With seemingly endless options, choosing the correct optic for your turkey gun can be an overwhelming task, especially for those new to hunting. Despite what some might say, there is no universal “best” optic; instead, the best optic for a turkey gun is one the shooter finds most comfortable, easiest to use and most productive.
When looking for the right optic, turkey hunters should ask themselves the following questions:
• “From what general range will I be shooting?”
• “Will I be shooting in low or visible lighting conditions?” or
• “How acute is my vision?”
The answers to the questions should provide an awareness and a reference point when searching for the right optic.
While all optics share the same purpose, they can perform differently in different conditions for different people. For instance, in extremely dense woods, it may be sensible to use an open red dot rather than a scope because of a greater field of view versus looking down the tubular optic.
What follows is a look at various optics for turkey guns to provide new hunters a foundation in purchasing the right optic with confidence.
The most simplistic sight for turkey hunting is a bead sight. Do not let its lack of complexities fool you; the bead sight works when others may fail. A staple of modern shotguns, the bead sight works by looking down the vent rib of the shotgun and aiming the bead at the target. It is that simple. Unlike scopes and red dots, a bead sight will not fog up, un-zero and there are no batteries to fail. The one possible drawback to a bead is the hunter must ensure the shotgun is shouldered the same way each time to ensure the rail and bead are aligned for consistent shooting.
Though most shotguns come with beads already attached to the vent rib, aftermarket high-visibility beads or varying sights also are available at relatively inexpensive prices. They come in a traditional bead shape and in lateral fiber optics with different lengths and colors.
It is a simple and effective way to kill a turkey, but the bead will only work as far as one’s eyesight will allow. Many ageing hunters will reluctantly give up the bead for a scope or red dot sight to ensure a harvest.
Red Dot Sights
Red dot sights are a favorite amongst turkey hunters for eye relief, extreme accuracy and easy-to-use design. Red dot sights are non-magnifying optics that give hunters a precise aim through a LED projected on the lens of the sight – usually a red dot, hence the name. When using a red dot sight, one simply places the dot on his or her target and shoots. Red dot sights are especially useful when turkey hunting because of their eye-relief (the distance the eye is from sight). In the instance when a turkey appears in a direction you were not aiming, you can easily swing your shotgun over and sight the turkey almost immediately, due to the near parallax-free design. Usually red dot sights have a brightness adjustment to accommodate for varying light conditions as well.
The red dot sight comes in an open form or enclosed form. Similar in function, there are subtle differences between the two. The obvious difference between the open and enclosed sight is their design i.e., “open” and “enclosed,” and with a slight difference is design, comes a slight difference in performance. An open red dot sight is more simplistic than the enclosed. It provides a greater field of view, slightly more eye relief and takes the lead in dense, wooded conditions.
With a similar tubular appearance to a scope, the enclosed red dot usually has the option to place caps on both ends to help keep it clean and dust free. Enclosed red dots also typically have the option to apply filters on the lens to polarize light or accommodate various lighting conditions. Enclosed red dots take the lead in bright, open conditions.
Both open and enclosed red dots have drawbacks as batteries do fail and lenses do fog but they can be affordable. Red dots can range from anywhere from as little as $50 to upwards of $500. Do your research, as the most expensive may not be the best for your personal preference.
If you are familiar with deer hunting, you may have an affinity for a scope, which is now a more common tool when hunting turkeys. For those shooting closer to the 40-yard range and like to have their targets magnified, a scope may be the right choice.
When purchasing a scope for your turkey gun, there a few things to consider. Having the correct magnification is important for turkey hunting. Unlike a deer, you will not be shooting a turkey from 200 yards. When purchasing a scope you will see numbers such as “2 – 7x32.” The first set of numbers, 2 – 7, refers to the range of times the aimpoint is enlarged (from double the size to seven times the size, and the 32 figure refers to the size of the objective lens in millimeters. Therefore, a 2 – 7x32 is a suitable scope for a turkey gun, but personal preference will ultimately determine the magnification and size for your turkey gun.
It may also be best to narrow down scope options by looking for scopes specifically made for shotguns. Shotgun scopes, with their heavy-duty construction, are able to withstand heavy recoil. While a predominately successful and useful hunting tool, the scope still has its downfalls. Keep in mind the lack of eye-relief. If you do not provide a lethal shot, it is going to be much harder following a fleeing turkey with your eye almost right up to the scope opposed with a bead or open red dot. The price of scopes range from less than $100 dollars to well over $1,000. However, scopes on the more expensive end of the spectrum are typically high magnification scopes and not useful in the turkey woods. The Styrka 2 – 7x32 S3 series is an example of a great turkey scope for a reasonable price.
– David Gladkowski