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New loads offer turkey hunters a long ranged shot

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

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As sportsmen, we always are looking ahead to the next season. For many, they already are thinking about the spring turkey season. This month’s “Outdoor Life” has an interesting article by Alex Robinson. He writes about a new innovation in turkey hunting that might change things. Depending on your viewpoint, it might be for the better.

The article is talking about shooting gobblers at long range. It is focused primarily on testing out and going through the rigors with a new load from Winchester called Longbeard.

Before I mention the findings in the article, though, I should point out there has been sort of an unwritten rule that 50 yards is the de facto benchmark as far as an effective range for a good turkey load. When talking with turkey hunters all over the country, you might hear someone bring up that particular distance and compare past hunts to it.

Out of the many turkeys I have shot from here to New York, most were taken within 20 yards.

In fact, some of those were even closer than that. I have had multiple encounters where the bird was taken at less than 10 yards. So, why would we need a load that is effective past 50 yards? Good question.

First off, it is important to note the terrain is a critical factor in determining the length of the shot you might take. Personally, I like to hunt turkeys deep in the timber. These types of set ups are likely to end up with a bird very close to you. You can’t shoot a long ways through dense brush and foliage, so the birds need to get much closer than they would if you were facing out into a field.

With that said, I have taken one bird at that 50-yard mark. There was a pair of New York gobblers that came in behind a friend and me.

The first bird entered the field while the second stayed back. My friend from Alabama bagged the first Longbeard, and wouldn’t you know it, the second one circled out in front of us and I was able to bag that one right at 50 yards.

Would a new shotshell be worth it that can extend your effective range past that 50-yard mark? The new Longbeard shells by Winchester utilize a new technology that they call Shot-Lok. It has a resin that encases the shot.

The purpose is to fill the spaces between the shot, so upon ignition the bottom third of the pellets are not deformed from the forces of the powder. Therefore they fly truer and stay together in a tight pattern longer.

The author had notable success when patterning his gun and comparing it with another load that didn’t incorporate the new resin base.

For example, when comparing No. 4 shotshells, the author was able to get 115 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards. The regular Double X load only had 56 pellets in the circle. Out to 70 yards the Longbeard load had 25 pellets in the 10-inch circle, while the Double X had only eight. Big difference.

How many pellets do you need in the circle? Theoretically, it only takes one pellet to bag a gobbler. But, to be ethical, you want to have as many pellets in that circle as you can. The number of pellets dramatically increases when the author used No. 5 shot and No. 6. Naturally, the smaller shot size allows for more pellets to be in the shell.

Each hunter needs to determine what his or her own effective range is. Is this a product that could be of interest to you come this spring? It might be. Others might find that it is not needed.

I wouldn’t mind having a couple of those shells in my turkey pouch come opening day, but there is a good chance that they might not ever get used.

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