The spring woods always are a place of wonder. Trees are beginning to show their leaves while small flowers spring up in small patches to break up the green and browns.
The hunter was shielded from view by a small bush and yet it allowed him to shoulder his smooth bore. His clothes blended well with the colors of the forest.
All his attention was focused in the direction of the gobble that he had been able to elicit from a tom turkey over the hill. Should he call again or just wait? Choosing to wait, soon provided him with a clean shot at a fine, young tom.
Turkey hunting with a muzzle-loading shotgun will put you in an exclusive group. In most states, gobblers are taken with a shotgun in the spring season; of these a small percentage are taken with muzzle-loading shotguns. The muzzleloader is a unique and challenging addition to your arsenal of firearms.
There are several shotguns on the market that will be quite effective. Twelve-gauge is the best caliber. Old, original guns must be proof-tested by a qualified gunsmith and with the heavy charges needed, might be best left out of our discussion. In the reproductions, you can choose double barrel, single barrel or inline action single.
The inline action is very popular with rifle shooters, but there is a market for shotguns, also. Traditions makes the "Buck Hunter Pro" Inline with a 12-gauge barrel. The enclosed breech and interchangeable chokes from Winchester, should make this a good choice. Though there may be a few more of the inlines made by others, few have the reputation of Traditions.
A single barrel shotgun that you may want to consider is the Thompson/Center "Black Mountain Magnum." It's my personal favorite. The Black Mountain is available as a 12-gauge or you can get it with a .50/.54 cal. barrel. The Black Mountain series make ideal guns for small and big game. The 12-gauge barrel has screw in chokes available in Turkey Full. The proof test is for steel shot, so you know you have a quality gun.
Connecticut Valley Arms makes a beautiful single called the "NWTF Gobbler" that weighs in at 6 pounds. The only problem for hunters is that the choke is a "European modified." I was not able to research what that was, but it is certainly will require a little work on loads to get a good turkey pattern.
(This website sells a good selection of Traditions, Thompson/Center and Connecticut Valley Arms' shotguns.)
Muzzleloading shotguns allow you to try many variations in powder and shot loads. Always keep in mind to never exceed manufacturers maximum loads. The most important loading step is the seal between the powder and the shot column. Fiber wads that are about 1/2-inch thick work well in cylinder bore guns.
In tighter chokes, they get compressed as they pass through the choke in the loading process. Such compression allows gasses to leak by the wad and lower velocity, which causes erratic patterns. Felt wads, such as T/C's "Wonder Wads" are more forgiving in tight chokes. You can make your own felt wads from 1/2-inch thick felt and a 3/4-inch circle punch. Soak them in your favorite lube and you are ready to go.
One other suggestion for those who shoot double barrels is to drop the ramrod on the loaded barrel and leave it there while you pour in the powder on the second barrel. This helps to prevent double loading of one barrel. Always make sure to cap the gun as the final step, with the muzzle in a safe direction.
Turkey hunters who use muzzleloaders have the power and reach to bring home a magnificent bird. Your skills must be sharp enough to call this wary bird in range (using decoys helps, but be sure a 12-gauge muzzleloader will do the job. Most turkeys are taken at ranges of less than 30 yards and if you work up a good load and pattern, you should have no problems with a clean kill.
When I talk about patterns, I suggest the use of a target called a Gobbler Profile. This type of target shows the vital areas of the skull and vertebrae. Practice at various ranges and always in the sitting position to get the most accurate results. Analyze your targets and be honest with yourself as to what your maximum range is going to be.
May your hunt be dry and mild and your aim be true and straight.
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