Dotzie was telling me to hurry. Treed at the base of a big white oak, my little mountain cur barked impatiently to inform me there was a squirrel up above that required my undivided attention. Out of breath from hurrying to her side, it took me several minutes to spot the gray squirrel pinned to a limb. Still a little shaky, I pulled a miss on my first shot and the squirrel darted through the upper limbs to begin his high-wire act.
I settled down by the third shot, and after I squeezed the AccuTrigger on the Savage A22, the bushytail tumbled out of the tree. I was happy, and more importantly, Dotzie was happy.
IN MY MISSPENT YOUTH, I knew an old codger who I thought of as my mentor when it came to rifles. He had survived Korea and a battle that took place in a location now called the Frozen Chozin. He had a house full of guns, and was always shooting, reloading, or doing something with a rifle. I tried to learn as much as I could from him, while staying out of his way at the same time.
“Boy,” he told me, “everyone needs a good .22 rifle, if for nothing else than just to shoot.” By “just to shoot” he meant target practice, can plinking, hunting small game, pest control, and anything else a body would need a rifle for in a caliber below a .3030. To him, a dependable .22 was a tool much like an axe or a wrench; and when you needed one, it had to work and work well.
Long known for their brand of no-nonsense firearms, Savage Arms (savagearms.com) has returned to the forefront in recent years with high-quality rifles that work well when you need them to. Savage wowed the rimfire world a couple of years ago with the introduction of the A17, the first high-performance semiautomatic rimfire specifically designed for the .17 HMR cartridge. They followed that success up with the A22 in .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum rimfire). Now, Savage is adding another new model to the A series: the A22 in (you guessed it) .22 Long Rifle. Here are some thoughts on this nifty little rifle, and why I think my old long gun mentor would approve.
Like the A17 and A22 Magnum, this rifle features a thread-in barrel with zero-tolerance head space, much like Savage builds their centerfire rifles. The barrel is “button” rifled and recessed on the business end, which is going to save on accuracy over time by protecting it. This is important if you are as hard on guns as I am, hauling them around in vehicles, getting knocked around while carrying them and the like.
The A22 comes equipped with a Savage AccuTrigger that outdoes many triggers in the centerfire line. No pulling the trigger housing or disassembly required. A small, simple tool, supplied by Savage, is inserted through the trigger guard and turned one direction to lighten the trigger pull, and the other to make it heavier. This could easily be done in the field if necessary. The trigger is the most important element of any rifle and the AccuTrigger is a good one.
The A22 has a smooth-cycling, straight-blowback action that reliably feeds a variety of .22-caliber ammunition from the magazine to the chamber. This little rifle ate every kind of .22 ammo that I fed it, including CCI Mini Mag, Federal Hunter Match, Aguila Sub Sonic and Super Extra, and Remington Gold Bullet and Target rounds. The A22 chewed them all up and spit them out without fail. That in itself is no small feat for any rimfire autoloader.
COMPANY LITERATURE TELLS US that Savage engineers did some exhaustive factory testing, and it appears they were successful across the board. The 10-round rotary magazine reliably fed the rounds every time the trigger was pulled. The magazine is flush mounted, and two other hunters besides myself who carried the A22 liked this feature.
For those times when you may want more ammo on hand, Savage also partnered with shooting accessories supplier Butler Creek (butlercreek.com) to increase the rifle’s ammo capacity by creating a 25-round, spring-fed aftermarket magazine. I haven’t got my hands on one of these magazines yet, but that is definitely my plan.
At the risk of sounding like the typical prattling gun writer, I must say I was very impressed with the A22’s accuracy. Hole touching groups did not seem to be a problem out to 50 yards, which I deemed far enough for squirrel shooting. The rifle comes equipped with adjustable open steel sights, so it’s ready to shoot right out of the box, but it is also drilled and tapped for scope mounts, allowing shooters to easily add their favorite optic.
The rifle I tested had a Bushnell 3.5-10x A22 Rimfire Optics scope mounted on it, and at first I thought this was too much scope for a .22 rifle. But after shooting this rig for a few days I really began to like it. This optic has a turret calibrated for high-velocity .22 ammo, and you can have a lot of fun with this system out to 125 yards. You can check out more info on this particular scope and many others by visiting bushnell.com.
