How to Select the Best Turkey Hunting Equipment
As turkey hunting goes into full swing there are usually two kinds of people out there. Those that are blown away by the results of their turkey gun, and those who know there is definitely some room for improvement.
The real question is, which one do you fall into?
Many factors go into having a perfect turkey hunting setup. Everything from ammunition selection to gun and choke configuration can make a big difference. The perfect combination will give you truly stunning results. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who simply don’t have the information needed to make the best buying decision.
First and foremost, ammunition selection is huge. This is the only thing that comes in contact with the turkey. You need to ensure the ammo you have chosen will get it done for longer distance shots if needed all the way into the super-up-close and personal shots as well!
Winchester offers LongBeard XR in both 12 and 20 gauges. This has truly changed the effective range for many turkey hunters. For years, 40-yards has been the standard in which turkey loads were measured. Anything more than that was usually deemed out-of-range because the pellets disperse too much by the time they reach a distant turkey and lack knockdown power and penetration. For the sake of this piece, I will be discussing using a 12-gauge as that’s what I usually prefer. However, I know incredible results are also found when using a 20-gauge.
Winchester combatted this by using Shot-Lok Technology which holds shot pellets together longer and allows for 10 percent more penetration at 50-yards. So, how was this accomplished? Copper-plated lead shot sits in a hard resin that encapsulates the shot itself. Think of this as a protective capsule or micro-buffer that keeps pellets in perfect condition as the shot is charged. Once the trigger is squeezed, pressure from it accelerating from ignition to 1200 FPS fractures all that hard stuff around the pellets to keep them round and get them out of the barrel in tip top condition.
Pellets aren’t able to bounce around as all the airspace has been taken away and they zip through the barrel protected and exit without deformities. If pellets are deformed and not perfectly circular, they will not stay in a tight pattern. Thanks to this protective-resin, this is no longer an issue. So, think of it as Winchester creating a safe way for pellets to travel during in-bore acceleration without getting bounced around and becoming deformed. By keeping them protected and perfectly round, they pattern much better and hit harder on impact. The same would be true if you tried throwing a deformed baseball that wasn’t perfectly round. It may not fly as true and could take a turn for the worst at any given time. A perfectly round ball offers much more control and consistency. It can go faster and hit on-target with more precision. Because of this technology at 60-yards, LongBeard XR will deliver twice the number of pellets in a 10-inch circle when compared to traditional turkey loads. The best part is because these loads don’t feature Tungsten, they’re quite affordable and you still get that incredible knockdown power.
If reading this seems too good to be true, I challenge each and every person out there to buy a box and compare it to what you’re currently using. You’ll be shocked by the results. Once you’ve determined that LongBeard XR is truly the way to go, dial in the rest of your setup to perfect your capabilities.
The next decision is what shot is best for your setup. Shot comes in various sizes and they are numbered. How it works is the larger the number, the smaller the size of shot. Winchester offers LongBeard XR in No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 shot. The vast majority of people I’ve found use No. 5 shot simply to stay in the middle and not shoot either extreme. However, understanding the benefits of each is really important. I strongly believe in educating yourself so you can pick the best shot for your turkey hunting style and setup and make changes or tweaks as needed.
We’ll start with No. 4s. These are the powerhouse and do the best in windy conditions. You have bigger pellets, but in turn have less. Because they are heavier, they also deliver incredible knockdown power carrying the most energy of all, but do travel slower. Although there may be fewer pellets, you will hit the bird with devastating power and get better penetration helping you on long shots.
Next, we’ll go over No. 6s. If you’re the type that is looking for speed and the most pellets on target, 6s are your ticket. If you’re hunting windy conditions however they will drift in the wind a bit more as they are lighter. Though know you’re getting incredible speed and more pellets. In turn, you may have a little higher margin of error on a turkey shot. You can be off slightly and still have enough pellets in the head to effectively take out that big gobbler.
As for No. 5’s, they are in the middle-ground. The reason so many people use this size is because it truly is the best of both worlds for people who don’t need or want the extremes. I’ve shot birds with 4s, 5s shot and 6s’, but 5 shot is my all-around favorite.
Now that you’ve determined shot size, shell length is next. You have 2 3/4”, 3” and 3 1/2” options. With the 2 3/4”, you only get the option of shooting 5s, but with 3” and 3 ½” inch, you get all three options. The higher pellet count of the 3 ½” inch will result in more pellets inside a 10-inch circle. However, you need to decide if the extra-recoil is worth it as both have plenty of pellets to kill a turkey. What you don’t want to happen is have more recoil than you can handle and jerk the trigger and miss the target completely. The best setup truly is the one you can effectively shoot and keep on target. I like to shoot a 12-gauge 3 ½” 5 shot because once my gun is all sighted in. I barely notice the recoil and want every advantage I can possibly get. Again, it really comes down to what you can effectively shoot and how much recoil you’re willing to take. I shoot a Winchester SX4 NWTF Cantilever Turkey shotgun. It already has the cantilever optic mount which my EOTech mounts to it easily. The choke I shoot is the Invector-Plus Extra-Full turkey extended choke tube that comes with the gun. Lastly, steadiness is key so I use a tripod Bog Pod shooting stick to keep me as steady as possible and eliminate as much movement as I can. If you’d like to see my setup in action shooting at the range from 20-70 yards and what my patterns can do, check out the video below.
If this article has peaked your interest and has you wondering if you have the best combination possible, you can compare and contrast loads at the tip of your fingers before you ever hit the range. In fact, you don’t have to beat yourself up at the range trying 3” vs 3 ½” inch in both No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 as there is an easy way to quickly compare and contrast. Winchester has shot over 3,500 actual patterns fired on the range from 10 to 70 yards. You get to pick your gauge, shell length, choke configuration, shot size and range. It even eliminates the need to count pellets in the circles as it gives you the number of pellets in a 3”, 10”, 15” and 30” circle. Now you can get it narrowed down to the top two or three options and take them out to the range to create a much more manageable and effective shooting comparison. To check this out, go to Winchester’s Pattern Board application.
My recommendation is to find something that works for your gun, your style of hunting, and your comfort level. Just because your patterns show that your setup is capable of shooting 70-yards doesn’t mean you should always take the shot. Know your effective range, understand your own limitations and always error on the side of making ethical and killing shots. Practice makes perfect, so get out to the range and put together your perfect combination and then practice! That way you’ll have no excuses!