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Turkey Hunting Shotguns: Three All-Time Favorites

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March 25, 2013
Turkey Hunting Shotguns: Three All-Time Favorites - 15

Shooting a wild turkey punctuates the enjoyable and sometimes frustrating process of scouting, finding, roosting, calling/decoying/patterning a spring gobbler into range. Your shotgun should drop it dead inside 40 yards, though most of the time I let birds work even closer. How about you?

My upbringing as a turkey hunter included simple-to-use pump shotguns by choice, options I saw depicted in the Outdoor Life issues of my youth, plus classy loaner firearms on the road at media camps. I’ve handled plenty, liked many, loved a few and forgotten about some others.

The media hunt deal is something like an arranged marriage to a bride you have to divorce before heading to the airport—even if you’ve fallen in love with her a bit. Sometimes you even buy the consignment shotgun afterwards, which I suppose is something like a mail-order bride. I digress...

My three picks for a favorite turkey hunting shotgun may or may not surprise you.

Remington 870 Express Super Magnum
Give me a simple to use pump-action 12 gauge and I’m good in the turkey woods. An 870 is easy to use and clean (even in the pre-dawn dark), so my first selection is a basic one. This particular shotgun’s load flexibility has always appealed to me, as it handles 2 ¾-, 3- and 3 ½-inch shells. Confession: I’ve only had one 870 pump jam on me with a gobbler in range. After I fixed it, somebody else inherited it. Hey, bad turkey hunting mojo can be bought and sold.

Browning Silver NWTF Infinity
I fell in love with this shotgun on one of those media hunt deals. The gas-operated autoloader smashed red Coke cans we set on a stick (hey, they have to keep overhead low on these writer hunts). I killed a couple Kentucky longbeards with it on consecutive days and have rarely had a loaner shotgun feel so right out of the box. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts with a semi-humpback design. A fiber-optic sight and three choke tubes are part of the deal. Still don’t own it, but posting this makes me think… maybe.

Remington Versa Max
Yep, another sweet autoloader. I’ve also had a couple of arranged writer camp marriages with the Versa Max, and dropped every Rio Grande gobbler I’ve ever pulled the trigger on while shouldering one. Each time the loaner shotgun was paired with a Trijicon RMR sighting system. Love them both. Like the Browning Silver, I don’t own this one either. So it goes. “Tis better to have loved and lost,” as poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (who we were forced to read in college lit classes) wrote, “than to never have loved at all.” He didn’t know a thing about turkey hunting shotguns though.

So there it is: a Big Green classic and sleek late-comer, plus a serviceable Browning autoloader. But enough about my tastes, what’s your favorite turkey hunting shotgun, Strut Zoners? Got a few on your wish list too?

Comments (15)

Top Rated
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from ICDEDTURKES wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

870 20 Gauge 26"
Knoxx Tactical Stock
Cheap but reliable Tru Glo 40 MM
Tru Glo SSX 550 choke tube
Federal Heavy weight 1.5 oz 7s

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

My well worn 1974 Remington 1100 with its original bead gets the job done on turkeys spring and fall. Being from the old school, shooting a shotgun is a point and shoot affair for me, no "sights" required.

later,
charlie

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from GerryBethge wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

Oh, heck yeah, Steve!
Would love to know what everyone is using for a turkey gun sight. Lord knows, I've messed with everything from red dots to fiber-optics to scopes yet somehow always wind up dancing with what the gun company's have brung me—a plain old bead. No idea why, it's just what I'm most comfortable with I guess.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

Hey marksman. Thanks for checking in.

The 870 pump is my all-time favorite, hands-down. We needed a couple more in there, so I went with this personal angle . . .

Added "relatively new technology shotguns" as you say since they're two of the loaner turkey hunt firearms I've had success with on a honeymoon basis (Texas, Oklahoma, etc.). These two guns come to mind whan I think of all-time favorite field testers. Versa Max, as you know, is marketed as a turkey/waterfowl option. I own a handful of 870s if this says anything, and again, neither of the other guns . . .