I do herby proclaim the A22 to be a shooter, both in accuracy and proficiency of putting rounds down range. At a suggested retail of 281 American dollars, I doubt you can find a .22 rifle that is this much gun for less money. I think my old rifle guru would approve. AmSJ
Few would argue that John Moses Browning was not an inventor of firearms par excellence. Just trying to list Mr. Browning’s accomplishment in the gun world can leave the garden-variety gun writer, like me, feeling a bit queasy. You just know that you are going to forget something. From .50-caliber machine guns to the legendary 1911 pistol, Browning’s list is long and varied. You may suspect that I favor some of his shotgun wizardry, and you would be right. The 1897 Winchester pump shotgun is one of my favorites, and it paved the way for the iconic Winchester Model 12.I believe that Browning had the traits of all great inventors. First, they are brilliant in that they can conceive an idea, then picture it and finally have the tenacity to stay with the concept until the job is done. Whether it’s Eli Whitney working on the cotton gin – was also involved in mass producing firearms for the government, by the way – or Thomas Edison, who fooled around with that lightbulb thing until he got it right, great ideas often come from the most unexpected places.
Let’s talk about L.P. Brezny. Brezny is one of those guys who is hard to put a handle on. He hails from the windswept plains of South Dakota and is a former policeman – think old cowboy and sheriff with some trapper and mountain man thrown in. But what Brezny is first and foremost is a shooter. Everything from shotgun to long-range-rifle shooting is in his bailiwick, so much so that his books Modern Shotgunning and The Gun Digest Book of Long Range Shooting are widely read. He has helped more than one shotgun ammunition manufacturer develop shot loads over the years, and has created his own shotgun-choke system aptly named the Dead Ringer. Most recently, Brezny has invented the Metro Gun system. “Metro Gun?” you say! “What is that?” I am so glad you asked.
Several years ago, like all great inventors ahead of their time, Brezny saw the need for a shotgun that would go easy on the ears. Urban sprawl causes tighter constrictions on where shotgunners can shoot. Often, there might be a location where one can shoot, but it would really help to keep the noise down – keeping peace with the neighbors, and all of that. Also, reducing the decibel level can increase one’s success rate when hunting certain animals and birds, particularly crows. Remember the old adage that necessity is the mother of all invention? Well, Brezny needed to shoot more crows. In order to do that he needed to have a shotgun that made very little noise, so he created the Metro Gun.
How little noise? Most tests show that with subsonic shotgun ammo, the report will create only 72 decibels of sound and just 82 decibels with supersonic. Some compare it to closing a car door. Winchester, Remington and Federal all make shotgun ammunition in the subsonic line.
Mr. Brezny noticed other benefits too. Not only was there much less noise, there was much less recoil – it will make your shotgun a soft shooter – and delivered a better pattern. Essentially, the Metro acts as one long choke tube. Brezny routinely gets reports from Metro customers on how effective his barrel is for game. Ducks don’t flare after the first shot, and with no blast to drive them away, crows continue to come to the calling,
Would some consider the 32-inch Metro Gun a bit long and wieldy? Probably, but Brezny insists that while shooting, the barrel “disappears behind the bead.” Also, at only 1.1 pounds (the 25-inch Raven model weighs less), not much weight is added.
If you have a situation where you want to shoot a shotgun but would like a lot less noise, you need to check out the Metro Gun.
Eli Whitney, John Moses Browning, Thomas Edison and L. P. Brezny all had the vision and made inventions happen, but only one of them made the quietest shotgun you will ever see. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more on the Metro Gun, visit metrogun.com.
Like many of you, I am much better at just doing stuﬀ than getting ready for it. I guess it’s all about being prepared, and I was never the sharpest Boy Scout in the troop, or something like that.
But some things are too important to not prepare for. Depending on what and where you hunt with your scattergun, your season is either coming up fast, or is already here. September is often the last call for getting shotguns and other paraphernalia ready, so let’s talk about what you need to do to get out there and sling some lead or steel.
First, pull those scatterguns out of the gun safe and look ’em over. I’m sure that you would never put a shotgun away at the end of the season without a thorough cleaning, but if somehow this did happen, now is the time to rectify it.
