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  • by Steve Sorensen | The Everyday Hunter®

Tips on Turkey Hunting — #20: TAKE CONSERVATIVE SHOTS

It was almost noon—quitting time on the last day I could hunt—and we had coaxed the New York gobbler off posted property. It was time to take the shot.

When I fired, he dropped. It was a successful hunt, but very close to being a failure.

After I picked up the bird I walked off the distance and noticed a sapling as thick as a broomstick was plastered with shot. Not only that, it had a notch cut halfway through it—as clean a cut as you could make with a chisel. The wad from the shotgun shell had blasted through the sapling as the BBs peppered it.

When I eyed things up I realized that the sapling was in my line of fire. Fortunately, enough Number 5 shot got through to the gobbler standing 35 yards away.

When turkey hunters pattern their shotguns, they usually think they're determining the maximum range at which the pattern is dense enough to kill the gobbler. What they forget is that hunting conditions are sometimes far different from range conditions. A shooting range (even a home-made setup) has a stationary target at a known distance, with no obstructions between the end of the barrel and the target. In hunting conditions you're pointing at a target that's likely to move. You may not know the exact range. And you're likely to have obstructions between the shooter and target. A lot can go wrong under hunting conditions.

That's one more reason to take conservative shots. If you make it a policy to ask your shotgun to do less than you know it's capable of, you'll miss and wound fewer gobblers.

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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