GB: Is that an assignment (grin)? On sights, more later in a different SZ post . . .

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from GerryBethge wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Sights? Did someone mention sights?
Now there's another topic worth opening a can of worms about! Let's hear you, Steve.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from marksman wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Hey Steve. Just wondering how a a couple of relatively new technology shotguns make the list as "all time favorites"?

I personally have 2 "go to" guns. A Mossberg 500 and a Mossberg Silver Over/Under.
Ya I know, What business does an upland bird gun have in turkey hunting. When I pack that gun I am basically packin 2 guns. 2 barrels, 2 different chokes, 2 different loads. A slight move of the thumb is all it takes to change from point blank lightfield load and an open choke to a 3" heavy payload and a tight choke for extended ranges.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

I will also comment on sights. I have tried really hard to fall in love with a Truglo red dot sight on my turkey gun, but I can't. I seem to never be able to have the darn thing turned on at just the right time. I'm always worried about running the battery down and usually have it turned off. So to that point, I've missed some shots when a gobbler comes out of nowhere. What I have settled for is I put some Truglo gobble dots on both my Mossberg and my my son's 870. They seem to get the job done pretty well.

So, that Truglo red dot resides on my son's gopher gun. Works great there.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

I started out using my Dad's Browning Auto-5, which is the best semi-auto shotgun ever made, IMO. Now I use an 870 Super Magnum. Neither one has never failed me, and a guy can't ask for better than that can he? The only thing I wish was different about the 870 is that it's a waterfowl model, and so has a 30 inch barrel, which is kind of cumbersome for chasing gobblers. I'll probably have a gunsmith lop off 6 or 8 inches and re-thread it at some point.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Good stuff, GB. Yeah, between the media field-testing honeymoons with loaner shotguns and my 870s, the latter option wins every time; though I do admit to falling briefly in love with new options now and again in places like Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere. Our 870s aren't all that cool to some, but highly reliable (except for that one time, as you'll remember from NY fall turkey camp back when), functional and old-school in the right kinds of ways.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from GerryBethge wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Hey Steve/Guys....
Was just thinking about this very thing this morning on the way to work--spring snowstorms have a way of making you daydream about gobbling turkeys I guess. Anyway, I can't seem to shake the 835 habit though I often swap it out for my daughter's 870 20 ga. Youth Model.
The 835 12 gauge is an original with a push-button tang safety, which everyone hates but me. Unless you've got some experience with the safety, it's a bit tricky to utilize when you're wearing gloves.
The 870 is just an awesome little gun that patterns like a dream. If I know that I'm going to be hoofing it for the day, I'll sling the 870 and go. It weighs next to nothing.
Although I've tried on many occasions, I just don't much care for semi's for turkey hunting. Most are simply too noisy when loading and unloading, which goes hand in hand with my style of hunting. I can load/unload either the 835 or 870 without hardly making a sound.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Forgot the mud part in my post, Mr. Johnsrud. Thanks for remedying the situation, man. Yep, big 870 fan. People laugh. Just a simple pump-gun man shooting cool loaner guns on the road.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Oh Ok. I guess you're allright, you do have an 870 in there.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

What about the slung through mud 835?? Or 535 or 870?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Sounds like a great little gun, Daniel. Thanks for the comment.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from daniel ripley wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

i love my 20GA.mossberg 500 bantam. thanks, Daniel

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from Steve Hickoff wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Forgot the mud part in my post, Mr. Johnsrud. Thanks for remedying the situation, man. Yep, big 870 fan. People laugh. Just a simple pump-gun man shooting cool loaner guns on the road.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from GerryBethge wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Hey Steve/Guys....
Was just thinking about this very thing this morning on the way to work--spring snowstorms have a way of making you daydream about gobbling turkeys I guess. Anyway, I can't seem to shake the 835 habit though I often swap it out for my daughter's 870 20 ga. Youth Model.
The 835 12 gauge is an original with a push-button tang safety, which everyone hates but me. Unless you've got some experience with the safety, it's a bit tricky to utilize when you're wearing gloves.
The 870 is just an awesome little gun that patterns like a dream. If I know that I'm going to be hoofing it for the day, I'll sling the 870 and go. It weighs next to nothing.
Although I've tried on many occasions, I just don't much care for semi's for turkey hunting. Most are simply too noisy when loading and unloading, which goes hand in hand with my style of hunting. I can load/unload either the 835 or 870 without hardly making a sound.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from daniel ripley wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