Open the action and make sure everything seems to function properly – action, trigger, safety, etc. If there are any problems, you may (yes, I wrote “may”) have time to get it to your gunsmith for repair. But if there are any questions with functioning or the safety, do not take the shotgun to the ﬁeld.
Most of the time, the only prep our guns need is some old-fashioned cleaning. Pump guns and semiautos need a little more TLC when it comes to this, but don’t neglect the actions on your side-by-side and over-and-under shotguns just because they’re easier to clean. It is, however, easy to be intimidated when it comes taking pump and semi-auto guns apart, so if you feel as if you are getting in over your head, don’t do it.
Not that long ago, I needed to disassemble a Browning BPS, and when it came to taking the bolt assembly apart I was unsure about getting it back together. Fortunately, there are multiple internet videos about putting this gun – and many others – back together.
While you are making sure that your guns are ready to roll, here are a few items that will help improve your experience in the ﬁeld.
ONE GUN PROTECTION PRODUCT I’ve recently come to use is Hopper Spit by Birchwood Casey. The name is derived from – and I am not making this up – the product’s dark brownish-green color. If you caught grasshoppers for ﬁsh bait as a kid (as I did), you know what color their spit is.
For more, see birchwoodcasey.com.
ANOTHER TYPE OF protection that we often neglect in the ﬁeld is for our hearing. For some reason, we wear it religiously when we go to the trap, skeet or sporting clay range, but we think that banging away in the dove ﬁeld all day is somehow diﬀerent. Some of us (like me) have already experienced some hearing loss from years of unprotected shooting, but it’s never too soon, or too late, to protect the hearing you have left.
Any hearing protection, including the simple “jam it in your ear” soft foam type, is better than nothing, but I think the in-ear electronic models work best. They eﬀectively reduce shotgun blast noise while letting us hear what is going around us, and this increased awareness can be very important while on the range or in the ﬁeld.Etymotic Research’s Gunsport PRO electronic ear plugs are an excellent option for this need. GSP 15 electronic earplugs allow natural hearing when no background noise is present, and gradually protect from loud continuous noise from vehicles, machinery or gunﬁre from nearby shooters. At the ﬂip of a switch, sound is ampliﬁed, improving distance detection up to ﬁve times for enhanced awareness.
I’ve used the GunSport 15 model ear plugs in the ﬁeld and in a shotgun class at Gunsite Academy, and found them to be comfortable, eﬀective and easy to use. The suggested retail for these ear plugs is $299.00, but if you do much shooting (or go to NASCAR races, etc.), they are worth every penny.
For more, go to etymotic.com.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING as too much ammo. Can I get an “amen?” We shotgunners tend to go through a lot of ammunition, and that is a good thing. No matter how many shotgun shells you may have stored at your ranch, you are probably always in the market for more. I know I am.
Before you head oﬀ to the dove ﬁeld for your ﬁrst hunting expedition, you should put in at least a couple sessions shooting trap, skeet or sporting clays – anything to get you out there shooting.
For the range, Browning oﬀers Browning Performance Target (BPT) Shotshells. A combination of hard shot and a smooth hull make this an excellent choice. Most of you know that round shot will ﬂy truer and hold a better pattern, and the harder or denser the shot, the more it holds its shape and doesn’t become deformed during ﬂight. Harder shot also breaks targets better.
Browning wanted to come in somewhere in the middle on the price point on this ammo, and accomplished this on their BPT line with a brass-plated steel shell head. The brass plating allows for smooth feeding, but the steel head makes it diﬃcult to reload, so Browning does not recommend it. MSRP for a box of 25 is $9.99, but you may see them on shelves anywhere from $7.99 up.
Browning has also introduced the BXD line of hunting shotshells. Along with nickel-plated shot for tighter downrange patterns, the main feature of these shells is speed. The 12-gauge 2¾-inch shell with a 13/8-ounce shot load delivers a muzzle velocity of 1,485 feet per second, and that, my friends, is a screamer. This type of speed should allow for less lead when drawing on that rooster pheasant that ﬂushed a bit too far out.
For more, see browningammo.com.THIS ONLY SCRATCHES the surface of all the things you need to attend to before you hit the woods or the dove ﬁeld, but the editors would not give me the 20 pages I asked for to cover this topic adequately. Go ﬁgure.
