Posts

Finding the Best Turkey Shotgun

What Gauge Shotgun is Best for Turkey Hunting?

You can’t go wrong with a 12-gauge shotgun when it comes to killing turkeys.  Not only is it the most versatile shotgun size for hunting multiple game species, but it also has the most options when it comes to finding the right load for your target species – especially turkeys. However, after the remarkable success of many new turkey specific loads over the past couple of years, ammo manufacturers are now catching up and creating similar loads chambered in 20-gauge. Shop the Best New Turkey Loads for 2019.

The use of 20-gauge shotguns for turkey hunting is becoming ever more popular and it’s not just the kids toting them around the woods anymore. Again, with shotshell technology advancing, the 20-gauge has been likened by a tribe of turkey hunters who prefer to cover lots of ground in the run-and-gun style of hunting. The biggest advantage is the weight and size reduction of a 20-gauge versus a 12-gauge, which can wear on you after a long day of chasing gobblers. Another major advantage a 20-gauge boasts is its significant reduction in recoil. Recoil is often one of the biggest fears for youth when it comes to shooting guns, which is why a 20-gauge will be their best friend.

Whether you opt for a trusty 12-gauge or lighter 20-gauge, be sure to consider the chamber size before you purchase. Turkeys are in fact a big and tough bird…just ask any experienced turkey hunter and they are sure to have a story of a longbeard they rolled only to watch get up and fly out sight, leaving the hunter in a moment of disbelief. Don’t be that guy. While you can certainly kill birds with 2 ¾ – inch shells, it’s advised to have a shotgun that can tote a 3-inch or even a 3 ½ – inch shell.  Again, improvements in turkey specific ammo such as the Winchester LongBeard XR and Federal 3rd Degree have made the smaller 3-inch shell size more capable than ever. With larger cartridge sizes, it’s not to go without saying, the larger the shell, the more recoil – an important consideration especially when it comes to youth hunters.

What is the Ideal Barrel Length for Turkey Hunting?

Shorter barrels have become the general norm for turkey guns because they are more maneuverable and lighter to carry.  Choosing a turkey gun with a barrel length between 21 – 26 inches will suit you well.  The shorter barrel length of a turkey gun makes it easier to use in a blind and is ideal for both adult and youth hunters.

What is the Best Action Type for Turkey Hunting?

First, we’ll look at the semi-auto shotgun.  A semi-auto will allow you to get off a second shot quicker than a pump, but there is an increased likelihood of experiencing a jam. A good semi-auto will often times double as a great waterfowl gun, however, you’ll pay significantly more for a semi-auto.  Semi-autos also have less recoil and they eliminate the need to physically load another shell.

Now, on to the pump action shotgun.  Here you’ll find perhaps the most popular do-everything shotgun of all time, the Remington Model 870 Express.  Pump action guns are extremely reliable and durable with proper maintenance. They often come with an attractive price tag and are simpler to use.  With a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to cycle through rounds nearly as fast as a semi-auto.  In the end, turkeys are made to be taken with one shot, after that you’re just sending prayers down range.

Should I Get a Turkey Choke?

If you’re setting your gun up to be a dynamic turkey killing machine, you’ll definitely want to equip it with a turkey choke.  A turkey choke is basically an extra-full choke that will hold a tighter pattern at further distances, thus increasing your effective range. Turkey chokes aren’t always a one size fits all type of accessory and they often require testing multiple chokes with different turkey loads to hone in on the best combination for your specific gun. Taking the time to experiment and pattern your shotgun before the season is the only way to ensure your shotgun will be shooting a perfect pattern when that longbeard steps into range.

Best Turkey Hunting Shotguns

Now that we’ve cruised through the meat of considerations to account for when choosing a turkey hunting specific shotgun, here are a few specific shotguns that will serve you well in the woods this season.

Remington 870 Express

The Remington 870 Express has been a time-tested legend in the turkey hunting woods. Perhaps the most popular shotgun of its time, Remington has kicked it up a notch with The 870 Express Super Magnum Turkey/Waterfowl model. The dual-purpose bird slayer cycles 2 3/4″, 3″ and 3 1/2″ 12-gauge rounds interchangeably and features full Mossy Oak Bottomland camo coverage that blends into everything. The 26″ barrel with HiViz fiber-optics sights makes it ideal for virtually every turkey hunting or waterfowl situation. Best of all, you can get the 870 Express chambered in 12-gauge or 20-gauge.

Benelli M2 Turkey

If you’re looking for a higher end shotgun to withstand the torments of belly crawling through the brush as you creep closer to that gobbler, look no further than the Benelli M2. The M2 Field shotgun is light, ruggedly built, and fast handling. It is the backbone of the Benelli semi-auto line that cycles everything from target loads to the heaviest 3-inch magnums. The ComforTech™ recoil-reduction system with gel recoil and combo pads dampens recoil by up to 48% and significantly decreases muzzle jump. The Benelli M2 is also available in 12 and 20-gauge models.

