This is what happened a few months ago when I ventured west to the Show Me State for some turkey hunting. I had been discussing this for a while with Dave Miller, the shotgun product manager at CZ-USA, a ﬁrearm manufacturer headquartered next door to Missouri in Kansas City, Kan. CZ-USA is the US-based subsidiary of the Czech Republic company that makes a long list of ﬁrearms, including riﬂes, pistols, submachine guns and some very ﬁne shotguns. Many of their scatterguns are made in Turkey, which, if you didn’t know, has a long history of making ﬁrearms. CZ-USA also owns Dan Wesson Firearms, which has produced excellent revolvers and pistols for years, including some very nice 1911s.
I have talked to you about Miller in these pages before. Last year I reported on a feat he accomplished that I do not expect to be equaled anytime soon. Miller broke no less than 3,653 clay targets in one hour, squarely putting him in the Guinness Book of World Records. I was there, I saw it and, to say the least, it was impressive.
Miller is what I would call a rabid shotgun shooter. He lives and breathes it. Besides handling the shotgun product line for CZ-USA, he is also their demonstration and exhibition shooter. I don’t know how many days a year he spends on the road shooting shotguns, but it is way more than I want to be away from home. Saying that Dave Miller shoots a shotgun is like saying Michelangelo painted a few pictures.
So, when Miller called me last spring and invited me to go hunt some Missouri turkeys, I was all for it. But secretly I was a little nervous. If this guy went after turkeys the way he does clay targets, I wasn’t sure I could keep up with him, but there was only one way to ﬁnd out.
When it comes to hospitality, Miller takes the cake, or in this case, the turkey. He secured an absolutely beautiful piece of property for us to hunt – many thanks to J.W. Page, the owner – not far from Kansas City. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Miller found a stunning bed and breakfast a mile from there: the Laurel Brooke Farm B&B. We were set!
THE DAY I ARRIVED Miller drove me out to the hunting area to check it out and unlimber the shotguns we would be using. We elected to use the CZ 612 Magnum Turkey Shotgun, and by the end of our shooting session I was glad we did. Any shotgunner needs at least one good pump gun and the CZ 612 may be perfect. This shotgun only weighs an amazing 6.8 pounds – that’s light. It has a 3½-inch chamber for those who want to shoot the big shells, and it also takes 3- and 2¾-inch shells. What I appreciated was an action that is not equaled by any shotgun in the same price range.
“This is the smoothest, most reliable action on a pump shotgun since the Model 12,” Miller told me. “It is very durable and easy to operate.”
After carrying and hunting with it for ﬁve days, I had to agree. The shotgun is hydro-dipped in Realtree Xtra Green camo and comes with an extra-full choke just for turkey hunting. I would have no problem taking this shotgun upland-bird hunting or waterfowl hunting, for that matter.
When you take all of this into consideration, as well as the retail price of $429, this shotgun is hard to beat. If you can ﬁnd a better made pump shotgun at this price – you won’t – you should buy it!
I DECIDED TO PUT AN OPTIC on one of the shotguns we carried and chose the Trijicon MRO red-dot sight. You have heard me talk about the MRO before, and I believe this is an excellent optic for a turkey gun. This sight allows for lightning-fast target acquisition, has a ﬁve-year battery life and is extremely rugged, as Trijicon optics are built to military specs. Miller and I did not baby the shotguns or the optic on this trip, and they came through it just ﬁne.
While the hospitality of all the people in Missouri I met was wonderful, the Missouri turkeys I came across were not as friendly. They were acting a bit snobbish and did not want to just walk in and be shot like a respectable bird. On the ﬁrst morning, after a very long ordeal with a particularly uppity gobbler, Miller pulled a rabbit out of his hat. We spent over an hour crawling on our bellies like reptiles, watching a typical ﬁeld turkey march around out of range. With a strategic decoy placement Miller coaxed the old reprobate gobbler to come right in.
I would be lying if I said that I was not afraid I might miss in front of a shotgunner like Miller, but the Trijicon MRO really helped on a shot that was closer to 50 than 40 yards. I was also glad to have a Winchester Longbeard XR load in the chamber, as I have seen these shells excel when a hunter stretches the yardage. The CZ 612 spoke and the turkey went down as if struck by lightning (whew!). I think Miller was as happy as I was.