As always, my advice to you is to just go. There will never be a perfect or even a good time to do it. Go to the range, go to where the doves are flying, or go see if the teal are in yet. No matter what you want to go after, just go! ASJ
Here’s some other things to consider while out in the field – Shotgun Hunting Strategy from Youtuber Expert Village.
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]M[/su_dropcap]any of us started out shooting a BB or pellet gun at a target and graduated to small game like rabbits and squirrels. Some of us did the other way around. But it seems that in these times of shrinking hunter numbers fewer and fewer of our young people are going down that path. Four years ago Jackie Bushman of Buckmasters fame decided to do something about that and created the Squirrel Master Classic. The event is held every year at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge west of Montgomery in Alabama’s legendarily rich-soiled “Black Belt” region.
The Squirrel Master Classic could be classiﬁed as a friendly competition, as it pairs up teams consisting of an outdoor TV personality, a young person involved in 4H Shooting Sports, outdoor writers, and a squirrel dog handler. The teams compete in a morning and evening squirrel hunt with a shooting competition at midday. This year, the range was supervised by world champion shooter Doug Koening, whose most recent major win (as of this writing) came at the 2016 NRA Bianchi Cup.
Scoring is simple. The team with the most squirrels and most points earned in the shooting competition wins the competition. In order to qualify to take part in the event, the six 4H shooters in this year’s classic had to compete with other 4H’ers for the privilege. The lone girl in that half dozen, Moriah Christian, outshot all of her colleagues during the shooting competition.
ALL HUNTING AND COMPETITIVE shooting is done using Gamo air riﬂes, the event’s sponsor. Each hunter this year were supplied with Gamo’s new Swarm .22-caliber pellet riﬂe (see sidebar), which features a 10-shot detachable magazine, eliminating the need to reload after each shot.
While the competition is intense for the coveted squirrel trophy awarded to the winners, the real emphasis here is on the young hunters. The TV personalities attending this year – Jackie Bushman, Michael Waddell, Travis “T-Bone” Turner, Kenneth Lancaster, Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo, and Richard Eutsler – along with Gamo president Keith Higginbotham and others at the event all recognize the need to encourage and nurture young people in hunting and the shooting sports.
In the end, Turner’s team (which I was fortunate enough to be a member of) took the trophy, and while we were very pleased I saw no smiles bigger than those of the young 4H shooters. They had a day in the beautiful Alabama woodlands following some feisty squirrel dogs, shooting air riﬂes, and spending time with some of their media heroes. It was a day they will not forget anytime soon – nor will I, for that matter – and that, my friends, is whole idea of the Squirrel Master Classic. ASJ
[su_dropcap style=”light”]T[/su_dropcap]he wild turkey is an American bird right down to his red, white and blue head. You may recall that shortly after we had that little scuffle with the British a few hundred years ago, Ben Franklin himself wanted to make the wild turkey our national bird. Thank heaven ol’ Ben was outvoted on this particular idea. Imagine the wild turkey as a completely protected species. We would be forced to hunt something else, like maybe the bald eagle. Hunting eagles wouldn’t be much fun, and I sincerely doubt they are anywhere near as tasty.
But even if it had never ﬂirted with a highfalutin yet largely ceremonial government title, the wild turkey would remain unique among game birds. We don’t hunt any other feathered creature the way we hunt turkeys, with the basic premise being sitting and attempting to call them into shotgun range. Their habits and wariness, coupled with ultra-keen eyesight and hearing create a need for the use of hunting tactics and equipment that we apply to no other type or breed of fowl. Herewith are some strategies and gobblerappropriate gear for you to consider for your next feathered frenzy.
CALLING TURKEYS HAS BECOME the most overrated, mystifying, and downright lied about phase of turkey hunting. Some supposed experts claim that calling comprises only about 30 percent of what is needed to seal the deal with a gobbler, maybe less. I could argue with that ﬁgure, but if you are a beginner, you will need to ﬁnd a call that you are comfortable with. I would go with a box call or a slate friction-type call. Learn to make the simple yelp of a hen turkey and maybe the cluck to begin with, and that will give you a strong start.
