Turkey Prep #101 - Pattern Your Shotgun
For the most part, game birds are like buses: Miss one and there’s another coming along soon. That’s not the case with wild turkey.Turkey may represent the one kind of shotgun hunting in which an entire season comes down to a single shot. And to make that shot count demands particular attention to detail.
There is nothing more important to the successful turkey hunter than patterning. And it is both shotgun and load. The fact is, every load behaves differently out of every shotgun and choke. And there is ultimately no substitute for shooting your gun and load on paper at a known range, and counting the hits.
Winchester, though, has a very useful tool that lets you pattern. It’s their online Winchester Pattern Board. This free app allows you plug in a wide array of Winchester turkey loads, such as their superior long-range Long Beard™ XR™, Double X®, and Super X® loads, made specifically for turkey. While you can winnow down your choices with the Pattern Board, though, you are still going to have to go out onto the range with live ammo and a paper target.
Though it goes without saying, pick a legal, safe place to do your patterning, and always wear reliable shooting and hearing protection. And be sure to observe all gun-safety rules.
Some thoughts for physical sighting in. For one, shooting a shotgun off a bench is punishment. Invest in a good recoil pad on the gun and one you can wear on your shoulder. If you have, or can borrow, one, use something like a Lead Sled® for initial sighting in. Before that, decide on how you are going to sight your turkey gun. Are you sticking with a bead sight or an adjustable open iron one? Scopes and reflex sights are serious considerations for a dedicated turkey gun. With adjustable irons, scopes, and reflexes, shooting off a sled on a bench can get you to a fine tune.
Sighting down a barrel to a bead is all about gun fit and head and body position, something that really doesn’t translate through a Lead Sled. Whatever hunting load–Long Beard XR, Double X, or Super X–you choose to employ, you need to get down onto the ground likely in the chair you will be sitting in, ground squatting, prone-hunting position, and see where you are patterning. If you’ve practiced at the bench, you shouldn’t need to beat yourself up on the ground, but you do need to fire enough rounds so you know how your shot string flies. And this applies to iron and optical sights, too. Chokes - don't forget about chokes. Give Winchester's Long Bear XR a look.
Don’t overlook Winchester Xtended Range™ Bismuth turkey loads, which includes the innovative Shot-Lok technology. This round is legal on many public lands that require lead-free shot. Most important, they perform well in and of themselves.
There is an old Asian warrior saying, just as applicable to turkey hunting: The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle. Turkey hunting may not be as fraught as all that, but you get the idea.
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