Good friends, beautiful country, a good shotgun and some turkeys to talk to – it doesn’t get much better. Think about Missouri if you are considering a road trip for turkeys. I think the annual harvest is something like 45,000 per year.
Me? I’m glad to be home, but you know, I have been thinking about a little trip somewhere. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more on the products mentioned in this story, see cz-usa.com, trijicon.com and winchester.com.
It’s that time of year again, when grown men (and, yes, women!) begin a strange and wonderful ritual of late arrivals to work and practicing bird calls. I have to confess, I am a spring turkey addict; I simply love to hunt them. From my first experience in 1964 to this day, hunting spring gobblers is my favorite pastime.
THERE HAVE BEEN SOME WONDERFUL advances in the shotgun and shotgun-ammo world for the turkey hunter, thanks to the sport’s great popularity. A shotgun for turkey hunting differs from the standard field scattergun in that we’re looking for a gun that delivers a consistent, small, concentrated pattern of shot at a nominal 40-yard range. The premise may seem simple, but the engineering that has to take place to build such a gun is complicated, and is made further so by the construction of the ammunition. In the old days, before the overshot polymer wad cup, the shotgun shell contained powder, a couple of cushion wads and the shot – end of story. Now we have found that the genius invention of interchangeable choke tubes (versus the fixed-choke barrel) may spin or strip the wad, causing wide dispersion of the shot column. This may be perfect for quail on the wing, but not what we want for wild turkey.
SINCE I HUNT with traditional single- or double-barrel guns, one of the best innovations, in my opinion, has been the invention of the new Flitecontrol wad, (which defies traditional wisdom and breaks at the rear first) and Heavyweight shot from Federal, which have given some of my old shotguns new life. If you have a traditional 12- or 20-gauge single-shot shotgun with a fixed choke, or any shotgun where the choke does not strip the wad, you should give this ammo a look. Hornady followed Federal with their version of this new wad technology, and also now makes loads that are, in some guns, a turkey’s worst nightmare. A turkey gun is only as good as the pattern it will consistently produce, and our ammunition manufacturers have stepped up to the plate with this new thinking.
There have been some wonderful advances in the shotgun and shotgun-ammo world for the turkey hunter
FINDING THE GUN/AMMO TURKEY combination is complicated because it’s nearly impossible to get a smooth-barrel gun to pattern multi-projectile ammunition consistently. It’s not like a rifle where we can reasonably expect some consistency in groups; indeed, I have yet to see any shotgun/shotgun shell combination that would 100 percent of the time shoot the exact same number of pellets into a 3-inch circle at 40 yards. We have to set a number that we will deem acceptable for the killing shot at a standardized distance (40 yards) and work towards it, trying different choke constrictions, pellet sizes and power combinations. In a nutshell, we are looking for repeatable center density and killing power in the form of penetration.
MY WORK WITH FACTORY AMMUNITION indicates that if your gun, regardless of gauge, will put at least 10 pellets – and the more, the better – into a 3-inch circle at 40 yards every time, and those pellets at 40 yards will penetrate a plastic 20-ounce soft-drink bottle, you have a 40-yard turkey gun. Here is where things get sticky. There are more No. 6 shot in an ounce than larger shot sizes, so the pattern of No. 6 should provide a higher density on the paper, but that is not always the case. I’ve seen some guns shoot No. 4 or No. 5 shot (I really like No. 5, by the way) with much better pattern density than No. 6. Also, the relatively new mixed-alloy shot like Hevi-Shot, Bismuth or Heavyweight in like sizes will outpenetrate lead. The question is, if it won’t pattern well in your gun, should you use it?