Don’t worry about doing 14 different calls like the guys on TV. If a turkey is ready to be called in, sometimes a couple yelps and a cluck or two is all that is necessary. Let the guys at the calling contests do all the fancy stuff; you are out in the woods to shoot turkeys. Give the gobbler just enough to keep him interested. If he is coming toward you, quit calling. Less is sometimes better than more.
Whether you call more or less, you still need a call. And, friends, there are a lot of turkey calls out there. There are many good ones that will call turkeys most days. Prices run from really cheap to what you might shell out on the down payment of a nice truck. HS Strut offers several moderately priced box calls that work; they sound like a turkey. What I like about the Undertaker box call is it features an abrasive, waterproof surface on the paddle and the striking surfaces of the call. If you have ever been aﬁeld and have your favorite box call get soaked and rendered useless, you know what a great feature this is. MSRP is $39.99. The new Triple Trauma box call has an adjustable lid that allows you to change the tone of the call and mimic three different hens. MSRP is $29.99, and you can contact them via their website (hunterspec.com).
Finally, the new Hensanity call from Primos offers a couple new twists to a tried-and-true form of turkey call. (Editor’s note: This was featured in last month’s News column.) The body of the call or “pot” has four sound ports that you control with your hand and allows you to make a wide array of variations in your calling. The frictionite surface means you don’t have to worry about losing your sandpaper to rough up the call. MSRP is $29.99, and you can ﬁnd more information from Primos (primos.com).
WHEN TURKEYS HAVE SEEMINGLY quit talking (they will do this often during any given season), sometimes the best thing to do is to get really aggressive. Cinch up your boots, call like you mean it, and cover as much real estate as possible. Go to your listening place and use your locator crow or owl call; if you hear nothing, try the turkey calls. Get assertive with a lot of loud calling, cuts and cackles. If no gobbler responds, move on to the next spot. One down side of this method, of course, is sometimes the gobbler shows up for a date after you leave. You can deal with it; if you hear him gobble at your last stop, get back over there.
The opposite of the marathon runner with a shotgun technique is to simply wait them out. If you know the place you are hunting well and you know the turkeys are there, maybe you just want to sit tight. Find a good spot to call from and set up camp. Get comfortable, call every 15 or 20 minutes, and by all means take a nap if you want to. A word of caution on the nap thing: You need to be ready for the dreaded “come in silent” gobbler. These are the turkeys that never say a word, slip in on you and don’t gobble. And a turkey with these antisocial tendencies needs to be taken out of the gene pool.
But no matter if you run and gun or sit on your hindquarters all day, you still need durable camouﬂage clothing that is functional for turkey hunting. Nomad performance hunting apparel has partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation to create a line of premium performance fabrics that feature the NWTF logo and the new NWTF Mossy Oak Obsession camouﬂage pattern. A collection featuring the Bottomland pattern (one of my favorites) is also available. A portion of all proﬁts from this line will go to the NWTF for conservation-based projects.
Although I have hunted spring gobblers in the snow (notice that I didn’t say I liked it), most spring hunts are in warmer weather. The Nomad/NWTF collection should have you covered from early to late season. Their woven long-sleeve shirt and pant features rugged, lightweight Rip-Stop Technology with secured cargo pockets – designed speciﬁcally for the turkey woods. For warm-weather hunts, the company offers a quarter-zip and cooling T-shirt option built from breathable materials that feature vented back/underarms and offers moisture transport. To round out the collection, Nomad also offers hats, gaiters and gloves. Their website is nomad.com.
EXPERIENCED TURKEY HUNTERS KNOW that the last several yards of a turkey’s approach toward you are the most critical. Make a mistake after he crosses the 50-yard line and you will not be partaking of fried turkey breast. The key here is just to be ready. Sit at the base of the largest tree you can ﬁnd and face the direction the gobbler will approach from. If you are a right-handed shooter, point your left shoulder at the place you think he will appear; do the opposite if you are a lefty. This allows you to swing the gun in order to cover as much area as possible. As you sit with your knees up, the shotgun is on one knee. Get as comfortable as you can, because you’ll need to be able to sit like this for some time.
When the gobbler comes into view, you cannot move. Let me repeat that sentence and add an exclamation point for emphasis: You cannot move!
