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Fine-Tuning Your Turkey Gun

You've spent countless hours getting ready for turkey season. You have scouted a great location with plenty of gobblers, and you've practiced your calling. What about your turkey gun?

There are some very important aspects of accurately shooting a turkey gun that need your attention before the season rolls around. After you've found a load that patterns well, one that puts over 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards, it's time to fine tune.

When you're shooting a tight-patterning shotgun at a small target — like a gobbler's head and neck — you have to be sure the core of the load is hitting precisely where you aim.

Similar to shooting a rifle, changing loads from one brand to the next can change the point of impact down range. Switching choke tubes can change point of impact, too.

Here's a simple checklist for getting the most out of your patterning sessions.

  • When sighting-in and testing loads, use a steady rest.

  • Wear your hunting clothes to make sure the gun fits the same way it does in the field.

  • Try a few shots from a sitting position with the gun propped on your knee to make sure our eye — your rear sight — is lining up the same as it did from the shooting bench.

  • If your turkey gun has bead sights, remember to press your face tight to the stock for every shot, keep the beads in perfect alignment, and your shooting eye focused on the front sight, which should slightly blur the target.

What if your shotgun doesn't center the pattern where you're aiming? That's when adjustable, rifle-type sights come in handy. There are several models available that clamp onto your existing shotgun barrel, or you can have a gunsmith install a set. When you've got them in place, it's a simple matter of fine tuning to get everything aligned.

Another option is a low-powered scope. A zero to 3X magnification works best. Some scopes have standard cross hairs, while others offer various range-finding reticles, either diamond-shaped or circular, that cover a specified area, which corresponds to different measurements at different ranges. With practice, you can gauge the range to a gobbler by comparing the reticle's center area to a part of the bird's body. For example, if the reticle covers the bird's entire body, the bird is farther away than if the reticle covers only the bird's beard. Whichever scope you chose, make sure that the eye relief is long enough to keep your face away from the rear of the scope. Although I've been lucky, I have seen a few turkey hunters who got too close to their scope and received nasty cuts when the scope came back in recoil.

Over the past few seasons, I've had success with "dot" scopes. The illuminated reticle is typically a 3-minute, which calculates to slightly larger than a 3-inch circle at 100 yards. Some models offer a 6-minute dot that's twice the size of the smaller 3-minute dot reticle. Either works well at turkey gun ranges.

It's simple to adjust a scope's crosshairs or dot to cover the center of your shot pattern. And, it's easier to keep your gun on target--even in odd shooting positions. Another advantage is that your sights AND your target are in perfect focus at the same time.

Once you get accustomed to shooting with a scope, you'll learn what I've learned: Getting lined up on a cagey old gobbler with a scope is every bit as fast as shooting with standard bead sights.

So when opening day rolls around, make sure ALL of your equipment, especially your turkey gun, is ready to go hunting.

-Jay Langston




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