Let’s assume you have a turkey gun. Sight your gun in at about 20 feet with a low-brass shell to get a sense of where you will hit with a repeatable sight picture. If you have adjustable sights – all turkey guns should have them – you can sight in your gun here, and know that you are getting the same sight picture with each shot. You should then shoot the shot sizes you wish to test at the 25- and 40-yard range on standard pattern targets with a 3-inch circle aiming point. This will tell you, or should, what your gun prefers. You should shoot at least five shots on different targets with each shot size, and 10 is better to get a real picture of what your gun is doing. You want tight, even patterns with no holes in them. The guy who fires one round at a turkey-silhouette target and pronounces his gun patterned has no business being allowed to buy camouflage. Pattern your damn gun before you shoot at a turkey.
Once you have settled on a shot size, you can try the short or long magnum shell loadings in lead or nontoxic shot if your gun is chambered for them. I’ve seen some guns pattern great with a standard load of one shot size, but with magnum loads another shot size will pattern better. In almost every case I’ve seen the most consistent patterns with nonmagnum loads, and some of the new wad technology ammunition will pattern better from nonfull-choke guns – this was certainly true for my Savage 24V in 20 gauge, with its 24-inch modified fixed-choke barrel.
Fire a shot with each shot size and pellet type (copper plated, pure lead, alloy combination, etc.) at a plastic 20-ounce soft-drink bottle at 40 yards. You will see that some shot sizes and pellet types will penetrate the front of the bottle and not go all the way through, and some (like Hevi-Shot, Bismuth or Heavyweight) will go all the way through the bottle and keep on trucking. Remember, the pattern is worthless if the shot bounces off the turkey. You should test the penetration of your chosen load at your maximum shooting range.
What is important is the consistent delivery of no less than 10 pellets into the 3-inch circle at 40 yards. If pure lead will do it in your gun, then that is what you should shoot. If only lead-free shells will work, then there is your answer.
We want that gobbler dead before he hits the ground. Before you plop down your hard-earned dough for a new turkey cannon, give that old clunker in the closet a try with some of the new ammo technology; it might just surprise you. ASJ
Posted in Hunting Tagged with: Ammuntion, Double barrel, Federal Ammunition, Flitewad Control, Heavyweight, Hornady Ammunition, Hunting, Salvage your gun, Single barrel, Spring season, turkey, Walt Hampton
Story and photographs by Dana Farrell
When I received an invitation from a friend to hunt spring turkeys in the pine hills of northwest Nebraska, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try out some new gear, and having previously only hunted easterns in my home state of Michigan, possibly put a Merriam’s turkey fan on my wall. Every couple of years, I look forward to making my way west to hunt big game, and this time, turkey hunting in the Cornhusker State would be the first stop on a trip to Idaho for black bear – not a bad way to spend two weeks in the springtime, and a lot more fun than sitting at my desk.
During this hunt, I would be field testing CZ-USA’s 612 Waterfowl, a 3½-inch 12-gauge pump shotgun with a synthetic, camo-clad stock. This, along with one of Hevi-Shot’s special heavier-than-lead turkey loads, would be an enjoyable litmus test of two leading-edge products. My experience with CZ has been very positive. I think they’re doing a lot of great things with their product line and I wanted to try their waterfowl pump-gun on turkey. I’ve been a fan of Hevi-Shot’s denser-than-lead products for some time, having used them on Michigan turkeys and decoyed waterfowl, but this would be my first experience using their Magnum Blend; a 3-inch, 2-ounce triplex payload of No. 5, 6 and 7 shot. A pretrip pattern-testing session, using an extra-full choke, produced concentrated, dense patterns on paper at 30 yards. This left me anxious to try this hard-hitting combo on a Nebraska gobbler.
The area where I hunted looks like the Black Hills of South Dakota. In fact, the Black Hills are only a short hop, skip and jump across the state line about 75 miles to the north. Like the Black Hills, the northwest corner of Nebraska is timbered with tall pines separated by large rolling grasslands interspersed with hardwood draws, laced with small winding streams. Elk, mulies and pronghorn roam the hillsides, along with a burgeoning population of Merriam’s turkeys. It is beautiful country, and with a mixture of public and private land holdings and a local community very welcoming to the economic bonus traveling turkey hunters bring to their area, access is not hard. The nearby 22,000-acre Fort Robinson State Park is open to public hunting and has a variety of camping and cabin rental options well suited to the needs of the traveling sportsman. Other private holdings provide combination hunting access and on-site accommodations as well.
