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)