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What's the Best Range For Shooting Turkeys With a Shotgun?

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April 04, 2012
What's the Best Range For Shooting Turkeys With a Shotgun? - 16

One kill shot should be all it takes when spring turkey hunting. Most turkey camps I’ve visited around the country inevitably involve a supper table debate about the best shotgun range for dropping a spring gobbler. My generic answer: 20-35 yards.

The payload stays baseball tight with shots taken at under 20 steps, and misses are more likely, especially with that serpentine turkey head juking around. Then again, the swarm of pellets begins to open up when shot from farther out, especially beyond 40 yards. That’s no good either.

In the end, you need to know your shotgun and how that firearm handles a particular load because load capabilities vary—some are dead on and tighter at longer ranges, depending on the choke tube and firearm.

True enough, some of the extended-range loads available these days provide a mix of turkey shotshell options. The choice is up to the hunter. Each shotgun dictates the final selection based on familiarity from shooting the combination of options.

For me, it’s all about enjoying the moment as the gobbler works to my calls, even after that wild turkey steps into the edge of range.

Are you interested in calling turkeys close, as in 20-35 yards, or taking them on the edge of your range? The latter deal might work, sure, but it also risks crippling a bird. Boom. Down. Dead turkey. That’s what we want.

What’s your preferred shooting range on a wild turkey?

(NWTF Media Photo)

Comments (16)

Top Rated
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from DANO wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Steve,
I hope your on the way out to Oklahoma cause the birds were red hot this weekend, They gobbled all day and came in running to calls. Setting up on Mid day strut zones along ranch roads with decoys worked great.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Augustheat wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Well, the last one I didn't even have to pull the trigger...but carrying the 870 into the frozen food section really puts some people off... on a serious note, I use my undertaker choke and 3" magnum turkey laods and can readily take a turkey at 60 yards with it. You have to know your gun and the capabilities it contains. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE Shoot in high wind situations too for those just in case moments. I use skeet taped on to my turkey target and if I get 5 or 10 pellets into it and make it blow apart I know it will put the gobbler down at that range....just my two cents on the matter

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from marksman wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

A couple of ideas to have a turkey range from point blank to 40+ yards...
1. For shooters with pump and auto loader guns, patterns a couple different loads. One "standard" pheasant 2 3/4" for very close in shots and a second tight pattern turkey load for extended ranges. Practice being able to discretely switch loads from the chamber as the hunting situation dictates. Worked for me last spring when I pulled a gobbler into about 7 yards. The pheasant load still just about took his head nearly off and killed him just as dead as any heavy payload turkey shell.

2. Don't discount using your upland O/U shotgun. Really it is 2 guns in one. One barrel with an open choke and one barrel with a tight turkey choke. A slight movement of the barrel selector switch is all it takes to "change guns" in a heartbeat.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

It really depends on your gun/load combination. If it only patterns effectively out to 35 yards, then you might want to get them in to within 25 or 30 before shooting. Or if you have a longer-range gun/load, longer range shots might be higher percentage. Either way, I do think that it's easier to miss a turkey at very close ranges than longer ranges.
With my 870 and super-full turkey choke, combined with Winchester 3.5" #5s, I can hold good patterns out to 55 yards, so I usually take 'em as soon as they offer me a good, standing shot inside 45 yards. For me personally, there's no reason to wait longer; yes, I do like the challenge of calling them in close, but I also like to eat turkey, which is ultimately what turkey hunting is about for me. ;)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Lonnie Williamson wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Here in WV it is legal to use rifles to hunt with. That being said, I usually hunt with a shotgun (20 gauge) and typically shoot turkey at 30-35 yards. However I have killed three turkes with rifles. The longest yardage was 75. With a .22 WMR. I have killed two with that round and one at 40 yards with a .22 long rifle. All three were neck shots. So I would say depending on weapon used it would depend on how accurate you are with the particular weapon you are using and is legal to use. But I really like to call them in close if they cooperate. LOL

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from gobbler killer.5 wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