I was hunting a steep river gully that was maybe 100 feet from top to bottom, all full of hardwoods and surrounded by gently sloping meadows on both sides. A lazy stream wound its way through this break in the land and grassy patches. This looked like prime strutting arenas for love-hungry toms. Springtime was in full swing when I visited in late April, with trees leafing out and colorful wildflowers making their annual appearance. Nights were cool with daytime temperatures approaching a pleasant 70 degrees.
This would prove to be a most interesting turkey hunt, and one that required a good measure of woodsmanship to pull off. I set up on a small meadow, near the lip of a gully just before daybreak, and put out a pair of decoys, a hen and jake then settled against a tree while several toms sounded off from their roosts. Gobbles came from different directions, enthusiastically answering my soft yelps as the sun edged over the horizon. Ninety minutes after sunrise, when no toms had followed through with their chest-beating promises, it was time for me to make a move. Judging by his gobbles, one bird had moved into the open field behind me but was playing hard to get and resisted the urge of my mournful yelps. Moving carefully to avoid skylining, I got up and crept to the edge of the rise behind me to peer out into the adjacent meadow. Over the ridge I spied a strutting gobbler about 75 yards away. He held a commanding view of his surroundings and was anxiously awaiting a lady friend to take him up on his unabashed invitations. Slowly backing down behind the hill, I weighed my options and made a plan to belly crawl towards the bird’s position, closing the distance by about 25 yards and putting me just out of range for a comfortable shot. At the top of the draw within view of the bird was a yucca, which I crawled up to and behind for cover. Reaching the end of the draw I attempted a call to bring the bird within a shootable range. It was a stretch, but I had nothing to lose.
Lying down flat on the ground, I army-crawled my way towards the spiky plant positioned at the crest of the ridge. A few minutes later while peering through the yucca towards the end of the depression, I could see the bird at around 50 yards, still struttin’ his stuff. I yelped softly on my slate call, immediately gaining his attention and coaxing him in my direction another 10 yards. At that point he was a comfortable 40 yards away and close enough for a confident shot; I didn’t wait. One poke from the CZ 612 and the Magnum Blend rolled him over and closed the deal. You’ve got to love it when a good plan comes together.
His fan looks really great on my wall, and contrasts nicely with a Michigan eastern I took a few years back. ASJ
Nebraska turkey tags are $23 for residents
and $90 for nonresidents, and a $20
habitat stamp is required. Crawford, Neb.,
is the nearest town and has all the needed
essentials. A place worth checking out is
the High Plains Homestead, a throwback
to the 19th century American West.
Rooms are $68.50 single occupancy per
night and good steaks, grilled over a wood
fire, are available at their Cookshack. Visit
them at highplainshomestead.com.
For camping options, Fort Robinson
State Park is only a few miles from
Crawford and offers an assortment of
camping facilities and cabins for rent. –DF
Story and photos by Larry Case
My brothers in camo, maybe you know by now, that I always try to be honest with you. I say this, because I was just a little nervous to start this month’s offering. One reason being, I think I have probably talked to you before about the importance of being prepared, knowing where your shotgun hits and having it sighted in (yes, I said “sighted in” for a shotgun).
The second reason is we have a new editor at Western Shooting Journal and after hearing about her background and experience I thought if I didn’t get this right, well, she might just whip my butt. Oh well, it has been whipped before, so here it goes.
As we are speeding into the month of March, many of us “shot-gunners” are thinking about (or should be) preparing for the spring turkey season. I want to caution you about merely grabbing the shotgun off the wall, and heading off to the woods. Success comes from having confidence in your weapon, and we achieve this by doing some shooting and knowing what the gun will do.
First, remember that this turkey shooting deal, in the spring, has evolved into something more like rifle shooting than “shot-gunning.” Ideally we are aiming, not pointing the gun, at a small, stationary target (the turkeys head and neck). Almost any kind of sights we put on the shotgun, more than just a standard bead, will help us.
The first level of improvement is installing an additional bead, about halfway down the rib. This gives you a “rear sight.” The shooter puts the rear bead on the front bead, front bead on the target and squeezes the trigger. A bead or rear sight, is meant to keep us from making the big mistake, the blunder, that saves more turkeys lives, than any other factor in our shooting. Ready? Here it is.