As the moment of truth draws near, you may need to make a very slight adjustment in aiming at the turkey. This is accomplished by carefully watching the bird and waiting until his head goes behind something big, usually a tree (and the tree has to be pretty large for this to work). Keep in mind the turkey must be within a few feet of this tree if you are to go undetected. Remember the old turkey hunter adage: “A turkey can see through a thin rock.”
Ask any experienced turkey hunter; the scenario of sitting at the base of a tree while the gobbler approaches can be torture. The gobbler may take his own sweet time in getting to you, longer if you’re sitting on a rock, tree root or other sharp object, all while you are trying to hold the shotgun on your knee without moving! (Did I mention you cannot move?) Through the years, I have sat and watched the barrel of more than one companion’s gun start to wobble in increasingly larger circles. Turkey shotguns can be heavy, and so something to help relieve the weight of that gun may be in order. The Primos Trigger Stick Gen 3 series can really help with this.
The best feature of this product to me is it will adjust to the desired height with one hand. Simply grab the “trigger” and boom, it’s right where you need it to be. The Gen 3 series has added improved features such as locking leg angles to provide more stability, and the gun rest rotates so you can easily adjust your aim. These sticks come in monopod, bipod and tripod models, and in short and tall lengths.
ONCE TURKEY DECOYS FINALLY MADE their debut, I began to see some hunters get away with movement near an approaching gobbler that would previously have been impossible. The reason is simple. The turkey has his eyes on the decoy and is less likely to see the hunter. However, until recently, I’ve been discouraged from carrying decoys because they are too bulky and heavy, and some early versions of light, packable decoys were often lacking in the appearance department, resembling a mutant ostrich as much as anything else.
But I’m beginning to change my opinion on that, because HS Strut’s new Strut Lite decoys look and feel great. They have a ﬂake-resistant paint job and have a foldable, hollow body construction for easy storage in your vest. They are available in a three-pack with a semistrutting jake, a feeding hen and a breeding hen, and individually. MSRP for the ﬂock is $99.99; singles range from $34.99 to $44.99. See hunterspec.com.
ALTHOUGH SOME STATES ALLOW RIFLES for taking turkeys, it is generally thought of as a shotgun sport. The choices for turkey shotguns out there are wide and varied, and choosing just one or two shotguns to discuss with you here is not easy. I’ve gone back to my roots a bit with the choice of two pump guns, but I may have balanced that out with decidedly new and improved ammo.
With more than 12 million models sold since it appeared in 1951, what can you say about the Remington 870 that has not already been said? I will stick my neck out (pun intended) and say more turkeys have been shot with a Remington 870 than any other shotgun. It has the rock-solid dependability and functionality that turkey and waterfowl hunters demand, and I’m sure that many of you out there are still hunting with your dad’s or granddad’s 870 Wingmaster. I am not sure I can even count the number of variations of the 870, but the Super Magnum Turkey/ Waterfowl model will do most anything you need a shotgun for. The “Super” in the name designates it will handle 2¾- to 3½-inch shells for those days when you want a little extra punch for turkeys, or Canada geese. Another good reason to choose this one is because it comes in Mossy Oak Bottomland. MSRP for this model is $629.00.
If for some reason you’d like another brand or ﬂavor of pump gun, the 612 Magnum Turkey from CZ-USA may be the one for you. And, although this smoothbore was designed for turkey hunting, you won’t have any trouble taking it to the duck blind or pheasant ﬁelds. It weighs in at an amazing 6.8 pounds, a big bonus that you are going to appreciate if you need to lug it though the turkey woods. The 612 Magnum Turkey is hydrodipped in Realtree Xtra Green, shoots everything up to 3½-inch ammo and comes with an extra-full choke for turkeys and a modiﬁed for upland game and steel shot. This pump gun has an action reminiscent of the Model 12, and with an MSRP of $429 it is hard to beat.
As with the countless calls, there are various and sundry shotgun shells out there for turkeys these days. Winchester seems to be ruling the roost in this area with their Long Beard XR ammo. The boys at Winchester made shot shell history when they perfected the Shot-Lok technology, which allowed them to load shot in a liqueﬁed resin. This resin hardens, and upon ignition in the chamber of the shotgun it shatters and produces a super-effective buffering compound. All of this translates into the tight downrange patterns today’s turkey hunters want. New this year will be 20-gauge rounds in the Long Beard XR line, so stay tuned for news about this. MSRP is $18.99 for a box of 10 3-inch shells for 12-gauge shotguns, and $22.99 for 3½-inch shells.
