Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Care and Handling of Your Turkey Gun

Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

A hard case is good for traveling through rough terrain.

A hard case is good for traveling through rough terrain.

By Bob Humphrey

Turkey season is here again and like millions of other eager enthusiasts you’ll soon be heading afield, armed and ready.  Before you do you’ll want to be sure all your tools are in good working order, particularly your firearm.  Proper care and handling can go a long way toward ensuring your hunt is both safe and enjoyable.


When traveling in a vehicle, whether off-road or on, it’s always a good idea to have your gun cased.  A padded soft case will work alright but a hard case is even better, particularly if you’re traveling on rough terrain or your gun has any kind of optics.  If you’re traveling by air, use the most rugged case you can find and afford.  And make sure that it has TSA-approved locks.


Speaking of optics, if you use them, keep your scope covers on when not in the field, whether storing or transporting your gun.  This will help protect the lenses.  If your lenses get dusty or dirty, brush or blow them off first with a puff of air or a lens brush.  Then polish using a lens cloth or lens pen.  Do NOT use paper tissues or towels.  They are made of wood fiber, which can permanently damage your lens.  Also, resist the urge to use your handkerchief, shirt sleeve or any other garment as these trap dirt that could scratch your lenses. 


During the season, you’ll want to be sure your gun has enough lubrication to minimize friction and wear, but not so much that it gums up the works and collects dirt.  Older, petroleum-based oils tended to do just that. You’re better off using one of the newer lubricants designed specifically for firearms.  Many offer the duality of cleaning and lubrication, and tend to dry into a non-stick coating.  

Although popular, WD-40 is not a good choice for lubrication.  However, it is a great choice if your gun gets wet because it displaces water.  Spray your gun liberally and let it stand for an hour or so.  Then, wipe it down thoroughly and spray with gun lube.  After the season’s over and before you put your gun up for another year you should give it a more thorough cleaning, a topic we’ll save for another day. 


When afield, treat every gun as if it were loaded.  This includes always keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and never pointing your firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot.  Also, keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot, and never rely on your gun's safety mechanism.  You could accidentally trip and fall, and safeties can malfunction.

When it comes to shooting, always be sure of your target and what's beyond it.  The leading cause of turkey hunting incidents is hunters misidentifying their targets.  Furthermore, in the heat of the moment you may get tunnel vision, focusing all your concentration on that big tom.  You wouldn’t want to accidentally send a load of shot into the neighbor’s barn, or his cow; and you certainly wouldn’t want to unintentionally take out an extra turkey. 

Always unload firearms when not in use.  Check and double check.  If you use a pump or semi-auto, make a habit of working the action a couple times after you think you’ve emptied the gun.  Then do a visual inspection.  


Sometimes the unexpected happens.  Being ready and knowing what to do could prevent a premature end to your hunt.  If you should fall with your muzzle pointed down, you need to be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting.  Unload the gun, remove the barrel then, and only then, look for obstructions.  If your barrel is plugged with mud or dirt you may have to cut a switch.  ATSKO makes a collapsible cleaning rod that weighs a few ounces and will fit in your vest pocket.

If your gun fails to fire, continue to hold it in a safe direction while you slowly count to 10.  Then, unload it.  Set the shotshell aside and dispose of it properly.  You may also want to dry fire your gun a few times to ensure it is working properly.  Dry firing once or twice wont’ hurt it but don’t make a habit of it.  Be absolutely certain the gun is unloaded before you attempt it.  Even then, point in a safe direction before pulling the trigger.