When we do not put our head on the gun and look squarely down a level rib, we shoot high and miss. I know, I’ve done it more than once. The front bead, is in fact, on the target, but your cheek is not fully down on the stock. The gun is tilted up and you sit there with your teeth in your mouth watching your turkey fly away. No amount of cursing and/or praying will bring him back.
Next level of improvement is rifle sights (check out what HizViz or Dead Ringer have to offer). An open, rear sight gives you a more precise way to aim the shotgun. Red Dot style scopes and other optics are an even more sophisticated way to aim. Even an inexpensive Red Dot scope can make a shotgun very deadly and the reason is simple. If the Red Dot style optic is properly sighted in, and the dot is on the target when the shooter pulls the trigger, you will hit the target. This takes the cardinal sin, of not keeping our head down, out of the picture. Now remember, we are talking about aiming the shotgun at a mostly stationary target. Any wing or clay shooting instructor will have a stroke, if you ask him about putting these sights on your gun.
Alright, now that we have an accurate way to aim, let’s talk about point of impact. One of the hardest things for some people to learn, is that all shotguns, do not shoot-where-they-look. If we fire the shotgun from a bench rest, the target may tell us the gun is shooting right, left, high, low, or whatever. Let me make it even clearer. Many shotguns will shoot differently with different loads or chokes. You have to put them on paper, folks!
Basically, what we are talking about here, is sighting in your shotgun, and you knew I would have some pointers on this. First, do this on a day when you are not in a hurry. If you are pressed for time, go home, and watch “swamp folks” or something else on television. To do this right, you need a large target holder (30 inches or better), a bench rest, sandbags or comparable, ammo, targets, and a stapler.
Have the loads, you are going to hunt with, on hand, but we are not going to start with them. To begin, let’s shoot any low brass, target loads that you have. Your first shot will be from 10 yard line (that’s right, 10 yards). You don’t need a turkey head target for this. A large piece of blank paper is better. Darken in a 4 inch circle, in the middle, to give you an aiming point and mark a straight line, vertical and horizontal, through your aiming point. All we are doing, is seeing where the pattern is going. Is the pattern evenly placed on either side of the lines? Is there about 50 percent of the pattern above the horizontal line and 50 percent below? Now, do this at the 20, 30 and 40 yard lines. Use a new piece of paper every time and if it looks like you are Ok and the gun is shooting-where-it-looks, you should then try your hunting loads at the same intervals. Now, you know where your gun is shooting, no question.
If the pattern is significantly off and you cannot adjust it with your sights, you are getting into an area where you need to speak to a qualified gunsmith. We are talking about straightening or bending a barrel here. Don’t let that scare you; a good gunsmith can do this in his sleep.
Well that’s about it till next time folks. Hope this is OK with the new editor. Man! That woman scares me!
Mossberg 535 Shotgun
You know my theory, about how many shotguns one needs? My answer is all you can get! So, I wanted to give you a peek, at a shotgun, that you can lust after.
Mossberg came out with something new, for 2015, on their 835 Ulti Mag and 535 ATS pump shotguns. The Marble Arms Bullseye sight system. If you don’t know about these sights, they have been around since Davy Crockett tracked his first bear.
I looked at these guns at SHOT Show; the shotgunis the same, functional, dependable, Mossberg pump gun with dual extractors, twin action bars, an anti-jam elevator, and that great ambidextrous top mounted safety. The Marble Bullseye, is a double ring design on the rear sight, and a light gathering fiber optic on the front. It allows the shooter to get on target quickly, and stay on target. The instant the front sight drifts out of the center ring, the shooter can see they are not on target. This sight is ideal for a turkey hunter.
The minute I picked this shotgun up and looked through the Marble sight, I liked it, and you will too. I have always thought that Mossberg shotguns are tough as a pine knot, and from what I can see the Marble Bullseye sight is as well. – Larry Case
(Photo: Linda Powell – Mossberg Director of Media Relations, with a Mossberg 535 at SHOT 2015)