-By Randy Cooper
Turkey season opens in two weeks and I’m really getting antsy. I’m driving my co-workers crazy practicing my calling at work. I’ve looked through all the mail order catalogs for the new products that are guaranteed to put a bird in your lap or give you your money back. It’s always interesting to see what manufacturers will come up with next.
One of my favorite parts of hunting is calling. I love using calls during deer season. They work. The difference in calling turkeys is that I can hear them respond. Once they sound off I can play the cat and mouse game that makes putting a move on a turkey so much fun. I know the property I hunt well so I can make an educated guess as to where a turkey is heading when he sounds off and starts going away from me. Many times it has allowed me to circle wide to get ahead of a gobbler in time to get set up and have another chance at him as he goes by me. It’s always a challenge and it’s always fun.
The best calling and hunting tactics on earth won’t help you if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at. I try to practice each season with my shotgun. I try new loads and choke combinations to see which will pattern the best. These days there are so many chokes on the market it’s hard to know which one will suit you. I love a super tight pattern. The theory is that the more dense the pattern, the more pellets you’re going to put on the target at a given range. I try to let a turkey get inside 30 yards before I pull the trigger. I’m a perfectionist and am always looking for a choke that will allow me to put a few more pellets in the target. I’m looking at a choke right now that is about 1 ½ inches longer than most of the turkey chokes on the market today. This allows the pellets to gradually come to the final constriction before leaving the barrel instead of slamming them together all at once. This prevents deformed pellets and flyers resulting in a bad pattern. The choke is computer designed and the company says it has won many championships in the card shooting arena. I didn’t even know there was such a competition but there is. The shooters use slower than normal shells and super full chokes to deliver the tightest patterns at 20 yards on a card that is attached to a post.
My personal best turkey gun was a Remington 1187 special purpose turkey gun with a 21-inch barrel. It had rifle sights on it and a choke made by the Tru-Choke machine company. It had a .650 constriction and shot a pattern so tight that at 20 yards it would make a very clean hole a little bigger than a ping pong ball in a patterning target where the head used to be. The only problem with a gun shooting a pattern that tight is that if the turkey’s head is moving a lot, you could miss him clean. I always aim at the red waddles that hang below his beak. This way, the pattern will still cover the area above and below the waddles and take out everything.
To pattern my gun I begin by getting together the choke and shells I want to try. I clean my barrel before shooting and also clean it after every three shots. I just use a lightly dampened oil patch followed by a dry one. This keeps the bore clean and you get a more consistent pattern. I make plenty of copies of a patterning target and take along a staple gun. I use a piece of plywood and just staple the targets to it. I use a shooting bench that I made and a gun rest. I want to make sure I take the human element out of the picture when I’m patterning my gun. By using a gun rest I won’t have the tendency to flinch or pull the shot. I ALWAYS USE SHOOTING GLASSES AND HEARING PROTECTION.
I start out with a new choke or new sights at 10 yards. I have a big piece of cardboard stapled to the plywood behind the target that allows me to see where the pattern printed. I may have to adjust my sights on the rib of the barrel to get the pattern centered on the target. Now that it’s centered I get to work trying the choke and load combinations. To keep from getting confused, I use a sharpie pen and mark every target after the shot as to the choke and the load used as well as the yardage. I give every combination two shots to make sure everything was the same. After the 10-yard shot, I back up to 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. The reason for the longer shots is to see how well the pattern holds up at that range. The new HEVI-SHOT shells work extremely well at longer yardages because the pellets are made of a material that is heavier, harder and more uniform in shape than lead or even copper plated pellets.
In short order I’m able to tell what pattern is the best and I stick with it throughout the season. My best pattern ever was 75 pellets in the neck and head of a patterning target at 40 yards! That pattern was tight. Unfortunately, the manufacturer that made that particular load went out of business. I haven’t found a load since then that will pattern as well.
That’s my luck for you. Try this simple way of patterning your gun before the season starts and you will know exactly what to expect your gun to do before that old gobbler shows up. This way you won’t be scratching your head trying to figure out how in the world you missed that bird at 20 yards . . . STANDING STILL!!!