Turkey 0002

Watching a big tom turkey approach from some two hundred yards across a field to within a few feet is a thrill in and of itself. Watch Ralph Duren use a call and a turkey wing to get the job done is an honor. When he finally said, “I think you need to shoot this one” I was still marveling at the job he had done.

Ralph is one of the premiere game callers in the country. He has appeared on television and in person from one end of the country to the other. Turkeys are not all he calls. He is an accomplished bird imitator as well as someone who can call all sorts of animals. Having seen his program at a writer’s conference one year, it is an honor to be able to sit in a turkey blind and watch him do his thing. So much so that I forgot some of the basics of shooting.

Calling turkeys is the subject of a lot of articles this time of the year. We tend to forget that all the calling the world is of no use if we can not hit the bird. Turkey hunters in particular are prone to forget the patterning of their weapon prior to going into the field.

It is vital that we know the exact point of impact of the shot. If the bulk of the hot is not going where the gun is pointed, then shooters need to adjust accordingly. It is an easy point that I neglected that day in the Missouri river bottom with Ralph.

Once one has decided upon a particular gun and shot load to use on a hunt, it is time to pattern the gun. Patterning is very simple and inexpensive way to make sure it shoots where the hunter is aiming. All you need is a gun, shells, a sheet of plywood, some targets with a turkey head on them and ear and eye protection. A bench rest is helpful in being consistent from one shot to another.

Targets, available at sporting goods stores, usually consist of a large white sheet of paper with a turkey head in the middle. Most are about three foot square. Some target makers have lines of head targets that are stuck to any large sheet of paper. They are brighter in color and stand out more. They are realistic in size to the real thing.

In the interest of time, one can put up several targets and use different size shot on each. The mix of pellets from different size shot is different with each gun.

If the shooter is shooting at the center of the target and the bulk of the shot is consistently hitting off to the side, perhaps the stock needs adjustment by a gunsmith.

If the bulk of the shot is just a little off from center, then the hunter can adjust his point of aim to compensate. If he is shooting a shotgun with a scope, then you adjust the sight to compensate. The idea is to deliver at least six pellets to the head and neck area of the bird.

In patterning a shotgun it is wise to use different chokes. Most modern shotguns have the screw-in choke systems that allow the hunter a variety of shot patterns. Most turkey hunters prefer the full choke, but if another one will work more effectively, this is the time to find out.

Once you establish the pattern of the gun at a specific range, it is time to test it at other increments of distance. If the hunter knows where the shot is going at 30 yards, then it would help to know where it will be at 10 or 20 yards as well. Turkey hunters in the Midwest seldom get a shot at birds that are in excess of 30 yards. Additionally, most loads begin to loose their effectiveness beyond such a range.

Patterning a turkey gun goes a long way toward building a familiarity with the weapon. That in turn aids one in putting a bird on the table. It is something forgotten on the eventful day with Ralph. He did his homework and I did not. I saw a bird up close and personal and watched it run away after I shot clean over its head.


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