Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Make That One Shot Count

Your shotgun shell should be up to the task at hand. Ideally, you’ll only need one shot. Make it count. (NWTF Media Photo)

Your shotgun shell should be up to the task at hand. Ideally, you’ll only need one shot. Make it count. (NWTF Media Photo)

By Steve Hickoff 

One shot should be all it takes in spring turkey hunting.

How far is too far? How close is too close? Most turkey camps I’ve visited around the country inevitably involve a supper table debate about the best shotgun range for dropping a spring gobbler. 

My generic answer: 20-35 yards.

The payload stays tennis-ball tight with shots taken at under 20 steps, and misses are more likely, especially with that serpentine turkey head juking around. True enough I killed four in-your-face birds in as many states last spring at distances between four and 15 yards, but more breathing room would have been preferred. This season I could whiff four times at those putting distances.

Then again further out, especially beyond 40 yards, the swarm of pellets begins to open up. That’s no good either. In the end, you need to know your shotgun and how that firearm handles a particular load. Load capabilities vary—some are dead on and tighter at longer ranges, choke tube and firearm depending.

True enough, some of the extended-range loads available these days provide a mix of turkey shotshell options. The choice is up to each hunter. I use them all. Each shotgun dictates the final selection based on familiarity from shooting the combination of options. 

Still for me, it’s often all about enjoying the moment as the gobbler works to my calls, even after that wild turkey steps into the edge of range. Then again, if that bird keeps angling away, you have to do what you have to do. I once killed a Texas Rio at 47 steps after I’d missed the gobbler at five yards. Way too close on that first one; over my comfortable range on the follow up. Most of the time my preferred range is that 20-35 yard window. Other guys shoot a bit further.

Here are some basics to remember: A shot pellet transfers energy as a result of velocity and weight. Multiple hits deliver cumulative energy. In the end though, scattergunning remains an inexact science. The better you know how your shotgun and choke handles a specific load, the more improved are your chances of killing a gobbler. Shooting builds confidence. 

Ask yourself: Are you interested in calling turkeys close, as in 20-35 yards, or taking them on the edge of your range? The latter scenario might work, but it also risks crippling a bird. Boom. Down. Dead turkey. That’s what we want.