Browning BPS

When you combine the proven reliability of the most revered, top end pump shotgun ever with the extremely sophisticated and durable Hi-Vis 4-in-1 sights, you have a turkey smashing machine. It helps to have the time-tested Browning EXTRA FULL SPECIAL choke tube to put a tight, consistent pattern exactly where it needs to be.

Mossberg 535

The Mossberg® 535 Turkey Pump-Action Shotgun is specifically designed for serious turkey hunting. The 535 cycles and shoots 2-3/4″, 3″, and 3-1/2″ shells flawlessly. The 535 turkey gun comes with front and rear adjustable fiber optic sights that put you on target quickly, even in the deep woods. An XX-Full choke tube shoots tight patterns to knock toms down at maximum shotgun range. The buttstock, forend, receiver, and barrel are all finished in Mossy Oak® Obsession™ camo, designed specifically for spring turkey hunting. Mossberg’s 535 Turkey Pump-Action Shotgun delivers heavy magnum loads of shot at long range, cycles smoothly for quick follow-up shots, and blends into the turkey woods naturally. It’s everything you need to consistently bring big toms home year after year.

Wrap Up

Hopefully, this list of important turkey gun features has given you a reason to go out and buy another gun.  If not, hopefully, you’ve already got one.  In the end, buying the right gun ultimately comes down to personal preference.  Be sure to handle and shoulder as many different makes and models as you can to find one that fits you properly.  Also, spend plenty of time on the range experimenting with different types of ammo at different distances, as these two factors will significantly impact results.

3 Tips that Make Patterning Your Turkey Shotgun a Breeze

Tips For Patterning Your Turkey Shotgun

Preparation often defines a hunt. No one wants to be left leaning against a tree wondering what went wrong as a big old longbeard is flying away. You did everything right up to that point . . . you scouted hard, found where the Tom was roosted, had the perfect decoy setup, and called the longbeard into range. All that was left to do was to finish the job with a well-executed shot. You could’ve sworn you had the bead right on the turkey’s neck, but when you squeezed the trigger the bird ended up flying away instead of flopping on the ground. What happened? Chances are it wasn’t your aim, but rather the gun/choke/ammo combination you were using. So, did you pattern your turkey gun before heading afield this spring?

Whether it’s your first turkey season or your thirtieth, it’s imperative to pattern your turkey gun before the hunt every season so you don’t end up watching Mr. Longspur fly out of your dreams. In this article, we’ll walk you through the right way to pattern your turkey gun.

How to Pattern Your Shotgun

Before we dive into the importance of ammo and choke selection, we’ll breakdown the right way to pattern your gun from a setup perspective. First, you’ll want to be shooting in an area where you can safely shoot at 20, 30, and 40 yards. Shooting at different distances will help you understand the pattern and your maximum range. Plan on having plenty of turkey targets on hand because you’ll need them to compare patterns at different distances, in addition to comparing different types of ammo.

Before you shoot, label each target with the distance and type of shotshell you are shooting. For instance, 20 yards, Longbeard XR, #5 shot would be what you’d write on the target. This way you can easily compare targets after you are done shooting a variety of loads at varying distances. In addition to labeling the targets, it’s a good idea to have a solid shooting rest like the Caldwell Lead Sled to minimize any type of user error.

Once you’ve got your patterning range and supplies in place, it’s time to start shooting.

Ammo Selection

Over the last couple of years, turkey ammo has made enormous leaps and bounds in terms of delivering a lethal pattern. There are two main technological advancements that are at the forefront of this turkey ammo revolution – the first being shot encapsulation, and the second being the introduction of combo loads. Many of the top brands are now using shot encapsulation as a means to hold a tighter pattern at longer distances. In short, shot encapsulation relies on a newly designed wad to hold and push the shot through the barrel in a perfect circle. In other words, the wad capsule protects the shot from becoming deformed before it leaves the barrel, thus the round shot flies truer and holds a tighter pattern for a longer distance.

In addition to encapsulating wads, some turkey loads like the Federal 3rd Degree, use a combination of shot sizes packed into one shell. By offering #6 shot, #5 Shot, and Heavyweight TSS all in the same load, your patterns are as lethal at 20 yards as they are at 40 yards. Combo loads deliver larger, more forgiving patterns at close range, while still providing deadly performance at long distance.

Most shotguns have a specific brand or type of shell that will shoot better than the next. For this reason, it’s a wise idea to buy a few boxes of different turkey loads. Some of the most popular loads include Winchester Longbeard XR, Federal 3rd Degree, Federal Heavy Shot TSS, and Hevi-Shot Triple Beard. Once you’ve got a couple of different shotshells on hand, shoot one at each distance for comparison. You’d be shocked at how different some of the patterns shoot. Based upon your target comparison you can decide which one fits your gun the best based on the accuracy and number of pellets in the vital kill zone.

