Many backcountry hunters in the West who trek through the mountains are often very strategic when it comes to deciding what gear they want to haul around the hills. It depends on the difficulty of the hunt, how far they plan on venturing out from base camp, do they have a water source nearby that they can filter, are they eating at base camp, etc.; but, these factors simply boil down to the idea that you are able to hunt longer and harder with less weight. It’s a process I scrutinize every single time I load my backpack for a big game hunt. I want enough food, water and clothing, along with obvious necessities such as ammo, flashlight, jet boil, emergency kit, etc. I also want to be as light as possible. When my OnXmaps app is tracking my miles and I’m in the double digits, I want to feel as though I can go a little farther and hunt a little longer. Every ounce matters.
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I also consider the weight factor when deciding on which gun to take on a particular hunt. We have almost every rifle and shotgun known to man and depending on the make, caliber and scope, they all exhibit different qualities and weights. I must admit, however, that everything mentioned above never occurred to me when it comes to hunting turkeys. That is, until I started hunting the Missouri River Breaks of Montana a few years ago, jokingly referred to as the “Mini Grand Canyon” by my fellow hunters. Suddenly, every ounce mattered on a turkey hunt and that’s when we decided to use the Thompson/Center Pro Hunter single shot turkey shotgun.
Weighing in at just 6.25 pounds, with an overall length of under 40 inches, the T/C Pro Hunter single shot shotgun is the perfect choice for run-and-gun style turkey hunting. Typically, I had always hunted thunder chickens, aka wild turkeys, in the traditional sense … you know, walk less than a quarter mile from the cabin through the flat hardwoods to set up against the edge of a field, expending less than a total of 100 calories in the process … unless you were lucky and harvested a bird – then, maybe 200 calories total.
I’m being sarcastic, of course, but when we turkey hunt the Montana River Breaks, we often put on 5 to 10 miles every day. I’m talking steep, uneven miles. These clever birds typically don’t respond to calls if you’re within 100 yards, don’t particularly like decoys and always are on the lookout for any 4- or 2-legged predators. And unlike most other turkey hunts I’ve been on across the country, this 5-day turkey hunt typically takes 5 days and often ends in an un-notched tag. It’s a very unconventional, challenging turkey hunt that we call our annual “Walltent Turkey Hunt,” done with a bunch of like-minded (albeit crazy) hunters. We’re all trying desperately to curb our cabin fevers by escaping the comforts of home, pitching tents in the middle of nowhere and chasing the elusive, cliff-diving Merriam’s wild turkeys that share their home in Montana’s canyons with elk, mule deer, bobcats and coyotes. Having the T/C shotgun that is super lightweight is a major advantage.
The Pro Hunter single shot shotgun comes in a camouflage pattern in your choice of either 20 or 12 gauge, both with the T/C Xtra full choke. I prefer the 12 gauge for turkeys, especially when the run-and-gun style of bird hunting often necessitates farther shots. The 24-inch barrel also makes it easy to carry and maneuver – through the woods or in a ground blind. Speaking of easy maneuverability and lightweight, both are excellent qualities in looking for a shotgun for a youth hunter. Whether you’re putting on the miles, or having to hold up your shotgun as that red head is coming in, a lighter gun is major plus. The kick is mild, thanks to the patented recoil management system, and it takes the bite out of muzzle rise – giving you optimum control in wet or dry conditions with an over-molded pistol grip.
There are a lot of choices out there when considering which gun to purchase for you, a family member or a friend. It’s important to go through the scenarios of your specific hunt to help you make the best decision. Always take time to pattern your shot before the hunt at different distances – from 10 to at least 45 yards or farther – to understand the gun’s reach. I absolutely love the T/C Pro Hunter turkey shotgun and hope to find success with it again this year as I head over to pursue the unconventional, uncooperative ghost Merriam’s turkeys of the Missouri River Breaks.
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