and porting, Pattern Master tubes also have a patented design which actually slows the wad, effectively separating it from the shot column as it leaves the muzzle, producing tighter and more consistent patterns.
One thing to remember about all choke tubes and loads is that not every one will produce the same results in the same gun. Tubes are made to fit certain tolerances, as are shotgun barrels. If the barrel is on the high end of tolerance and the tube is on the low end, too much constriction can occur, thereby spraying the pattern much like a garden hose. On the other end of the spectrum, if the tolerances are reversed, no significant gain in pattern density or size will be noticed. The best idea is to try several choke tubes and load combinations in your gun to determine which one will perform the best.
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