I like mine with in 40 yds but it is streched sumtimes but i heve shot them at 8yds to

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ishi wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

I like my turkeys close. Very close.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DANO wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Steve,
I will be in Western Oklahoma this weekend for the opener, I report back next week on what the birds are doing. Hopefully this weekend the wind doent howl and the birds gobble.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tpbesone wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

I always try to get the birds inside of 30 yards if possible. Then again I have killed two birds at over 40 yds. One of them was almost 50 yds. I used a extra full choke and #5 Hevi-shot with my 870 and both of the longer shots were clean kills. It is definitely more fun to get the birds in close, but sometimes on the last day of season 40 yds is all you're gonna get.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

df

-3 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

My daughter could not stand the recoil of any magnum "turkey" load. She was comfortable with 20 ga. 3" Fiocchi Golden Pheasant shells. Much to my surprise and delight #6 pattern extremely well out to 30 yds with 20+ pellets in kill zone. The shot is nickel plated lead making it as hard as any of the HD stuff at a fraction of the cost. The cost and reduced recoil made it possible for her to have more range time, leading to confidence and dead gobblers.
I ran out of my supply of HD turkey shells last fall and returned to using the Golden Pheasant in 12, 2.75 #6 or 7.5.
Good hunting to you and your son cjonsrud.
later,
charlie

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

One spring turkey season not long ago I killed 'em all between four steps and 17 yards. I've also whiffed at that "throwing baseballs" range. Any of you been out there yet? Soon? Oklahoma and Nebraska in my fairly near future.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Normally I would say the closer the better to ensure a clean kill. It's a fine line though between being too close and giving a chance for the pattern to open up a little bit. I am probably being waaaay too anal about it though.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

That's a great question, Steve. I bought my son a new Rem 870 20 gauge and put on a Primos Jelly Head w/ .570 constriction. We patterned it out to 30 yards with Federal flight control wad 3"ers. I think the choke is way too tight as there was only about 10 - 12" of pattern at 30 yards. And the real kicker is, that the wads even went through the cardboard box. I am a little nervous if a bird comes in close on a young shooter. I don't have an endless supply of cash to order and try all new chokes and loads. I think on our way through a Cabelas, we may pick up just a full choke and try patterning again before putting it on birds. Any comments are appreciated....

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

With my shotgun I feel comfortable at pretty much anything under 40 yards. If I had my choice it would be under 15 yards every time; I like getting as close as possible to any animal I hunt.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

15-30 yds.
Working the bird in, for me is a big part of the enjoyment factor.
My old well worn shotgun is only good to 35 yds so I like to keep the distance a little less in case my judgement is off a tad.
later,
charlie

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from Augustheat wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Well, the last one I didn't even have to pull the trigger...but carrying the 870 into the frozen food section really puts some people off... on a serious note, I use my undertaker choke and 3" magnum turkey laods and can readily take a turkey at 60 yards with it. You have to know your gun and the capabilities it contains. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE Shoot in high wind situations too for those just in case moments. I use skeet taped on to my turkey target and if I get 5 or 10 pellets into it and make it blow apart I know it will put the gobbler down at that range....just my two cents on the matter

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

That's a great question, Steve. I bought my son a new Rem 870 20 gauge and put on a Primos Jelly Head w/ .570 constriction. We patterned it out to 30 yards with Federal flight control wad 3"ers. I think the choke is way too tight as there was only about 10 - 12" of pattern at 30 yards. And the real kicker is, that the wads even went through the cardboard box. I am a little nervous if a bird comes in close on a young shooter. I don't have an endless supply of cash to order and try all new chokes and loads. I think on our way through a Cabelas, we may pick up just a full choke and try patterning again before putting it on birds. Any comments are appreciated....

