Turkey Hunting Equipment
Shotgun selection is the first concern of most new turkey hunters. Most turkey hunters use a 12-gauge shotgun. Few hunters use a smaller gauge because it may increase the chance of crippling. Some hunters use 10-gauge shotguns because more pellets can be delivered. However, added weight and recoil deter many hunters from using 10-gauge shotguns. Using a 10-gauge to ensure a cleaner kill is okay, but it's a mistake to think you can substantially increase your effective range. Shooting at a turkey at more than 40 yards is not recommended, regardless of which gauge shotgun is used.
Your choice of choke may make the difference between a clean kill and a crippled bird. The most popular is an extra-full choke, which gives the tightest pattern. A tight pattern is important in order to strike the vital head-and-neck area. Research has shown that after 18 inches the length of the gun barrel does not affect shot pattern. Therefore, many hunters now use shorter-barreled shotguns, which are lighter and easier to maneuver. The most common shot sizes are No. 6 and No. 4. Pattern your gun with both sizes and select the load and shot size that pattern best. Missouri regulations prohibit the use of shot size larger than No. 4 for turkey hunting.
Another method of hunting turkeys in Missouri is with a bow. Few hunters are successful because of the difficulty involved, but with practice you can bag a turkey. When aiming at a turkey with a bow, you should focus on the junction of neck and body. An accurate hit will break the backbone. To improve the killing efficiency of the arrow, you want the sharpest arrow possible that will remain in the body of the turkey. A broadhead design that inhibits full penetration generates more impact and kills a turkey more quickly.
Another important piece of equipment is a turkey call. There are a variety of calls on the market but basically they fall into two categories–friction calls and air-operated calls.
Friction calls are probably the easiest to use. Two surfaces are rubbed together, creating friction that produces sound. Box and slate calls are examples of friction calls. Air-operated calls create sound when air is passed through or over the call. The three basic air-operated calls are the yelper, the tube call and the diaphragm call.
All of these calls require practice to become proficient. There are a number of audio and video tapes available commercially to demonstrate the various calls of the wild turkey. These tapes can be of assistance to the beginner; however, learning from an experienced caller and from the turkey are the best methods.
Other equipment you may need for the hunt includes: a knife, compass, topographic maps, rope, first-aid kit, insect repellent, rain gear, camera and your turkey-hunting permit. Camouflage clothing, including hat, gloves, face paint or mask and coveralls, can be helpful and are considered essential by some hunters. A blaze-orange vest is recommended when moving in the woods, and another vest or orange sash is suggested for wrapping your turkey when carrying it out of the woods.
Proper equipment can make the difference between an enjoyable or miserable hunt. A good idea is to develop a checklist, especially if you are traveling a great distance to hunt. Be prepared for the unexpected.
One other important consideration before the hunt is yourself. Missouri turkey hunting can be physically demanding. Prepare yourself for the long walks, steep hills and weather conditions. Pre-hunt scouting will help you get into shape.