A Clean Shot

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Published on: Apr. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

wings and they preen. All these factors make shooting a turkey a close-range proposition.

Limiting shots to 35 yards or closer requires an ability to judge distances. This skill is learned easily. While you are watering your lawn, guess how far you are from the corner of the house. Estimate the distance and walk it off.

You can practice estimating distances practically anywhere--at a mall, golf course or at work. You will quickly learn to do this when you hunt. When actually hunting, estimate distance to objects around you before a turkey works its way into view. Turkeys are big birds. In the excitement of the moment it is easy to think a turkey is closer than it is.

Equipment Outfit yourself with a shotgun that you shoot well. If you find a 12- or 10-gauge shotgun chambered for 3 1/2-inch shells that you can handle comfortably--fine. But the recoil of most of these big guns is brutal and can cause flinching problems; moreover, you simply don't need that much firepower.

In turkey hunting it's just you, the turkeys and a plan-bring one in to close range and kill it cleanly with one shot to the head and neck. A tightly choked, 2 3/4-inch or 3-inch chambered 12 gauge will provide all the power you need.

At the range, practice to see which shot size your gun patterns best. Some shotguns shoot tighter patterns with one shot size than with another. What you want is a dense pattern with shot that carries enough energy to penetrate the bones of a turkey's skull and neck out to 35 yards. Size 6 shot is my favorite.

Telescopic sights are widely available for shotguns, but they may encourage hunters to take longer shots. Most shotguns designed specifically for turkey hunting sport a front bead and another bead further back along the length of the ventilated rib. The rear bead serves as a back sight and helps ensure your cheek is down on the stock.

Many of today's specialized turkey guns come in factory camouflage with short barrels. A short barrel is easier to handle in brush, but it also reduces the sighting plane, making careful aiming more difficult. It's something to consider when buying a turkey gun. And a word on camouflage. Camouflaged shotguns look "professional," but all the camouflage in the world is not going to help you bring a turkey close if you can't sit still.

Turkeys have excellent

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