By Heath Wood | Mossy Oak ProStaff
Two years ago, I went along with a couple buddies during the Missouri spring turkey season. One of my friends had harvested a nice tom the day before, so he was more of a guide this particular morning. The three of us were fortunate enough to be able to set up first thing with three or four gobblers answering every call that we made.
A few minutes into our set up we caught the movement of several hens leading a mature gobbler about 80 yards through the Missouri Ozarks timber. After some very aggressive calling on my H.S. Strut Smokin' Gun slate call the love struck gobbler broke away from the hens and came straight to my call. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the full strutting tom just 15 yards away. As soon as the big tom went behind a large oak tree, I leaned in on my 12-gauge shotgun and prepared myself for the shot. The gobbler stepped out a mere 10 yards away, I then dialed in and took the shot.
I was shocked when the gobbler took and few steps then took flight through the timber, unfazed by my shot. How did I miss at 10 yards? Later that day, I went back to the gun range and tried to figure out what I had done wrong. After thinking back on the situation, I remembered that I was using a new Winchester Xtended Range turkey load. When I had patterned my gun with these particular shells, I shot at 35 yards and farther. It patterned amazing at that distance, but obviously it didn't pattern as well at a close range. It was my entire fault; I didn't know how my gun would perform in every possible scenario. This was a learning experience for me as well as an eye opener to pay more attention to my preseason preparation.
Missing a trophy gobbler at such a close range hurts deep inside. As a hunter, I don't wish that experience on anyone. So, I want to share some quick tips I've learned while preparing my equipment for turkey season.
First of all, a hunter should always pattern their shotgun. However, before doing this, you should put a good choke tube in your shotgun. This will give you the best pattern that your gun can provide. I use a Hunter's Specialties Undertaker choke tube. I have tried several other chokes in past seasons, but the Undertaker performs the best out of my gun. Everyone’s gun performs differently, so I suggest trying three or four different types of choke tubes. Choose whatever gives you the best pattern.
Next, you should find what ammo is best for you like in choke tube selection. I suggest trying several different brands, size of shot, etc. When doing this I shot 4s, 5s, and 6s at a comfortable distance. Twenty-five yards is my favorite, because I am most comfortable at harvesting a gobbler when he is within 30 yards. To find my best pattern I use the new H.S. Strut Zombie turkey targets. This gives me a fun, but yet realistic target of a turkeys head.
Once I find which shot size shoots the best out of my gun, I shoot that particular shot at a closer range and a farther range to see how much my pattern changes. This allows me to make any adjustments when in a real hunting situation to be able to make a clean harvest. Now, when I keep saying find the best pattern, what I mean is getting the most pellets in the silhouette of a turkey’s head and neck since this is the vitals of a turkey when trying to make the harvest.
The last tip I can give is to get in a hunting position and make a couple more shots. What I mean by this is get in all your camo, wear your turkey vest, everything that you would be wearing while hunting.Then proceed to sit next to a tree on the ground so that you will be accustomed to shooting the way you will be when that big trophy gobbler gives you that shot of a lifetime.