What Turkey Choke Should You Use?

When turkey season rolls around, don’t forget to change out your choke unless turkey hunting is all the gun is used for. If you’re lousy at remembering the simple things, like swapping out a choke at the end of your barrel, you may end up missing a solid opportunity because your pellet pattern didn’t jive with the distance between you and the bird. As a rule of thumb, choose a choke that centers most of your pellet pattern within a 10-inch circumference.

Adding a turkey choke to your shotgun is a great way to turn your gun into a dynamic turkey killing machine.  A turkey choke is basically an extra-full choke that will hold a tighter pattern at further distances, thus increasing your effective range. There have been thousands of turkeys killed with full chokes as well, so don’t think you have to go out and buy a turkey choke. However, it’s advised that you don’t use a shotgun choked with a modified or improved cylinder to kill turkeys, as this pattern is better designed for shooting birds of flight. Do a little research to find out what turkey chokes other hunters are using with the same model shotgun as you and test it out. Test the pattern of your chokes at twenty yards, thirty yards, and forty yards to determine your effective range.

Wrap Up

By the time you are done patterning your shotgun, you should have all the information you need to determine what turkey load and choke tube works best in your gun. Don’t let a few extra dollars spent on another box of shells be the reason that longbeard flew out of dreams.

 

 

 

The Right Shotgun for Fall Turkey Hunting

Fall Turkey Hunting Tips for a Thanksgiving Bird

When most people think about turkey hunting, they imagine scenes of springtime: bright green grasses popping up out of the ground with lime green new leaves budding out on the trees. But if turkey is primarily a bird destined for Thanksgiving table fare, doesn’t it make sense to hunt them in the autumn months when the leaves are red, yellow, and orange? If you’re looking to put some wild turkey back on the Thanksgiving menu, here are some fall turkey hunting tips for you. We’ll talk about the main differences between spring and fall turkeys, the different techniques you should use, and the best gun options. Whether you’re looking for turkey hunting tips for beginners or seasoned hunters alike, you’ll find something useful here.

Comparison of Spring and Fall Turkey Hunting 

the right shotgun for fall turkey hunting | Whittaker GunsThere are several big differences between spring and fall turkeys. Springtime is breeding season for turkeys (and many other animals), so most of their activities are focused on this behavior. Strutting and gobbling are common actions for tom turkeys as they chase hens, which can be very exciting to watch at close range. You typically use hen calls or gobbler purrs to bring a tom in for a closer investigation in the spring, since they’re competing for hens and are ready to fight about it. Decoys are typically used to simulate a breeding scenario, with a combination of a jake and a hen decoy. Once a tom sees this display, they should get mad and run in to bust up the party. During most spring hunting seasons, you can only legally harvest a tom, which leaves the hens to produce more eggs and young poults.

As far as turkey habits in the fall, toms pretty much stick to themselves or in groups of adult males (like whitetail bachelor groups). Hens hang out together with young jakes and jennies in large groups. Because of this behavior, male turkey calls are used to call other males, and hen or poult calls are used to attract other hen and poult groups. Typically, toms produce a deeper, raspier, and more drawn-out yelp than hens, as well as purrs. Decoys should correspond to the type of bird you want to attract too (male decoys for male birds, and vice versa). For many fall turkey hunting seasons, you can take a turkey of either sex, which drastically increases your chances at putting a turkey on the table.

Best Shotgun for Turkey Hunting

Everybody’s got their own personal preferences when it comes to the best guns for them. Their body size or hunting experience will dictate what gauge they are most comfortable shooting, as well as the overall size of the shotgun. If they’re mostly interested in a turkey gun, it will be a different scenario than if they want to also hunt ducks, geese, grouse, or pheasant with it. For waterfowl and fall turkey hunting, you can use a long-barreled shotgun, which will produce a more consistent and smoother aiming process. They can also be heavier guns overall since you’ll mostly be sitting with them during your hunt. On the other hand, if you’d like a general purpose shotgun that you could use for walking around all day for grouse or pheasant, you’ll want something a bit lighter and with a shorter barrel that you can maneuver through thick brush or corn stalks. Take these into consideration before you choose a new turkey gun.

the right shotgun for fall turkey hunting | Whittaker Guns

Turkeys are big and tough birds. While you could ethically use a 12, 16, or 20 gauges on turkeys, the best shotgun for turkeys is probably a 12 gauge since it can put them down fast and is so versatile. A shotgun with a receiver that can shoot at least 3-inch shells is preferable to increase the load you can fire at them. Whittaker Guns has many of the best turkey shotguns you could want. But a Remington 870 Express is always a solid choice for a variety of hunting types. The type of action you choose is really just a matter of preference, with the pump action being one of the more common choices.

