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Turkey Hunter Know-How: When to Take the Shot

provided by John E. Phillips

Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland has been hunting wild turkeys for more than 50 years. When he first started working as a videographer for Mossy Oak, Cuz was traveling, filming and calling turkeys for about 72 days a year for many years. Today Cuz is Senior Vice President of Media Services at Mossy Oak in West Point, Mississippi, and still is one of the best turkey hunters ever.

kids hunting turkeys

Visit a Shooting Range

Even before you sit down to call a turkey, you need to take your shotgun and shells out to a shooting range. Your target should be a turkey’s head within rings that go out past the turkey’s head, so you can see the full pattern your gun produces at 40 yards, 30 yards, 20 yards and 10 yards. By doing this, you’ll know when you aim at that turkey’s neck how dense the pattern will be when the turkey is within your killing zone. Most turkey hunters will pattern their shotguns at 30, 40 and even 50 yards, but when a turkey comes in at 10 yards, they don’t know already what the pattern will be when they pull their trigger. I’ve seen more turkeys missed at 5 to 15 yards than I have at 50 yards, because the hunter probably hasn’t patterned the shotgun with the shells he’s using to hunt turkeys. 

Use a Range Finder

When a turkey hunter sits down to call a turkey, he needs to have a range finder and use that range finder to learn the distance to trees and bushes around the area where he expects to take the shot. I try and set up a 30-35 yard killing zone. Then I’ll know when that turkey steps inside or passes by one of the trees or bushes that I’ve ranged, and I’ll know I can take the shot. However, I don’t take the shot, until I’ve got a clear view of the turkey’s neck or head and know for certain that there are no obstructions between me, my gun and the turkey’s neck or head. 

Be Sure the Turkey Is Standing Still

Another point to remember about taking a shot is to make sure the turkey is standing still when you pull the trigger. You are less likely to bag your bird when you take the shot while he’s walking or turning his head. 

Know Where to Aim

Another question I’m often asked about taking the shot is, “Where do I aim?” I believe that the best place to aim when you’re trying to shoot a turkey is where the feathers on the neck meet the wattles or skin of the turkey’s neck. If your shotgun pattern is about the size of a basketball, and you aim at the turkey’s head, then two thirds of your pattern will go over the gobbler’s head. You’ll have more of your pattern going to the turkey’s vitals, if you aim where the neck and the feathers meet.

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