The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 26, 2014

Get shotguns ready for gobbler season

By Larry Case
For The Register-Herald

BECKLEY — Step one: Let’s pattern that shotgun.

All right turkey hunters, listen up. It’s time to start getting ready to chase that big bird that makes all the racket in the spring. The Spring Gobbler season in West Virginia opens on April 28, so we have some time this year to have you better prepared than in the past.

First, let’s talk about an important step that all too many hunters leave out, making sure that scatter gun is shooting where it’s supposed to. Far too many of us just grab the shotgun that has not been touched since the year before and hit the woods. The result is often pain and heart aches with misses and wounded turkeys. Here is how to avoid that.

1. Do this on a day that you have plenty of time and you are not in a hurry! Have all the necessary items — a safe place to shoot, plenty of targets, paper, shotgun shells, and target holder. Don’t forget eye and hearing protection. This is best done from a bench rest.

2. We all know how much recoil magnum turkey loads have. Do not start with the loads that you intend to hunt with! Take your first few shots with standard low brass field or target loads. Start at 25 yards on clean paper to see where the gun is hitting. Think of this as you would when sighting in a rifle. Just because you hold on the bulls eye does not mean that is where the greatest concentration of pellets will strike. The gun may pattern high right or low left or whatever.

If your shotgun is patterning where you want at this range, move out to 40 yards and see how it is doing there. Remember that you are not slapping the trigger as you may do when wing shooting, squeeze the trigger as if you were shooting a rifle

3. If you think you are good at 40 yards with the field load, now try one of your turkey loads. With a new target, sight carefully, pull that stock in tight to the pocket on your shoulder and have your cheek firmly against the receiver of the gun as you sight down the barrel. You will experience more felt recoil if you are not correctly and firmly holding the gun. If you don’t do all this properly you may develop a flinch which any old shotgunner will tell you can be a bear to get out of. At 40 yards, now you can use a turkey head target and get an idea of how many pellets your shotgun is putting in the vital area. On a turkey this is the head and neck. The ideal shot for a gobbler is standing still, with his neck craned straight up. Your aiming point is where flesh on the neck meets the feathers; this should center your pattern in the head and neck area.

4. A shotgun is an imprecise weapon! For reasons known only in heaven, any given gun will not shoot different loads and brands of shells the same. Some shotguns just naturally like certain loads better than others. Volumes have been written on this and we have no room to explore it here, so just trust me. Try some different loads and find the one your shotgun likes best. When it comes to ounces of shot in a load, more is not always better. You may find you get a better pattern with a 1 1/2- or 1 5/8-ounce load of shot than you do with 2 ounces.

If you have never patterned your turkey slayer before, I guarantee if you follow these steps you will learn something and will be much better prepared when you venture forth into the spring woods. Now go burn some powder!

— E-mail: