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The Turkey Killing Zone

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April 07, 2011
The Turkey Killing Zone - 9

I like to get wild turkeys close. By close I mean inside 40 yards; preferably 20 to 30 steps.

To me the essence of turkey hunting is calling to a bird and I get pleasure out of watching that gobbler hunt down the sound of my yelping. That's the thrill of it. After all these years of turkey hunting, it's amazing to me how many gobblers stay just outside that "sure bet" shooting range.

I just had a nice longbeard do this in Georgia late last month. That turkey flew down and stayed just outside my shotgun's reliable range. I flowed with the gobbler as his head passed behind broad pines, my movement hidden from that wary bird's vision, but he never took those steps to ease inside my zone. Close, no victory cigar.

I stepped off the distance after the turkey gave me the slip: it was right around 45 yards or so. Could I have dropped it there? Sure. Did I chance at crippling the bird? Yes, that too. So I held off . . .

The memory of turkeys like this are bittersweet: no bragging rights back at camp but recalling them burns into your personal history, and you savor it there, wondering, "What if?"

In these days of extended-range loads, and tricked-out shotguns, it's definitely possible to drop birds at distances over 40 yards. Still, it takes a good shot to get a turkey by the feet. Even if you hit a gobbler at the "over 40" distance, you may not drop the bird.

The best way to establish "the killing zone" of course is to shoot your turkey shotgun regularly. Pattern it. Know what that firearm will do with various loads, then stick to that range.

Yep, I'm not perfect: I've killed gobblers at close range (10 yards or under) and over the reliable distance (missed one in tight, and closed the deal at 47).

What's your perfect turkey killing zone? Have you ever had to let a gobbler walk just outside that range? Would you have taken a shot at that 45-yard Georgia longbeard or held off as I did?

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Comments (9)

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from Mzlhunter wrote 3 years 12 weeks ago

To me turkey hunting has and will all be a 40yds and in sport. - Thor

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from dneaster3 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I had no problem when I pulled the trigger on a gobbler a few years ago at 47 yards and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. The reason it was easy? I had made that shot 50 times already on the patterning board and KNEW the gun, the load, the scope, and the shooter could all do it.

Confidence is a powerful thing. Without the practice it wouldn't have been there.

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from charlie elk wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

30 yards is max for me that leaves a little leeway in case my distance judging is off a tad. But I really like em 20 or less. Many turkeys have walked after hanging up at 35yds it is like they know where the danger line is.
later,
charlie

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from happyg21 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

and just for the record, I am a superb shot up to fifty yards and over with the bow and I have made some terrible twenty yard shots!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from happyg21 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I've got to say that I pattern my shotgun like I shoot my bow, early and often. With that being said with the load I shoot and the amount of shooting I do I feel solid at fifty yards. Now is to say I am never going to cripple a bird, no, however I have made bad shots at thirty yards just as well and for the closer the better candidates my gun shoots a golf ball at ten yards so I am out on that

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Smitty18 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I know how you feel. I have let many a turkey go. Last spring I did not shoot a tom because I refused to take the 20 some chances I had to shoot them out of a tree or the 5-10 chances I had where there were to far or to close to another turkey. I saw more birds last year than ever and yet I still did not get one, kinda funny when you think about it. I guesse that is why it is called hunting and not killing.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Hey guys. I'm with both of ya, for sure . . . not getting that Georgia longbeard in range for a sure shot isn't nearly as bad as the idea of crippling the big bird. I'll live. Funny how the ones you don't fool into range stay in your mind though, isn't it? So close, yet . . .

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from pineywoods wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

For a sure kill, I like to keep my shots under 40 yards even though my gun is fully capable of extending that range by five or even ten yards. I hate wounding a turkey worse than the devil hates holy water.

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from Smitty18 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I would like all of my shots to be 35 or closer, preferably the latter. I do, however, pattern my gun out to 50 as an "ohh crap he is still alive" insurance policy. It also came in handy last fall when the hen I called in busted me and started runnning in circles at 46 yards. I was not happy with the distance but on the last day of the season, my belly overruled my mind.

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from Steve Hickoff wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Hey guys. I'm with both of ya, for sure . . . not getting that Georgia longbeard in range for a sure shot isn't nearly as bad as the idea of crippling the big bird. I'll live. Funny how the ones you don't fool into range stay in your mind though, isn't it? So close, yet . . .

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from pineywoods wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

For a sure kill, I like to keep my shots under 40 yards even though my gun is fully capable of extending that range by five or even ten yards. I hate wounding a turkey worse than the devil hates holy water.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Smitty18 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I would like all of my shots to be 35 or closer, preferably the latter. I do, however, pattern my gun out to 50 as an "ohh crap he is still alive" insurance policy. It also came in handy last fall when the hen I called in busted me and started runnning in circles at 46 yards. I was not happy with the distance but on the last day of the season, my belly overruled my mind.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Smitty18 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I know how you feel. I have let many a turkey go. Last spring I did not shoot a tom because I refused to take the 20 some chances I had to shoot them out of a tree or the 5-10 chances I had where there were to far or to close to another turkey. I saw more birds last year than ever and yet I still did not get one, kinda funny when you think about it. I guesse that is why it is called hunting and not killing.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from happyg21 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I've got to say that I pattern my shotgun like I shoot my bow, early and often. With that being said with the load I shoot and the amount of shooting I do I feel solid at fifty yards. Now is to say I am never going to cripple a bird, no, however I have made bad shots at thirty yards just as well and for the closer the better candidates my gun shoots a golf ball at ten yards so I am out on that

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from happyg21 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

and just for the record, I am a superb shot up to fifty yards and over with the bow and I have made some terrible twenty yard shots!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

30 yards is max for me that leaves a little leeway in case my distance judging is off a tad. But I really like em 20 or less. Many turkeys have walked after hanging up at 35yds it is like they know where the danger line is.
later,
charlie

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dneaster3 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I had no problem when I pulled the trigger on a gobbler a few years ago at 47 yards and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. The reason it was easy? I had made that shot 50 times already on the patterning board and KNEW the gun, the load, the scope, and the shooter could all do it.

Confidence is a powerful thing. Without the practice it wouldn't have been there.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mzlhunter wrote 3 years 12 weeks ago

To me turkey hunting has and will all be a 40yds and in sport. - Thor

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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