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  • by Steve Sorensen | The Everyday Hunter®

Tips on Turkey Hunting — #19: HOW CLOSE DOES HE NEED TO BE?

I was re-positioning on a gobbler that was walking away from me. I was already above him, and could easily get slightly ahead of him before calling again. Just as I got ready to call, KA-BOOM!

I walked to the edge of the hill and below me I saw a hunter throw his hat on the ground in disgust. As I approached him I asked, "What happened? He said, "I guess I missed."

"How far away was he?" I inquired. "Fifty yards," the hunter replied.

Yes, some guns, with the right choke and ammo, pattern well enough to kill a gobbler seriously dead at 50 yards. But that doesn't mean a shot should be taken half a football field away.

My personal policy is to shoot at gobblers only when they're 35 yards or closer. My shotgun will kill them farther away, but I don't risk it. Here's why.

Suppose I judge the gobbler to be 35 yards away, but my range estimation is off by 20%. That's an extra seven yards, and he's really 42 yards away. No problem, my shotgun will do that.

Now suppose the hunter I told about really did have a 50-yard shotgun, but he made a 20% mistake in estimating the range. Adding 20% to 50 yards means that gobbler is really 60 yards away, and it's going to require some luck to kill him.

I've called many gobblers in to the 40-yard mark, and passed up the shot. Why? Because when I pull the trigger I don't want to think the gobbler will drop. I want to know he will drop.

You didn't call him in to scare him. You didn't call him in to wound him. You called him in to kill him. So why would you take a shot that might not do that?

I’ll be posting more “Tips on Turkey Hunting” as often as I can until the end of May. I don’t claim to be the best turkey hunter around, but I’ll share what I know. It might be helpful to those who pursue America’s greatest game bird. While you're at it, check out my gobbler-killin' Northern Scratchbox turkey call at It's full of deadly sounds.

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