Choosing a Shotgun
It’s mid-February now, with the spring turkey season only a month away or so, I am excited about that. I just hope my son doesn’t have too many Saturday lacrosse games during the turkey season so I can get out and try to get me a bird. I will be doing scouting as much as possible in the area that I intend to hunt not too far from home. It is a mountainous area, but not much more than 8,000 feet in elevation. I have not hunted this area before, but I fish there frequently, and I have seen plenty of turkeys.
I have several shotguns, but my preference is a 12 gauge Mossberg 500 pump. It has been a very good gun for many years on all types of birds. But this year I am thinking of getting a new shotgun with a camo pattern since turkeys have such good eye sight. I will most likely stick with a Mossberg as they are very affordable, durable, reliable, and I have a lot of confidence in that gun. As the popularity of turkey hunting has exploded, gun manufacturers have responded with many types of guns made specifically for turkey hunting. However I believe in the basics and in versatility, so I am going to stick with what I know to be a proven gun, and one that is useful for other birds as well, or even deer with a changeable rifled barrel.
If you are choosing a new gun for turkey hunting, or any other hunting, there are some important things to consider:
- Does the gun fit you?
- With the butt of the gun at your elbow crease, your finger should be on the trigger, or close to it, allowing for extra clothing.
- Pull the gun to your shoulder and aim the barrel. Does the swinging action feel smooth and comfortable?
- Does the weight feel comfortable? Adjust your forehand on the barrel to test your hold of the gun. You should be able to hold it steady for 30 seconds comfortably. You should also be able to carry the gun over long distances with ease. I like to use a shoulder strap for my shotgun when turkey hunting and sometimes for waterfowl, so make sure it has the capacity to put on a strap and remove it for upland birds.
- A bigger gun isn’t always better, it is the load and choke combination that you choose that is more important. You can hunt turkeys with a 20 gauge just fine if you are using the right load, pellet material, and choke. A #6 load is sufficient for turkey, but everyone has their opinions on that. My opinion is that a #6, 3” shell works fine. The key to gun and load combination is patterning your gun.
- A good pattern for your gun should be 100 pellets within a 10” circle at 40 yards. To do this you need to spend time in the field or at a range patterning your gun just like you would do with a rifle. Use a large sheet of paper and a rest, and experiment with the loads and chokes that will get you this pattern.
- While I have hunted successfully for years without a camo patterned gun, I am leaning towards getting one now. That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful without a camo gun. There are camo sleeves or tape that you can use if you want to camo a blued gun with a wood stock or synthetic stock. If you are buying new, the difference in price for a camo gun compared to a traditional gun is not significant.
- The best advice is to get to know your gun and your limitations with what you can or can’t do with it. This takes time in the field practicing, which is always a good thing to do. You have to be confident in your ability to use your gun, to know at what range you can be successful at, and to be assured that you are comfortable shooting from a sitting position at various angles.
The fact is, if you have a shotgun today, it will work just fine for turkey hunting as long as you pattern your gun, use the right load and choke combination, and be confident of your range. That all comes from practice and experimentation, which is another great excuse to get out in the woods and do some shooting this weekend.