Most folks can understand how you could miss a quail. The little devils are
no bigger than a tennis ball and seem to fly about as fast. But those same
folks can't understand how anyone could miss a turkey. They're huge and they
just stand there!
1. Use a handgun (legal in some states). I tried a .357 Magnum once. It was
pretty effective on Coke cans, and I figured a big old gobbler's head was about
the same size. When that red-Coke-headed gobbler came to my calls, however, my
revolver suddenly developed the shakes so bad that it missed. Go figure.
2. Use a rifle (legal in some states.) See No. 1 above. A buddy once leveled
a tack-driving .223 Remington on a Tom's head and appeared to hit it, but the
bird got back up and ran off. After a second shot anchored the gobbler, we saw
where the first bullet had zipped right through the loose skin beneath its
beak. A turkey head is a deceptively small target for a single bullet.
Of course, 98 percent of us are going to hunt turkeys with shotguns, and
those are what make non-turkey hunters puzzle over anyone missing. How can you
miss with a gun that spreads 200 or more pellets over a 30-inch circle of
territory? Alas, that, too, is distressingly easy.
First, you must understand that a modern turkey gun is designed to restrict
that 30-inch circle -- a lot. Inside of 20 yards, where
many if not most turkeys are missed, even a 12-gauge shooting 3-inch super
magnums might throw a pattern closer to 15 inches in diameter than 30. That
still seems like a pretty big kill zone, but other things can go wrong ... .
One of those "other things" is shooter attitude. If you shoot with a scattergunner's frame of mind, you don't bear down and
concentrate, figuring that the pattern spread will make up for any sloppy gun
handling. Wrong assumption. In my experience (like the
times I've missed), the two biggest mistakes shooters make are lifting their
heads off the stock comb and flinching.
Your eye is the rear sight on a standard, single-bead shotgun, and the
height of the stock's comb determines where your eye sits in relation to the
barrel. If pressing your face to the comb puts your eye level with the barrel,
the front bead ends up in the right place. But if you lift your head much off
that comb, the barrel ends up pointing much higher than the bead would
indicate. Try it and see.
The cure for this is to install a rear sight on your shotgun. This can be
another bead, peep, v-notch, scope or red-dot. Sight properly through any of
those and you shouldn't miss. If you do, you're probably flinching.
How do you cure a shotgunning flinch? It's mind
over matter. Having your trigger tuned so it breaks cleanly with about 3- to 4
pounds of pull helps, but it's no guarantee. If you anticipate a big wallop at
the shot, you tend to close your eyes and jerk the trigger. Neither is
recommended when trying to hit a turkey's head at any range. You might add a
better recoil pad to the gun and add a soft comb (some guns like Remington
Versa-Max have soft comb inserts, but on most guns you have to tape or strap on
a comb pad.)
A strap-on, recoil-absorbing shoulder pad is another good idea. You can
practice shooting with light target loads, but you'll probably flinch once you
know you're locked and loaded with a hard-kicking turkey magnum. If that's the case,
hunt with lighter loads. The big super magnums aren't essential for taking
turkeys. They might extend your effective range by 5- to 10 yards, but what
good does that do if you miss because of flinching at 20 yards? I'd rather use
a light recoiling, 2 3/4-inch shell and be limited to 40-yard shots than a
3.5-inch shell I'm too afraid of to hold on target.
Shop The Sportsman's Guide for a great selection of Turkey Hunting Gear!
Ron Spomer has been photographing and writing
about the outdoors for nearly four decades. He's written seven books, hunted on
six continents and been published in more than 120 magazines. He's currently rifles'
editor at "Sporting Classics," Travel columnist at "Sports Afield," Field
Editor at "American Hunter" and "Guns & Ammo" -- Optics Columnist at "North American
Hunter," Contributing Editor at "Successful Hunter," Senior Writer at "Gun
Hunter," and TV host of "Winchester World of Whitetail." He will write on Shooting Tips weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You can read his
blogs and catch some of his YouTube videos at www.Ronspomeroutdoors.com.