FINALLY, AND FOR BETTER OR worse, turkey hunting has become a game of tightshooting shotguns, and to many turkey hunters the tighter the better. Today’s gobbler hunters want effective killing patterns on turkeys at 50 yards and beyond. George Trulock in Whigham, Ga., has been making choke tubes for many years and he is good at it. Mr. Trulock has forgotten more about choke tubes on shotguns than most of us will ever know. Currently TruLock Chokes (trulockchokes.com) has an inventory of over 2,000 choke tubes in stock, so take your pic. Trulock went so far as to not only make a choke tube speciﬁcally to be used with the Winchester Long Beard XR ammo, but he is making choke tubes speciﬁc to the shot size you want to use. He’s said, “If you shoot different shot sizes through the same choke, you could see a big difference in the pattern for each size. That’s why we decided to make each choke model speciﬁc to the Longbeard XR No. 4, 5 and 6 shot, and to tell you the truth, the results were quite impressive.”
PERSONALLY, I’M VERY THANKFUL that Mr. Franklin lost out on his bid to make the wild turkey our national bird. I would hate to think about the redbuds blooming and all of those old gobblers ﬁlling the spring air with their racket and we couldn’t be out there pursuing them. Not only do we get to match wits with this most American of birds, but we also get to justify the purchase of some really cool guns and gear. I love turkey hunting. Don’t you? ASJ
[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]“P[/su_dropcap]ull!”
A bright orange disc ﬂies out of the trap house at a pace only slightly slower than the speed of light. You were hoping for a lob, a gimme, or a straightaway that you could transform into orange powder and boost your conﬁdence a little. But you don’t get any of those, and instead the demonic chunk of clay goes hard left – your worst angle – and you struggle to catch up with the meteor. Finally, you stop the gun and slowly lift your cheek off the comb in defeat as the intact disc spins away to safety.
From somewhere nearby, you swear you hear a snicker.
This nightmare scenario is played out time and again on trap shooting ranges all over the country, and sometimes we reluctantly ﬁnd ourselves in the starring role. But maybe, like me, you have a desire to break out of your present skill level for busting clays. Perhaps this will be the year you do what it takes to improve those scores.
I don’t suggest that I’m a rocket scientist in these matters, but in all honesty, it isn’t rocket science. We all know what the experts tell us. If you want to improve, you’ll have to take action to come up in the world on the trap, skeet or sporting clays range. You have to get serious and burn more powder. You have to ﬁnd some good, qualiﬁed instruction, because just listening to the buddy you shoot with every other Saturday ain’t gonna cut it.
Oh, and one more thing – one really important thing. You have to get a good shotgun, one that is built for the task; a shotgun designed to make it easier for you turn those elusive little clays into powder.
Now, I admire the man or woman who shoots trap, ducks and turkeys all with the same shotgun. But if you are going to get serious in this game, you need to start thinking about a shotgun built for the job, and CZ-USA has something new that may be just what you are looking for.
CZ-USA HAS TURNED OUT impressive shotguns for several years, but the brand-new player in their lineup is the All-American Trap Combo. David Miller – CZ’s shotgun guru and the current Guinness Book of World Record holder for the most clay targets broken in one hour – travels all over the country shooting shotguns. He knows a thing or three about them, and between trigger pulls, he told me all about the company’s new smoothbore.
“It’s been a long time in the making,” he said, “I remember talking to Alice Poluchova [president of CZ-USA] on how important it was for us to tap into the American trap market
way back in 2010, but to do so would take a special product.”
Miller ﬁnally began working with CZ-USA’s partners at AKKAR, the shotgun makers in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2014. In those early talks, he stressed how durable the gun had to be, and what sort of features a shooter would want in a high-quality shotgun speciﬁcally designed for American trap shooting. That list of features soon made their way to Semih Polat, the product manager at the AKKAR factory. It was a pretty impressive list (see sidebar), so I’ll discuss the main features one group at a time.