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

15-30 yds.
Working the bird in, for me is a big part of the enjoyment factor.
My old well worn shotgun is only good to 35 yds so I like to keep the distance a little less in case my judgement is off a tad.
later,
charlie

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

With my shotgun I feel comfortable at pretty much anything under 40 yards. If I had my choice it would be under 15 yards every time; I like getting as close as possible to any animal I hunt.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Normally I would say the closer the better to ensure a clean kill. It's a fine line though between being too close and giving a chance for the pattern to open up a little bit. I am probably being waaaay too anal about it though.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

One spring turkey season not long ago I killed 'em all between four steps and 17 yards. I've also whiffed at that "throwing baseballs" range. Any of you been out there yet? Soon? Oklahoma and Nebraska in my fairly near future.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

My daughter could not stand the recoil of any magnum "turkey" load. She was comfortable with 20 ga. 3" Fiocchi Golden Pheasant shells. Much to my surprise and delight #6 pattern extremely well out to 30 yds with 20+ pellets in kill zone. The shot is nickel plated lead making it as hard as any of the HD stuff at a fraction of the cost. The cost and reduced recoil made it possible for her to have more range time, leading to confidence and dead gobblers.
I ran out of my supply of HD turkey shells last fall and returned to using the Golden Pheasant in 12, 2.75 #6 or 7.5.
Good hunting to you and your son cjonsrud.
later,
charlie

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

It really depends on your gun/load combination. If it only patterns effectively out to 35 yards, then you might want to get them in to within 25 or 30 before shooting. Or if you have a longer-range gun/load, longer range shots might be higher percentage. Either way, I do think that it's easier to miss a turkey at very close ranges than longer ranges.
With my 870 and super-full turkey choke, combined with Winchester 3.5" #5s, I can hold good patterns out to 55 yards, so I usually take 'em as soon as they offer me a good, standing shot inside 45 yards. For me personally, there's no reason to wait longer; yes, I do like the challenge of calling them in close, but I also like to eat turkey, which is ultimately what turkey hunting is about for me. ;)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tpbesone wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

I always try to get the birds inside of 30 yards if possible. Then again I have killed two birds at over 40 yds. One of them was almost 50 yds. I used a extra full choke and #5 Hevi-shot with my 870 and both of the longer shots were clean kills. It is definitely more fun to get the birds in close, but sometimes on the last day of season 40 yds is all you're gonna get.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DANO wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Steve,
I will be in Western Oklahoma this weekend for the opener, I report back next week on what the birds are doing. Hopefully this weekend the wind doent howl and the birds gobble.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ishi wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

I like my turkeys close. Very close.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Lonnie Williamson wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Here in WV it is legal to use rifles to hunt with. That being said, I usually hunt with a shotgun (20 gauge) and typically shoot turkey at 30-35 yards. However I have killed three turkes with rifles. The longest yardage was 75. With a .22 WMR. I have killed two with that round and one at 40 yards with a .22 long rifle. All three were neck shots. So I would say depending on weapon used it would depend on how accurate you are with the particular weapon you are using and is legal to use. But I really like to call them in close if they cooperate. LOL

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from marksman wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

A couple of ideas to have a turkey range from point blank to 40+ yards...
1. For shooters with pump and auto loader guns, patterns a couple different loads. One "standard" pheasant 2 3/4" for very close in shots and a second tight pattern turkey load for extended ranges. Practice being able to discretely switch loads from the chamber as the hunting situation dictates. Worked for me last spring when I pulled a gobbler into about 7 yards. The pheasant load still just about took his head nearly off and killed him just as dead as any heavy payload turkey shell.

2. Don't discount using your upland O/U shotgun. Really it is 2 guns in one. One barrel with an open choke and one barrel with a tight turkey choke. A slight movement of the barrel selector switch is all it takes to "change guns" in a heartbeat.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from gobbler killer.5 wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

I like mine with in 40 yds but it is streched sumtimes but i heve shot them at 8yds to

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DANO wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Steve,
I hope your on the way out to Oklahoma cause the birds were red hot this weekend, They gobbled all day and came in running to calls. Setting up on Mid day strut zones along ranch roads with decoys worked great.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

df

-3 Good Comment? | | Report

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