Missing a spring gobbler seems impossible. Just look at any turkey magazine and there’s that big tom, standing or strutting in the wide open… perfectly still…a shot that’s as easy as convenience store pie. WRONG! Hunters rarely fess-up, yet missing happens all the time. Last spring I missed one twice at 10 yards and when I finally realized the problem didn’t have a third shell in the chamber. Oh, the agony.
Why Hunters Miss?
Excitement, pure streaming adrenalin, is the reason most turkeys receive a get-off-the-table-free card because calling a wary tom into point blank range is heart-pounding excitement, pure and simple. However, there are gear changes you can make that will help tame your nerves or at least help you shoot competently at times of high excitement.
If you are an instinctive shooter, that is a person who doesn’t sight down the barrel, you may want to remove the front bead from your shotgun or use a black marker to dull the shine so that it won’t distract you. What??? Not sight down the barrel? Who does that? Actually, instinctive shooters, as with a bow, train their body to shoot where they look which takes practice. For the rest of us, self included, here are three ways to miss-proof your gun.
First, consider using a low magnification or red dot scope.
My Mossberg THUG combo shotgun has a slug barrel for deer and a turkey barrel for spring. Mounted on it is a Nikon ProStaff 2-7 variable power scope, an optic that works as well for deer at turkeys. Last year I had to call a flock of turkeys and one feisty gobbler lagged at the rear constantly staying within the protection of its hen harem. After calling to the bird for half an hour, I finally brought the whole gang to 20 yards and thanks to the 2X magnification and pinpoint accuracy of the reticule was able to take the big tom cleanly with no harm to the ladies.
If you are a deer hunter, you have experience at putting those cross hairs exactly where you aim, an action that dramatically helps you shoot better in times of great excitement. A red-dot scope will do the same, giving you a precise aiming point. If your shotgun won’t mount a scope consider an enhanced front sight like the one offered by Limbsaver, which makes that front bead easier to locate.
Find the load that patterns best in your shotgun
Even if your aim is perfect, you can still miss a turkey if your shotgun does not pattern evenly and a tom’s head may be lucky enough to correspond with a hole in your pattern. The trick here is to test pattern your shotgun scientifically from a bench, with a gun rest and a target at 40 yards. The most economical way to do this is with buddies where each person brings a different load, just save the celebratory beverages until all guns are back in their cases.
Test at 10 and 40 yards
Today’s tightly chokes turkey guns throw a baseball size pattern at close range which makes your shotgun shoot like a rifle. Turkey heads bob, weave, and duck so take a practice shot at 10 yards to be sure your sight is dead on. Learn to make a distinct “puck” with a diaphragm caller so that when a gobbler approaches, ideally to 30 yards, you can make it stick its head up for the perfect shot. Works every time.