New shotgun means plenty of patterning work before spring gobbler hunting season
I start thinking about spring gobbler season right after the holiday season, although my friends – as well as Paula – claim I think about it all year round.
But there’s a bit more urgency heading into this spring, since I recently purchased a new turkey gun and need to get it set up and sighted in and patterned. That can sometime be a challenge, particularly if we’re headed to Florida for Osceola gobblers in March, which is a possibility this year. I like to pattern my turkey gun in weather that will be similar to that in which we’ll be hunting, and the Southern Tier of New York state ain’t central Florida, that’s for sure.
Anyway, there’s work to be done. I need to swap out my Nikon Turkey Pro diamond reticle scope from my previous shotgun – a 20-gauge Mossberg Turkey Thugs model – to the new gobbler getter, a Remington 870, also in 20 gauge and, as always, in full camo.
From there, I’ll do some patterning work with several different chokes: the extra-full choke that came with the 870, as well as a couple after market models – an Indian Creek choke, which we’ve had great luck with in the past (including in Paula’s own 870) and a Jeb’s model. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Jeb’s chokes and am looking forward to testing them in the new shotgun.
We take our turkey hunting seriously, so the range session will be methodical, a bit time consuming and most likely expensive, since I shoot loads from the Nitro Company in Missouri that run $6-$7 a pop. But the blend of 4, 5 and 7 shot – in Hevi-Shot – sends a deadly swarm downrange. I’ve killed enough turkeys over the years (keep in mind I’ve been hunting them for 40 years) and have seen the difference between hitting them with lead shot and absolutely flattening them with the Hevi-Shot loads. I’ll never go back to lead, even though there are some fine loads available today.
We’ll probably take a look at the “regular” Hevi-Shot loads in 5 and 6 shot as well. I’ve been a Hevi-Shot fan for years, but have kicked it up a notch by going to the special Nitro loads with great success. By “great success” I don’t mean reaching out and touching a gobbler at 60 or 70 yards; it’s still a 40-yard game and always should be in my opinion. I cringe when I read posts on message boards about long-shot kills by boastful hunters. My philosophy is if I can’t call them to within 40 yards, they win and live to gobble another day. The extra effort Paula and I take in patterning our shotguns is designed to ensure a clean kill and also, in the event we misjudge the distance a bit, give us better odds of getting away with it. It’s rare that we take a shot over 40, and if we do we kick ourselves for misjudging the distance.
The Nitro Company offers up several tips for testing various loads, and they’re well worth following:
• clean your shotgun’s barrel before starting your testing session. There are many modern plastic wads that leave a building-up of plastic in the barrel. The bore needs to be cleaned with a solvent that dissolves plastic to maximize your shotgun’s potential. Run a dry patch down the barrel between shots to keep the barrel clear of any powder residue, oil or solvent left in the bore. After 10-15 shots, clean the barrel with the solvent to get rid of the plastic residue. Let the solvent soak for an least an hour to dissolve all the plastic.
• test your loads in the same weather conditions as far as temperature and also humidity. Weather plays a surprisingly important role in shotgun patterning. When hunting in the rain, for instance (and we’ve killed plenty of field birds in the rain), the moisture in the air will open up your pattern. In theory, your maximum range should be about 10 yards shorter in the rain.
• shoot onto a large piece of paper to get an idea of your aimpoint. You need to know if you need to adjust your scope. If you don’t do this, your patterning session can get real costly real fast.
We’ve never had a turkey gun we couldn’t get a great pattern with using Hevi-Shot or the Nitro loads, thankfully, because we don’t want to go back to lead, nickel or copper shot. But the bottom line is, shoot what your shotgun patterns best with, not necessarily what you want to shoot.