Sun Outdoor Contributor
It is often said that you aim a rifle and you point a shotgun when shooting. This is true when you are taking moving shots with a shotgun such as a duck flying up the river or at a clay pigeon thrown from a trap house.
However, when you are shooting a turkey you are shooting at a stationary target so you are aiming as if it was a rifle. You are trying to hit a target about the size of a soda can with as many pellets as possible. With the advances that have been made with screw-in choke tubes, ammunition, and optics you can make shots that seemed impossible only a decade ago.
As with any shooting discipline, it takes practice and some range time to know what your exact setup is capable of.
A great way to save your shoulder and your wallet is to start out with light target loads. The pattern of the shot will be close to where your turkey load is and lets you make any major adjustments before you start shooting the “good stuff.” Just be careful with some semi-automatics as they may not eject the spent target shell depending on their powder charge.
Many hunters use the factory bead sight on their shotgun. I do when using my Mossberg. The combination of the choke and ammunition that I have tested throws a great tight pattern where I put the bead out to about 40 yards. However last year when I went to shoot my Winchester for the first time, I found out that using just the bead wouldn’t be enough.
The pattern it shot was super high compared to my point of aim. The two ways to correct this would be to raise the point of aim (i.e. the bead) or to lower my head position by altering the stock. Neither option was a good one. Due to this, I opted to buy a set of fiber optic sights that mount on the vent rib of the barrel. The front sight was slightly taller than the factory bead and the rear sight was adjustable for both left-right and up-down. Two shots later the gun was putting the pattern right where I was aiming. When using these style sights, you should remember to either chase with the front sight (if the pattern is to the right of where you aimed, move the front sight to the right) or do the opposite with the rear (Pattern right, move rear sight left).
Putting a scope on turkey guns has been growing in popularity. This is very helpful for hunters who tend to “peek” when using open sights. The eye relief of the scope makes the hunter put their head on the stock and have proper shooting form. A low-power scope with a circle-x type of reticle is often the go-to. Probably even more popular than regular scopes are red-dot sights. These use battery power to produce a dot or other marker in the screen that can be moved to match where the gun patterns. These are nice as they have low magnification which allows easy target acquisition. The downside is remembering to turn them off when the hunt is over or the batteries will be dead the next time you go to use it.
A common debate in turkey hunting is what shells to use. A magnum load is best as you will typically only get one shot so you want it to pack a punch. The common shot sizes range from size 4 down to size 9. Beware, in New York shot sizes smaller than number 7 are not legal to hunt turkeys. Lead shot is most common and is cheapest. Plated lead shot is a step up as the hardened metal casing keeps the soft lead from deforming under the pressure of the shell firing. The next step up is non-toxic shot. This is often a blend of tungsten, nickel, and other metals. The shot is denser than lead so it packs a bigger punch, so you can use a smaller size shot which will have more pellets. Lead number 6 shot starts to lose energy after 30 yards, which is why number 4 and 5 shot were often the preferred shot size when using lead shot. Now with the denser shot types, size 6 and 7 are leading the way. Another option is a blended shell that has multiple shot sizes in each shell. If you have the chance, try shooting shells from different companies and in different shot sizes. Finding out what shoots the best in your firearm will help you become more confident with your comfortable range and could lead to more successful hunts.