Advantages of Small Bore Turkey Shotguns
Most turkey hunters have probably never used anything but a .12-gauge when hunting turkeys. Why would you? It is the perfect combination of power and range for taking longbeards, especially considering the advances to turkey shotguns and accessories over the last few years. Unknown to most, there are several reasons to choose a small bore shotgun for turkeys.
Small Bore Turkey Shotguns
Before we touch on the reasons why you would downsize your shotgun for turkeys, we first need to define what “small bore” means when it comes to turkey hunting shotguns. Small bore refers to any shotgun that is less than the traditional .12-gauge shotgun used by most turkey hunters. These would include, primarily, the .20-gauge and .410-gauge shotguns available on the market.
The evolution of the turkey gun in the last decade has gotten us more deadly shotshells and the promise from high-end shotguns of being able to drop a bird out to 50 and even 60 yards. Of course, this is better, right? Well not necessarily. All of this innovation leaves most hunters confused about what turkey shotgun accessories such as choke tubes, shotshells and ultimately turkey hunting gun recommendations they should be using. Let’s remember that the target on a turkey is a small diameter (2-3 inch) circle at the base of the neck. These improved .12-gauge shotguns and all that go with them certainly have the punch to take a turkey’s head right off, let alone hit one in the kill zone.
This is where the small bore turkey guns come into play. Killing a bird successfully is about getting close. Most turkeys are killed within 25 yards, regardless of the shotgun used, so the need for highly complex shotshells and long-range shotguns is minimized to some extent. Instead of spending time testing different shotgun shells and seeing how far you can shoot a turkey silhouette on the range, focus on getting close this spring, which takes all the complexity out of the picture.
How to Kill a Turkey with a .20-gauge Shotgun
You will only be willing to give up your trusted turkey gun if you actually are able to take a bird down with a smaller gauge turkey hunting gun. Here are three key tips you need to know in order to kill a turkey with a .20-gauge shotgun.
- Find the right turkey loads. You can stretch a .20-gauge shot out a few more yards with the right turkey load. Try different brands and different shot sizes until you have one patterned consistently in the kill zone at 30 yards.
- Know you have to be patient. Killing a turkey with a smaller bore shotgun will require more patience because the bird will need to be closer. More time observing the amazement of a strutting Tom around your decoys is not necessarily a bad thing.
- Good shots are a must. The power in a .20-gauge load will be slightly less than the .12-gauge shell and also hold less shot. Along with patience, you have to be sure of a good, clean shot in order to reduce misses and wounded birds.
Advantages to Choosing Small Bore Turkey Shotguns
There are several advantages to using turkey hunting shotguns that are chambered in smaller calibers. The first is that these smaller chambered shotguns for turkey hunting are usually lighter and more compact than its larger .12-gauge brother. You might think it is only a pound or two difference, but that pound of weight can mean a lot in the woods. Lighter shotguns allow you to shoulder your gun for longer periods of time compared to heftier shotguns for turkeys. When that gobbler hangs up just out of range or he is coming in silent, being able to hold your shotgun in a shooting position without moving can be all the difference in getting a shot off. Also, there often comes a time in the spring gobbler season when you have to put in miles on the ground to seek out unresponsive birds. Toting a heavy turkey hunting gun over ridge tops all morning can put some serious strain on your shoulder. Lighter variations of turkey shotguns let you cover more ground when you need to find the birds.
The second advantage to turkey guns in lighter gauges are the doors they open up to other hunters. For instance, these calibers are much better suited for young hunters. The recoil from larger caliber shotguns for turkeys on a youngster’s shoulder can cause them to miss and more important scare them from continuing the sport. A knock down from a big bore shotgun on a kid’s shoulder can scare them from shooting it again. These small bore shotguns not only are easier for kids to control from a weight and size standpoint like we previously mentioned, but they have less recoil. If you are a parent of an up and coming turkey hunter, start out by purchasing an all-purpose .410 caliber shotgun like the Mossberg 510 Super Batam. With good turkey hunting and the right shells, your kids can easily drop an old tom at 20- to 30-yards.
The .20-gauges are even more versatile for youth hunters because you can use them yourself for a few years turkey hunting while also teaching your kids how to shoot them. The Benelli Nova Youth APG is one shotgun for turkeys that fits this description. Once they are ready for the woods, this Benelli turkey gun can give you a few more yards of range without the recoil of larger, more traditional turkey guns. Most shotguns come with or have the ability to accept expandable butt spacers to add or remove length as needed as your kids grow with the shotgun. This is also a great feature, along with reduced recoil, for women and senior turkey hunters.
Finally, there comes the all-important cost aspect. Smaller bore shotguns are going to save you some money from the gun itself to the cost of shotgun shells. Turkey shells are going to be a few dollars cheaper than their .12-gauge counterpart. A significant difference if you are spending substantial time on the range. In addition, you can expect to save anywhere from a few tens of dollars to a few hundred dollars when buying a smaller bore turkey gun. Smaller gauge shotguns are often the best turkey gun for the money, and price alone makes it a good reason to check them out.
Shotguns for Turkey Are Only One of Many Parts to Being Successful
The shotgun has transformed from a general firearm for hunting all sorts of game into a highly specialized weapon designed for specific species. Turkey shotguns evolved from here just like waterfowl shotguns. The shotgun is only one part of the turkey hunt, however. Smaller caliber shotguns reduce your effective range, no doubt. But if you are a sloppy caller or move frequently as a gobbler works his way in, it will not matter how far you can shoot. Choosing to forego a .12-gauge shotgun for turkeys and pick up a lighter, more compact smaller bore turkey shotgun has many advantages while also knowing you have to up your turkey skills for a clean, effective shot.