We’ve been preparing for turkey season – practicing our calls, doing a lot of prescribed fire and getting our decoys ready.
In addition to scouting and practicing turkey calls, this is the time of year to make sure and spend some time patterning your turkey gun. In my opinion, this is the most important thing to do before a hunt. (I recently patterned the 12 gauge before our Florida turkey hunt.)
Here are a few tips to consider when you are patterning your shotgun:
- The most important aspect to remember when you head to the range is to grab your hearing protection. Always, always protect your hearing when shooting or when around loud equipment. Good hearing is vital to turkey hunting and enjoying Creation.*
- While this seems obvious, it needs to be said: shoot the same shell that you’ll be using when turkey hunting. Don’t go the cheap route and use an off brand when testing your gun. Know how both your gun and the load perform together.
- Since you are testing the accuracy of the gun, take out the other sources of error. Use a gun rest or shooting bench, shoot from a seated position and measure the guns performance, not yours. You can go to a shooting range or do what I do and use a Lead Sled and Stable Table from Caldwell Shooting Supplies.
- Test the gun at different yardages. Notice how the pattern changes as the distance increases because when you are in the field that tom might hold up at 40+ yards or surprise you and come in really, really close! Making a kill with a turkey gun can be easier at 30 yards than 10 yards. This is because the shot pattern of a turkey gun is smallest at close range. It would be much easier to miss a tom at 10 yards, due to the very tight pattern, than at 30+ yards.
- Before you go to the range, check out this handy tool that I use: the Winchester Pattern Board Application on Winchester.com.
- What gauge shotgun will you be using? Consider the weight of your gear if you’re running and gunning. I have found that by carrying the light and collapsible Montana Decoys and switching to a 20 gauge, it’s a lot lighter when you're standing on one ridge and that tom fires off on the other ridge. Winchester now has a 20 gauge in Long Beard XR. I love the idea of toting a 20 gauge over these Ozark Mountains.
- Think about the benefits of using a scope on your shotgun. If you’ve ever shot the Long Beard XR shells from Winchester, you know how tight they pattern. And if you’ve got a bird at 20 or 30 yards or even 15 yards, you could miss easily if you're just using a bead. And if you're at 40 yards, you want to make sure the gun’s bead isn’t covering the entire tom. Plus, a scope keeps your head down and you know exactly where your point of aim is going.
Many of our friends across the southern portion of the US are already out in the turkey woods. We’ll be doing the same soon as we travel to hunt in Tennessee!
When you’re out there – remember to take time, look around and thank the Creator for all His blessings and the ability to live in a country where we have the freedom to hunt.
*When I’m hunting I wear WildEar hearing protection. These have been great to wear in the field. Small and custom fit that protect your ears from extreme noise and gun blasts that also provide hearing enhancement. I’ve lost hearing from years of shooting without protection. The WildEar helps me to hear turkeys and other sounds in the woods that I cannot hear with my natural hearing.