THE FIRST GROUP OF FEATURES consists of drop-in replaceable action components, three sizes of replaceable locking lugs, and easy-to-replace ﬁring pins and bushings. The drop-in parts feature is huge. A well-used trap gun will ﬁre thousands of rounds a year, and no matter how well made it is, some parts will wear out faster than others. The ability to quickly replace things like bushings, hinge pins and ﬁring pins will be greatly appreciated by the avid shooter.
Neale Flynn, gunsmith at CZ-USA, provided even more detail on the replaceable locking lugs. “The locking block engages the bites of the barrel underneath the bottom of the chamber,” he said, “and the locking block wears over time. Slowly, the top snap lever will go from the right, when the gun is shut, to center.”
“Once at center,” he continued, “the locking block needs to be replaced. On other over/under shotguns, you have to weld and machine the locking block that was in that gun to begin with. It’s more time consuming, and we have to do it in-house to ensure it’s correct. With these drop-in locking blocks of different sizes, it allows us to send the next size of locking block to a customer for their local gunsmith to replace, no major special surgery required.”
Next on Miller’s list were an unsingle singles trap barrel with full ﬂoating rib, and a matching set of midheight rib over/under barrels. “Unsingle” refers to a single-barreled option on this gun to shoot singles, with the barrel being
“under” on the bottom. Opinions vary, but many shooters prefer the barrel to be on the bottom in a single barrel conﬁguration, compared to a “top single” model such as one made by Krieghoff.
HOW THE RIB IS ATTACHED is important, and Flynn advised me that the rib on the All-American Trap Combo is silver-soldered to the barrel. The solder used is 45 percent silver, and is done in an oven at 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to lead- and tin-based solders, or tin and antimony solder, which is more common on less expensive guns, this method is signiﬁcantly stronger.
And a matching set of over-and-under barrels allows the All-American Trap Combo shooter to compete in all phases of American Trap shooting – singles, doubles and handicap.
Finally, we come to a fully adjustable butt pad plate (also adjustable for length of pull), a four-way adjustable parallel comb, adjustable trigger shoe positing, and select wood grain. Just as Miller requested, everything that can be adjusted on this gun is adjustable. The comb adjusts, but it is also parallel. When your cheek is against the comb, your head will not raise or lower if you move back and forth on the stock.
The butt pad adjusts for length of pull, toe in and toe out (slant of the pad from top to bottom), and even for cast on and off. The trigger is adjustable up to inch, and the wood in the stock is listed as “select” – it is drop-dead gorgeous.
I PUT SEVERAL BOXES of Browning’s new BPT shotgun ammo through the All-American Trap Combo and watched others do the same. The gun seemed lively and naturally pointed, yet was still heavy enough that I saw no problems with recoil.
After putting it through its paces, I offered a few other shooters the opportunity for a test drive. Austyn Byers, a high school 4H shooter from Auto, W.Va., picked it up out of case, walked onto the trap range and shot a 23 on his ﬁrst round.
I also trolled the All-American Trap Combo past some of the instructors at the Greenbrier Resort Gun Club in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The gun was very well received there and turned heads everywhere I took it.
“Now that CZ-USA is stepping into the realm of trap shooting,” Miller said, “we will be automatically compared to the shotguns that are already proven to work in such games. For example, Caesar Guerini’s base model is called a Summit Combo and it’s a fantastic gun, but it costs $7,995. There are other great trap guns available, but none will give you more for your money than the AllAmerican Trap Combo.”
MSRP is $3,399. If you can ﬁnd another shotgun that is as well made and has as many features as this, I suggest you buy it. ASJ
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]O[/su_dropcap]K, I confess: I may not be the best traveler in the world. To be honest, I’ve never traveled much until recently when I started down the outdoorwriting trail. What I ﬁnd now is that while I may enjoy the destination once I get there, usually for hunting or a gun-related activity, getting there is not my cup of tea. Airports and ﬂying don’t seem to be on my list of favorite things, but it is all part of traveling and what we have to endure. Sometimes I just want to stay home, work at being my usual grouchy self and hunt on my home turf in West Virginia. When I get home from a trip, I usually vow that it will be a long time before I leave again. But before I know it, I am looking at the horizon and dreaming.
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.