Dropping The Hammer : Effective Kill Shots On Turkeys

| Last Updated May 4, 2020

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I’ll never forget my Southern Wisconsin gobbler from last season. He diligently worked a harem of hens in a hayfield about a hundred yards from my jake and hen decoys. Despite my calling, he seemed disinterested in my fake fowl. He kept putting on a display for these girls but they were largely unimpressed. After twenty minutes, they slipped over a ridge and left him dancing alone. A few soft purrs were enough to get his attention.

At first he trotted but like all gobblers with a few seasons under their belt, he locked up about sixty yards out. I went silent and let him think about it for awhile. He started slowly strutting my way, his neck bouncing up and down with every step. As he inched toward the decoys, I gave him a cluck that sent his head skyward. The cluck was followed up with the blast of my Benelli. Just like that, the hunt was over.

It sounds like a pretty straight forward turkey kill, but what made this one more special was what happened after the shot: absolutely nothing. This bird was piled up in the field, stone cold dead. All of my preparation came together to put a dandy gobbler on the ground in an instant. In deer hunting, Uncle John calls this the DRT (Dead Right There) Shot. I call it a great way to end a hunt.

To DRT a turkey, it is important to prepare for the shot well ahead of time. Try to visualize in your mind what a turkey will do as it comes into the decoys. How will you entice him to provide a good aim point? I see a lot of hunters do their pre-season shot patterning from a shooter’s table. Are they hunting from a shooter’s table? Practice like you play.

I usually pattern while sitting on the ground leaning against a tree because that is where I will be when hunting. By the time a turkey is in my sights, the trigger has been pulled in a realistic situation several times. Being familiar with your gun is going to make a lethal shot second nature.

Another factor is the shell itself. Tungsten was originally intended for waterfowl hunters looking for more knockdown power in a non-toxic pellet. Tungsten is more dense than steel and lead which makes it hard-hitting at long distances. The key is tungsten’s ability to maintain velocity. It simply delivers more energy to the target than any other shot material. No. 6 Tungsten will deliver more downrange energy than No. 4 lead. There is an incredible advantage to that.

With the No. 6’s you get more pellets and a more dense shot pattern while still having the knockdown power of the heavier No. 4. A lot of hunters scoff at the price and they are expensive. You can pick them up for $25 to $30 a box depending on where you buy them. But when considering how many shells you actually use for turkey hunting, a box will last most hunters several years.

Power is only part of the equation. It’s is vital to deliver pellets in a dense pattern. The choke tube is just as important as the shell. Most new shotguns come with a set of chokes. Those are great for waterfowl or upland hunting. When it comes to turkey hunting an extra full choke is essential. For 12 gauge hunters, look for something in the low to mid .600s. If you are hunting Merriam’s or extremely wary turkeys, something in the upper .500s is appropriate. A choke with that kind of constriction will really help stretch your range.

If you plan to hunt with tungsten, I suggest buying a choke made for it. The same characteristics that make tungsten great for turkey hunting can terrorize a cheaply made choke. Another good tip is to be sure to put some lithium grease on the threading of the choke tube before shooting with it. Voids between the threading can bubble up and lock the choke in your gun if it isn’t lubricated. I know someone who learned this the hard way.

How dense should your pattern be? At forty yards, 15-25 pellets should hit the head and neck area of a turkey target. If you are using standard or homemade targets, 75 percent of the shot should be within a 20 inch ring. If your density isn’t that good, you need to experiment with other load/choke combinations or focus on getting birds in closer before taking the shot.

Another element I swear by is open sights. A lot of turkey hunters are going to Red Dots or scopes and I don’t begrudge them. However, I feel more confident in the shot with open sights. I don’t have to worry about fiddling with the scope before the shot or whether I bumped it on my walk into the woods. My open sights are always on and I have great vision of everything happening in front of me. Having confidence is the last and maybe most important factor in scoring a DRT shot on your next gobbler. 

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.