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.
The Scattergun Trail
Story and photos by Larry Case
“It takes hundreds of decoys and a thousand is even better”
I used to get tired hearing about the good old days. Older hunters and fishermen are the world’s worst when it comes to relating how great it was in the “good old days.” I don’t hear this so much anymore; maybe because I have become one of the old guys that talk about how great it used to be.
As far as wildlife and game populations go, in many respects we are better off now than 50 years ago. With deer and turkey there is no question but our smaller game, that is a story for another time.
In one area of waterfowl hunting however, we are completely off the charts and that is with snow geese. Known as “light geese” in the waterfowl identification world, this group includes the greater and lesser snow goose, Ross’s goose and some variations including hybrids of these.
Snow geese, especially the greater snow goose, can cause great damage to the habitat they feed in. Geese are grazers and pull different grasses and plants out of the ground while feeding; they will also dig into the soil with their powerful beaks to extract more of the roots. This may not sound like a big deal until you think about oh let’s say, 10 thousand geese descending onto one field. Those are the kinds of numbers these geese may travel in.The arctic tundra, where these birds nest,is very fragile with a short growing season. The snow goose was literally eating himself, as well as other birds and wildlife, out of house and home – something had to give.
Long story short, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was able to change some rules to allow for a much greater harvest of light geese. This meant longer seasons (107 days in some states) extending into March and restrictions on things like plugged shotguns and electronic callers were removed. They clearly wanted hunters to knock down some geese!
“the damage they can do to crops, well, you just have to see it to believe it”
What has emerged in the past 15 years or so is a new genre of waterfowl hunting. Even though this is February, it is considered spring hunting as the season often runs into March and April depending on what state you are in. Hunters who are obsessed with this (believe me, these guys are out there) basically start in the south around Texas to Arkansas and follow the white geese on their northern migration.
I wanted to talk to someone on the snow goose trail and I found Josh Dahlke lying in a muddy field in Arkansas. Josh runs the popular website ScoutLook.com. This site is the cat’s meow for keeping hunters and fisherman updated on the latest weather and conditions for your area. There is a ton of information and articles on whatever kind of hook and bullet arena you play in.
Josh was hunting for snow geese with Eaglehead Outdoors outfitters; these guys are the real deal and chase them as they move north from February to April. “I know these geese cause damage to the tundra when they get to their breeding grounds,” Josh told me “but here in the states, the damage they can do to crops, … well, you just have to see it to believe it. We found a huge flock of snows staged next to a 40-acre winter wheat field, here in Arkansas, and by the next day, that field was totally obliterated – nothing left but mud.”
Even though the snow geese flocks can number in the thousands, Josh Dahlke was quick to point out that this is not always an easy game. “These birds get shot at all the way to Canada,” he said, “They have seen decoy spreads all along the route and can be “dang” smart. To be successful at this it takes a lot of work, driving (hundreds of miles) and scouting, finding the geese and then setting up massive decoy spreads. A few dozen decoys just won’t do it. It takes hundreds of decoys and a thousand is even better. The average hunter can’t do it,” Josh explained, “that’s why if you want to try this, you may want to give an outfitter a call.”
Even though we are talking millions of geese here, there are no guarantees. When conditions are right however, you can stack up a lot of snow geese. Josh told me about a time when his party took 64 geese and sometimes the numbers can go much higher than that. The daily limit in some states is as high as 25 with an unlimited possession rate.
I may not make it on a snow goose hunt this year – but then again I might. I still have some squirrel hunting to do and then spring turkey to think about. If you want to go, you might give the guys at Eaglehead Outdoors a call, 320-224-3614, www.eagleheadoutdoors.com. I hope you get to shoot so much that you burn the barrel off that shotgun.
Josh Dahlke used the Winchester Blindside ammo on this snow goose hunt. If you are a waterfowler and have not tried it, you need to check it out.
The basic premise for why these shotgun shells are so deadly lies in Winchesters revolutionary HEX™ shot technology. The shot is shaped like a hexagon – they look like tiny dice. When fired from a shotgun shell, this shape is devastating to anything it hits; Imagine hundreds of miniature tumbling bricks. This means bigger wound channels than with a conventional round shot. Also, because of the hex shape, the shot is actually stacked neatly within the shell casing. More shot can be placed into the shell, up to 15% more. Is this going to help you take more ducks and geese? You can bet your sweet Benelli it is.
Winchester Blindside Shotgun Ammunition
Blindside ammo also has a really wicked diamond cut wad that delivers a beautiful pattern and what is really interesting, Winchester introduced a high velocity version of Blindside last year. These shells offer 12-gauge loads of #5’s and BB’s moving at 1675-fps. That is screamin’ my friend.
Josh Dahlke told me the consensus on his hunt was that those using the Blindside ammo experienced less cripples and the high velocity loads helped with snow geese as you often have long shots. If you are a duck and goose hunter you just might want to take a look.