Turkeys have been successfully hunted with everything from the rifle to the handgun and bows. But the all time favourite turkey-hunting weapon is the 12-gauge shotgun. As the popularity of turkey hunting increases so does the development of special and improved shotguns specifically for turkey hunting. The modern turkey shotgun comes now even with a complete cam finish from the muzzle to the shoulder butt and composite stocks, super full turkey chocks and chambered for magnum loads of 3 ½” plus shorter barrels.
But do you need such a powerful super modern gun for turkey hunting? To tell you the truth, the answer is no. Hunters have been shooting turkeys successfully for many decades with these powerful artilleries. But if you think that you need such a powerful monster and can handle the kick then by all means go and buy one. But for a lot less money and just as potent on turkeys you can do very well with just about any 12 gauge shotgun quit nicely.
Selecting a Shotgun
What should you look for in a turkey gun? In my opinion, the most important thing is to find a shotgun you can shoot comfortably. With that I mean a gun that fits you and balances well when you hold or put it to your shoulder. The gun should also be of a moderate weight, not much heavier than 7lb. You do an awful lot of walking when turkey hunting and believe me, a gun seems to get heavier as the day wears on and at the end of day might very well feel like it weighs a ton.
In short you want a gun that you feel comfortable with and have confidence in. Confidence and comfort play a big part in hunting, not only turkey hunting.
The vast majority of turkey hunters hunt with 12 gauge shotguns and for good reason. The 12-gauge gun can be considered an all-round hunting gun for all upland and small game hunting and it comes in huge mass of different models, makes and assortment of fodder. Name the game and you will likely find many different loads suitable in the 12-gauge configuration.
There are of course others like the 20 gauge and the 10 gauge shotguns. But to be honest with you, to me it makes no sense whatsoever to drag a cannon like a 10-gauge around all day. It’s a bit like hammering a nail in the wall with a sledgehammer. Makes no sense to me to be frank.
This is another important consideration. If you are using a shotgun for turkey hunting only then I would go with the newer shorter barrels. A short barrel makes for a lighter gun and is easier to manoeuvre around in the woods. If you use your gun also for upland and waterfowl hunting then I would go with a standard 28” barrel as a standard size do it all barrel.
Okay now we have the gun. Now comes the most important part of getting the main ingredient for a turkey dinner. If alleles is said and done it all boils down to one thing. Making the shot and getting as many pellets into a turkey’s noggin as possible, these are though critter to get on the ground and make them stay there. A turkey can take a licking and still keeps on ticking. It is here where some hunters make a big mistake. They screw an extra full choke at business end of the barrel then they buy any old shot shells and head for the woods. Afterwards these hunters wonder why the tom run away and kept laughing at them despite having fired two shots at the turkey.
You have to pattern you shotgun load, believe me it is vital that you get with each shot a tight pattern out to 35 to 40 yards. With a little time and fiddling around with load and choke combinations that is not impossible. But it needs time and commitment to do it right. If your gun despite all your efforts shoots off the point of aim then there are two things you can. The proper thing to do is to bring the gun to a certified gunsmith and have him bent or straighten the barrel for. A cheaper solution would be to buy a special shotgun and fix it to fit your gun. Then adjust the scope until the load patterns where you’re aiming at.
Most turkey hunters, including yours truly, prefer copper platted shot in the sizes of #4, #5, #6. These pellets sizes have proven to pattern well when shot trough a super tight choke and the copper platting will prevent fliers that are deformed pellets resulting from being squeezed at high velocities trough a tight hole.
If your shotgun is ready to be taken to the woods on a turkey hunt it should pattern about a baseball sized ring out to 35 to 40 yards. With today’s new shot shells that is not impossible to achieve with a little time. Remember that you need to pattern every shotgun even if they come from the same manufacturer and are the exact same model; this does not mean that they also like to eat the same food.
And then when it all is done right and you are ready to go out and fill your turkey tag remember to aim your gun at the turkeys head and not on his body. The head is the only place where you can kill a turkey outright with a shotgun.