By Melissa BachmanWhen it comes to turkey hunting, there are usually two kinds of people out there: those who are blown away by the results of their turkey gun and those who know there is some room for improvement. Which are you?
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 long-distance shots, if needed, all the way to the up-close and personal shots.
Winchester offers Long Beard 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 it reaches a distant turkey and lacks 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.
The next decision is what shot is best for your setup. Shot comes in various sizes and are numbered. How it works is the larger the number, the smaller the size of shot. Winchester offers Long Beard 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 size is really important. I strongly believe in educating yourself so you can pick the best shot for your turkey hunting style and setup. Then you can 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 fewer of them. Because they are heavier, they also deliver incredible knockdown power, carrying the most energy of all but travel slower. Although there may be fewer, you will hit the bird with devastating power and get better penetration helping you on those long shots.
Next, we’ll go over No. 6s. If you’re the type who 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, but know that 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. 5s, 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 and 6s, but 5 shot is my all-around favorite.
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 err 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.