Today, in terms of equipment performance (come on, say it with me), 50 IS the new 40. Tungsten-alloy pellets have had the biggest impact on our ability to shoot with confidence beyond 40 yards, but the excellent choke tubes we have available further allow us to wring out every bit of their performance.
Now, if youíre using the same gun and shells today that you were in 1992 (not that there would be anything wrong with that) and it was a 40-yard gun then, and you have a gobbler at 50 yards and decide to take the shot just to see what will happen, well, thatís not right. I think this is where the discussion often turns into an argument. The ethics of always striving for a clean kill havenít changed, but the circumstances that have given us the ability to shoot farther have changed dramatically.
Incident on the Prairie
This topic has been in the cluttered background of my mind for quite a while. But an incident in South Dakota last spring brought things into sharper focus for me.
I mentioned that hunt in my March column with regard to the stock design on Remingtonís new 11-87 Sportsman ShurShot Turkey model. But an important detail I didnít get into in that issue was the fact I used that gun to kill a Merriamís at 60 yards.
When I paced off the kill, which I was sure was no farther than 50 yards when I pulled the trigger, I didnít know if I should be thrilled or embarrassed. Long story short: Iíd had the gobbler at nearly half that distance, but heíd come in so quickly I hadnít been able to get my gun up and ready to shoot. By the time I was able to aim properly, he had started skirting around me. The he popped into strut and wandered several more yards before finally poking his head up and giving me a shot.
As someone back at camp pointed out when I sheepishly related my story, ďHeck, thatís a rifle shot. Can you even say you called him in?Ē Yeah, whatever. If Iíd have thought that Merriamís standing in the big wide open was at 60 yards, I wouldnít have shot. But I really thought he was at 50. It proves Ė not that Iím the first one to say it Ė that in turkey hunting, thereís no such thing as being overgunned.
I was shooting Remingtonís Wingmaster HD tungsten-alloy shells in the 31/2-inch, No. 4 loading. Iíd patterned the gun at 40 yards through the factory turkey tube that came with the gun. The ridiculously dense pattern at 40 yards, and the fact Iíd tinkered with other versions of these shells the year before, told me I had a genuine 50-yard turkey gun.
As for personal ethics, in case youíre wondering, my take on it is that Iím out there to shoot a turkey. Passing a shot on a bird thatís beyond 40 yards while youíre holding a 50-yard gun in your hands makes no sense to me. At the same time, Iíd feel kind of funny about shooting one with a rifle in a state where itís legal. But to each his own.
Patterns aside, if you want to witness some impressive downrange energy, take any of the heavier-than-lead offerings to the range and shoot into plywood or phone books or whatever other medium youíd like to use and then compare to lead turkey loads. The results will end any personal debate you might be waging with yourself about whether todayís products limit us to 40-yard shots.
After that, the only question that remains is how close a turkey should be before youíll feel good about pulling the trigger. And that, friends, is a question only one person can answer.
This article was originally published in Turkey & Turkey Hunting, 2009 and is used here with permission of the publisher. To find more articles on various turkey hunting topics, log on to www.turkeyandturkeyhunting.com..
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