“I don’t know how I missed. It was RIGHT THERE!”
This has become an all-too-common statement in turkey camp…especially in the last several years. Improvements in payloads combined with the use of tighter chokes have led to exceptionally dense shot columns in the 20 yards and under range. As a result, shot strings at extremely close distances are acting almost like slugs. Consequently, careful aiming and knowing your point-of-impact are critical to making a lethal shot on a 10-yard tom. Add in the increasingly popular practice of “fanning” turkeys to within spitting distance and it’s easy to see why short-range misses have become more frequent.
The easy answer for some folks is to dial back their choke or to find a cartridge with a looser spread at close ranges. No experienced turkey hunter would do that, though, because 40-yard-plus shots are always going to be part of the game. After all, when it comes to spring gobblers, the only thing you can predict is their unpredictability.
It is for these reasons we were excited when Federal Premium introduced their 3rd Degree cartridge a couple of years ago. This cartridge combines three different pellet profiles to ensure both maximum lethality and optimal pellet density from in-your-face close to 40 yards and beyond. Here’s how it works…
Stacking the Payload
Close shots in the 20-yard and under range demand not only critical aiming but also sufficient pellet spread. That’s where the first stage of 3rd Degree’s shot load comes in. This stage uses No. 6 nickel-plated FLITESTOPPER pellets (a lead version of the same pellets used in Federal Premium’s Black Cloud waterfowl ammo). These pellets disperse rather quickly, so if your aim is a hair off, the FLITESTOPPER pellets—which comprise 20 percent of the overall shot load—will offer a wide enough pattern to make the kill. Another thing we like about these pellets is that their circumferential ring creates a large wound channel that helps augment the lethality of a potentially lower pellet density.
Here you can see why shot placement has become so critical when shooting close distances with today’s improved cartridges and super tight chokes. At left is a conventional No. 5 shot pattern at 10 yards. At right is a 3rd Degree pattern at the same distance, barrel (24-inch), and choke (extra-full turkey). The 3rd Degree load is much more forgiving at close distances, while still providing a good shot column for downrange lethality.
For shots in the 20- to 40-yard range, No. 5 copper-plated lead pellets dominate. This stage makes up 40 percent of the 3rd Degree shot load, providing a high-energy wallop throughout the range where most of us take our shots.
Federal Premium’s 3rd Degree ammo is comprised of three pellet stages (left to right)—No. 7 HEAVYWEIGHT pellets (40 percent), No. 5 copper-plated lead pellets (40 percent), and No. 6 nickel-plated FLITESTOPPER pellets (20 percent).
Rounding out the remaining 40-percent of the pellet count is Federal Premium’s HEAVYWEIGHT. These are tungsten-iron composite pellets (35 percent denser than lead) in No. 7 size to ensure both lethal density and ample downrange energy for maximum penetration at distances out to 40 yards and beyond.
Managing such a diverse pellet load is the FLITECONTROL wad—a Federal Premium exclusive. This is the same wad found in original Black Cloud ammo, and it does an exceptional job of controlling pellet release. By using rearward-opening petals, the wad stays with the shot column longer than conventional wads, thereby allowing the pellets to remain in a tighter formation farther downrange.
We’ve been using 3rd Degree since its introduction, and have enjoyed one-shot kills at distances ranging from 15 yards out to around 45 yards with full-chokes. Sure, we’ve made tighter patterns at 40 yards with single pellet profile ammo, but none offer the kind of close-range forgiveness AND long-distance lethality such as we get with 3rd Degree.
So, if you like to run with tight chokes and your hunting style means encountering toms at varying distances, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more accommodating turkey load than 3rd Degree.
And one more thing. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of 3rd Degree ammo goes to the National Wild Turkey Federation in support of the organization’s ongoing efforts to ensure quality turkey habitat and turkey hunting for the next generation. Now that’s something we can all get behind.
article copyright © 2017 HuntDaily.com; promoted by Vista Outdoor
— HuntDaily staff