The very first step to a successful turkey hunt should always be to learn the shot pattern and distance of a shot pattern with your own gun. I should take my own advice. Over the last two turkey seasons I have missed a shot on three separate birds! Yes, it happens, and the situation is so discouraging. I asked all the right questions and got a million different answers. The one piece of advice I should have taken was to pattern my gun.
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I have patterned my gun in the past and been successful and I should know better. I just didn’t take the time to do it. I was using a smaller pump shotgun, 12 gauge and a common turkey load. Then I purchased some new ammo and found out quick it was different. I asked a lot of great turkey hunters about chokes and ammunition, and I got a lot of answers. Not to mention, I felt concerned about spending money to upgrade my gun, my ammunition and to purchase a new choke. After the third time I missed a turkey – I got my wallet out. Money well spent. My new set up included the Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus in 12 gauge, Apex ST3 TSS turkey load and an Indian Creek Shooting Systems turkey choke.
It is perfectly fine to use a factory choke for turkey hunting. The most common factory choke to use is the full choke. The ammunition and the choke perform together to create what is called a pattern. Which is simply the spray of the shot against the target. I like to use a shoot and see type target with a turkey printed on the paper. I also recommend sitting in a position like a hunting scenario, which for me is sitting on the ground.
To get my gun ready for hunting season, I did not skip the patterning step. I started by placing a paper turkey target at 20 yards. I used a Bog Deathgrip to steady my A400 and eliminate any of my own movement as a variable. The Deathgrip works great for sitting on the ground and for hunting out of a blind. I placed the bead of the shotgun right on the neck of the turkey target, on the waddle. At 20 yards, I saw a great pattern slightly off to the side. I counted the hits (holes) on the target in the head and neck area on the turkey target and see if any adjustments need to be made. This choke and ammunition set up were very tight at 20 yards. The pattern was not as dispersed as it is at greater distance. I also shot the gun at a 40-yard target and the pattern was more spread out, but for sure, a good hit on the bird. I used four shells to work on the pattern.
A box of turkey shells typically comes with five in the box. I recommend buying two boxes for your first-time turkey hunting. If you must change out the choke, there will be extra to try a different pattern. And if you miss a bird, it doesn’t hurt to pattern a gun a second time. Once I have a gun, choke and turkey load, I end up with five or six turkey shells in my vest waiting for next season. I am ready for the next few years if it only takes one! It is worth it to me to spend the money for the best chance at success.
The real test comes when a turkey is strutting and drumming its way in, and you are breathing hard and trying to hold real still. Lowering the bead on the target and pulling the trigger is reward.
Recently, I finally got the monkey off my back and completed my first ever solo turkey hunt. The best way to overcome missing is to keep going. There is truth in the saying “Uou only miss the shots you don’t take”.
I am planning to take many more shots, assuming the turkeys will cooperate. If you are new to turkey hunting, keep expectations real. One of the reasons I like turkey hunting is the challenge. It took me three years to shoot my first tom. I was about to give up and now I am hooked. And I have much better chances with my current set up.
Having my Beretta A400 Xtreme plus paired with Apex ST-3 and an Indian Creek choke will be my turkey hunting system from now on.