Patterning for the season: Testing a new turkey load
As an avid spring turkey hunter I’m always on the lookout for things that might give me an edge when I put the pipper of my Red Dot sight on the head and neck of a longbeard. I won’t lie. Over the years I’ve pulled the trigger on several big toms only to have them fly off into the treetops, leaving me to wonder what on earth went wrong?
A poor workman always blames his tools, so naturally I felt the problem wasn’t with me but with my gun. As a result I’ve done everything I could to have my gun deliver the tightest pattern possible.
I’ve had my trusty Remington Model 870 retrofitted by having the forcing cone lengthened and an ultra-tight Briley choke installed. I’ve tried numerous brands of ammunition, including those loads with heavier than lead tungsten pellets. The gun does pattern well, but beyond 40 yards the pattern opens up to a point where the chance might be 50/50 the bird will be coming home with me. As a result, I try never to take a shot beyond 35 yards. But sometimes I misjudge the distance.
The last bird I shot I thought was within my self-imposed 35-yard limit, but in reality he was standing at a stepped-off distance of 42 paces when I pulled the trigger. After the shot the bird went down but continued to flop until I picked him up and dispatched him. You can’t argue with success, but I still wasn’t satisfied with how well my equipment performed. I thought I did everything I could to insure a tight pattern but felt it could be better.
Imagine my excitement when I found out Winchester has just introduced a new turkey load that will deliver exceptionally tight killing patterns out to 70 yards! I would never take a shot that long and don’t recommend anyone even try it, but the fact the pattern would be tight at that range meant it would be exceptionally deadly at normal turkey ranges of 40 yards or less.
Winchester might have actually achieved the ultimate in turkey-killing performance with its new Long Beard XR lead turkey load. Protecting the lead pellets from deformation by using a buffer material isn’t a new idea, but Winchester has upped the ante of the buffering game by using a proprietary glue-like substance the company calls “Shot-Lok.” The concept is fairly simple because as each cartridge is loaded, liquid Shot-Lok is poured into each shell and then the pellets are added to this pool of resin. As the shell progresses down the loading line the resin hardens around the pellets and seals all the tiny gaps between the pellets. What this means is that the pellets are much better protected when the gun is fired and deformed pellets can’t get into the shot sting to bugger things up because there aren’t any – or at least there are very few. By the time the wad of shot exits the shotgun barrel the resin has turned to dust and the pattern consists almost entirely of perfectly round lead pellets that remain in a tight cluster.
With my curiosity aroused, I went online to learn more about these new loads, and what I read was nothing short of amazing. The new Long Beard XRs delivered 35 No. 5 pellets into the kill zone of a turkey at 50 yards! Again, I’m not advocating taking shots at that distance, but I can’t help but be amazed at the potential knockdown power these loads promise to deliver at normal shooting distances of 40 yards or less. On the downside, because these loads pattern so tight, I can see the potential for a miss at close range if the hunter doesn’t take the time to pattern his gun both at close and long range.
Once this snow melts I’m heading to the range to test these new shells for myself, and if they perform as well as I expect them to, it will be “turkey beware,” come May.