If you have never taken a gobbler beyond 25 yards and know that
a longer shot would never tempt you, then this column is not for
you. But if you have ever wished that you could squeeze just a few
more yards out of the old blunderbuss and inflict a serious silence
on that fussy gobbler that hangs up out there at the edge of your
range and has the audacity to gobble his fool head off at your best
calls without advancing so much as one measly little step then read
on, this column is for you.
For many years, turkey ammunition for the “big guns,” the 3-inch
and more recently the 31/2-inch magnum 12 gauges, and the even more
potent 10 gauge, have all featured payloads of at least two ounces
of shot. Big payloads of shot mean tight turkey-killing patterns,
which is what it seemed every turkey hunter in the country wanted,
so Winchester, Federal, and Remington responded.
But in life, there is always a tradeoff. In the case of
shotshells, we got a fistful of shot and tight patterns, but
velocity got axed. You can throw a whole box car full of pellets at
a turkey’s head, but if those pellets do not arrive on target with
enough energy to crack that gobbler’s skull or shatter neck
vertebrae, you’re going to be having ham instead of wild turkey for
Testing shows that it takes at least 2.6 foot-pounds of energy
for a pellet to do the job on a turkey. Number 6 shot fell below
that number at about 30 yards. Five shot my personal favorite
managed a few more yards and No. 4s a few more yet, but remember,
when you step up to larger shot, you get fewer in a shotshell and
pattern density suffers.
The engineers and ballistic experts at Winchester set out to
tackle the problem. It was not a simple fix, but the result of that
effort gives you and I the opportunity to purchase the most
efficient shotshells ever to find their way into the turkey woods.
Now, truth be told, I don’t understand a lot of that ballistic
stuff myself. But when the boys at Winchester were finished, they
had not simply revamped their old turkey load; they had built a
totally new round. Its whole new wad system, along with buffered
and plated shot, insured that even under the tremendous force these
pellets would be subject to, pellet deformation that destroyer of
uniform patterns would be eliminated. New powder technology was
incorporated. And finally, Winchester took the unusual step of
reducing the number of pellets in each shotshell. When turkey
hunters have been clamoring loudly for more pellets, it takes guts
to buck the trend and in effect say “whoa boys, more pellets are
not the answer. Good patterns and high-velocity is where it’s
Now if turkey hunters don’t adopt that idea and plunk down cash
for Winchester turkey loads, heads will roll, and I don’t mean
turkey heads. But the guys at Winchester believed in their product,
and judging by the number of boxes we bought, so did hunters. Last
season Federal and Remington, the other two major players in the
ammo wars brought out their own high-velocity turkey loads.
I’ve hunted with the 3-inch Winchester loads, which carry a
payload of 13/4 ounces of shot quite extensively. At 1,300 feet per
second, this is a fast shotshell, which combines excellent pattern
density with bone-crunching velocity. For those who still hold to
the “bigger is better” theory, there is a 2-ounce load available in
31/2-inch, 12 gauge, and last year I was one of a handful of
writers who tested the then-new 10-gauge Winchester High Velocity
turkey load, which I was tickled to see available in No. 5s.
Ten of us toted 10-gauge Browning BPS shotguns on that trip and
killed 10 gobblers with 10 shots at ranges from 20 yards out to
well, let’s just say, gobblers may have to recalculate the distance
at which they hang up!
My intention here is not to promote long-range shooting at
turkeys. The real skill in turkey hunting is calling that gobbler
in close. I’ve killed most of my gobblers at ranges between 20 and
30 yards, and that does not change regardless of what gun or shell
I use. But I am also realistic enough to realize that there are
times when all but the most disciplined of us is tempted to stretch
that range just a little bit, or more commonly, to make a poor
judgement in calculating the range.
A gobbler stands about four foot tall when he periscopes that
long neck up and peers about. Sheer size, not to mention the
excitement of the moment, causes many hunters to underestimate the
range by 10, 20, or more yards. These are the times you will be
glad that you plunked down a few extra dollars for a box of the
most lethal turkey loads ever built.