Then you need to consider gun accessories, which there are plenty of. Depending on what distance you anticipate turkeys approaching from, the best choke tubes for turkey hunting will vary. If you’re naturally limited to shots within 20 yards (such as in very dense woods), a modified choke is probably fine in almost any case. But if you anticipate some 40-yard shots in open fields (and feel confident about making the shot at that distance), you’ll probably want to screw a full or turkey choke tube into the muzzle. Regardless of what you think, you should test your shotgun pattern density before you hunt. Set up a piece of cardboard with a rough turkey head outline on it. Shoot from the distance you plan to hunt at and see what the shot pattern looks like. If there are even 20 BBs in the turkey’s head or neck outline, you shouldn’t have any problem killing a bird.

Best Ammunition for Fall Turkey Hunting 

Speaking of BBs, there are a few general guidelines about the best ammunition for turkeys as well. Ammunition is probably one of the most important turkey hunting supplies we have because it makes such a difference in how lethal each shot is. Like we mentioned, a 3-inch shell is preferable to a 2 ¾-inch shell; a 3 ½-inch shell is also a good bet. The shell should contain shot in the 4 to 6 range, which are big enough to be lethal at a variety of distances. As far as the load, 1 7/8 ounce shells are more than capable of getting the job done quickly. For a good shell that matches these criteria, check out the Winchester Longbeard XR for 12 gauges.

Fall Turkey Hunting Tactics

There are a few good fall turkey tactics you can use yet this year to put a Thanksgiving bird in the oven. The first thing that really helps, though it needs some planning ahead, is to plant food plots. Deer aren’t the only animals that like to snack in these lush areas. Cut cornfields, clover, other cereal grains, and even brassica greens are all attractive to wild turkeys. During the spring and summer, they will key in on insects using these plants, but they will transition to eating the greens or grain in the fall. These areas are also usually open enough for a flock to all gather easily. Even if you just have some old hayfields, you might be surprised how many turkeys will come out of the thick forest around it to graze and gather. But they will also heavily feed on acorns in oak woodlots or small crabapples/hawthorn apples. So if you’re wondering how to hunt turkey next fall, consider planting a small 1/10 to 1/4 acre food plot near an oak forest with some crabapple trees on the fringe for the ultimate turkey spot.

Before you begin hunting, it’s time to go back to turkey hunting basics; get to know the property and your local flock of turkeys (where do they roost, where do they spend their daylight hours, how many gobblers are actually in the flock, etc.). Walking the land and finding potential roost trees or open hayfields is one way to do this. Another way to get these answers is to use trail cameras in strategic locations to monitor their movements. Keep a camera on any open areas and between them and potential roost trees. This will allow you to pattern where the birds are and decide if a certain area is worth fall turkey hunting or not.

the right shotgun for fall turkey hunting | Whittaker Guns

Once you start consistently seeing a tom turkey you’d like to hunt, it’s time to get in the field after him. You can either use a ground blind or a typical deer tree stand for fall turkey hunting. Ground blinds will allow you a little more movement since you’re fully concealed, which makes it a good option for bringing kids with. But tree stands are nice since they’re typically already up this time of year for deer hunting, and the turkeys will be used to them. Of course, they need to be located in the right spots to make this approach work. But as long as you have some good camouflage turkey hunting clothing and keep your movement to a minimum, you shouldn’t stand out much in a tree stand. While some people go fall turkey hunting without decoys, you should really use one. It helps focus the turkey’s attention on the decoy, which can give you the ability to get your gun in position for a shot. Turkeys have amazingly keen eyesight, so regardless of anything else, you need to move slowly. Again, use a male turkey decoy to attract toms, and hen decoys to attract hens. A single decoy should be plenty enough but look at your trail camera pictures to see what’s normal for your area.

After the decoy is set up and you’re concealed in a tree or on the ground, it’s time for us to discuss fall turkey calling tips. As far as how to call fall turkeys, there’s one thing you should keep in mind: keep it balanced. If you’ve rarely heard your turkey flock call to each other, don’t start squawking for 15 minutes. Make a few yelps and cuts, and then quiet down again. If you’re looking for toms, try doing some low and raspy tom yelps, three to five at a time, and then wait for 15-20 minutes before doing it again (for hens, try doing kee-kee runs). But once you get a bird to respond, start calling back immediately, trying to mimic their call exactly. You want to be aggressive with this part of the calling. Turkeys may not always see your decoy through the tall weeds or brush when they’re within cover, so call until they actually come out into the field. You’ll know when they find your decoy, as they will usually come running over to it to size up the intruder.

If you choose to go fall turkey hunting this year, keep these turkey hunting tips in mind. Whether it’s your first time hunting turkeys at all or you’re just used to spring turkey hunting, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of it.