i love my 20GA.mossberg 500 bantam. thanks, Daniel

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Sounds like a great little gun, Daniel. Thanks for the comment.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Oh Ok. I guess you're allright, you do have an 870 in there.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Good stuff, GB. Yeah, between the media field-testing honeymoons with loaner shotguns and my 870s, the latter option wins every time; though I do admit to falling briefly in love with new options now and again in places like Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere. Our 870s aren't all that cool to some, but highly reliable (except for that one time, as you'll remember from NY fall turkey camp back when), functional and old-school in the right kinds of ways.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

I started out using my Dad's Browning Auto-5, which is the best semi-auto shotgun ever made, IMO. Now I use an 870 Super Magnum. Neither one has never failed me, and a guy can't ask for better than that can he? The only thing I wish was different about the 870 is that it's a waterfowl model, and so has a 30 inch barrel, which is kind of cumbersome for chasing gobblers. I'll probably have a gunsmith lop off 6 or 8 inches and re-thread it at some point.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from GerryBethge wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Sights? Did someone mention sights?
Now there's another topic worth opening a can of worms about! Let's hear you, Steve.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

Hey marksman. Thanks for checking in.

The 870 pump is my all-time favorite, hands-down. We needed a couple more in there, so I went with this personal angle . . .

Added "relatively new technology shotguns" as you say since they're two of the loaner turkey hunt firearms I've had success with on a honeymoon basis (Texas, Oklahoma, etc.). These two guns come to mind whan I think of all-time favorite field testers. Versa Max, as you know, is marketed as a turkey/waterfowl option. I own a handful of 870s if this says anything, and again, neither of the other guns . . .

GB: Is that an assignment (grin)? On sights, more later in a different SZ post . . .

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from GerryBethge wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

Oh, heck yeah, Steve!
Would love to know what everyone is using for a turkey gun sight. Lord knows, I've messed with everything from red dots to fiber-optics to scopes yet somehow always wind up dancing with what the gun company's have brung me—a plain old bead. No idea why, it's just what I'm most comfortable with I guess.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

My well worn 1974 Remington 1100 with its original bead gets the job done on turkeys spring and fall. Being from the old school, shooting a shotgun is a point and shoot affair for me, no "sights" required.

later,
charlie

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

What about the slung through mud 835?? Or 535 or 870?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from cjohnsrud wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

I will also comment on sights. I have tried really hard to fall in love with a Truglo red dot sight on my turkey gun, but I can't. I seem to never be able to have the darn thing turned on at just the right time. I'm always worried about running the battery down and usually have it turned off. So to that point, I've missed some shots when a gobbler comes out of nowhere. What I have settled for is I put some Truglo gobble dots on both my Mossberg and my my son's 870. They seem to get the job done pretty well.

So, that Truglo red dot resides on my son's gopher gun. Works great there.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from marksman wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

Hey Steve. Just wondering how a a couple of relatively new technology shotguns make the list as "all time favorites"?

I personally have 2 "go to" guns. A Mossberg 500 and a Mossberg Silver Over/Under.
Ya I know, What business does an upland bird gun have in turkey hunting. When I pack that gun I am basically packin 2 guns. 2 barrels, 2 different chokes, 2 different loads. A slight move of the thumb is all it takes to change from point blank lightfield load and an open choke to a 3" heavy payload and a tight choke for extended ranges.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ICDEDTURKES wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

870 20 Gauge 26"
Knoxx Tactical Stock
Cheap but reliable Tru Glo 40 MM
Tru Glo SSX 550 choke tube
Federal Heavy weight 1.5 oz 7s

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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