The Daily, The Field, The Woods

Ever taken a gobbler with a muzzleloading shotgun?

A nice beard on a very nice spring gobbler

Several years ago I killed a 24 1/2-pound long-beard gobbler while hunting in Iowa. My firearm of choice was a Knight muzzleloading shotgun with 150 grains of Pyrodex and two ounces of copper-plated No. 5 shot.

My first day of hunting with Tony Knight saw us spook a pair of roosted gobblers while opening a rusted and squeaky farm gate. Later, as we proceeded to look for unspooked birds, we stopped and began to call.

A nearby gobbler answered, walked right down the edge of an open field in broad daylight, gobbling his brains out, and one shot at 40 yards took care of him.

An easy shot with a muzzleloading shotgun

Mind you, 150 grains of Pyrodex and a two-ounce load of shot, produces a good bit of felt recoil. It wasn’t excessive, but 100 grains of powder suits my moods much better.

The load isn’t the issue here. I’m trying to decide in advance of April 30 whether to try with a muzzleloader this spring during my hunting period. It worked well for me three years ago, and it was great fun, and the Knight muzzleloading shotgun is very tightly choked, and it works like a dream when shooting at 40-50 yards.

Mind you, I don’t like to shoot gobblers that far out unless I can boost the downrange velocity without scattering bird-shot all over the place. I have no qualms with shooting a 50-caliber front-loader with an extra-full choke  and two ounces of shot and three Pyrodex 50 grain at that range.

Five years ago, I sat down, and began calling an hour after daybreak, as rain and snow fell in a deluge. Fifteen hens and gobblers filed past me at 20 yards. The two big gobblers in the bunch had several hens between me and them.

Moisture in the barrel turned to sludge when mixed with snow

They disappeared from sight, and I waited another 30 minutes for those birds to move off, yelped once, and here comes a single gobbler running across an open field. He ran every step of the way until he was 30 yards out, and then he stopped, raised his head and began looking around.

I had a red-dot sight on my muzzleloading shotgun, and put the dot where his head and neck meet, and pulled the trigger. A sharp pop sounded, and the gobbler ran off like the hounds of hell were eating at his tail feathers.

The old adage of “Keep Your Powder Dry” came to mind, and I walked out to the car and drove 10 miles home. The muzzleloader was taken apart, the saboted shot cup and shot, and the black gooey stuff that used to be Pyrodex pellets, was pushed out the barrel. I had forgotten to put a latex thumb from a rubber glove over the muzzle to keep the rain out while i quickly set up my one-man tent blind.

What works is patterning a regular or muzzleloading shotgun

I really wanted to take another gobbler with the muzzleloading shotgun, but I have a Remington Model 870 pump 3-inch magnum 12 gauge shotgun that looks as it has been used to sink fence posts, but the shotgun is over 30 years old, and it shoots copper-plated No. 5 shot very well.

It comes with a sling, as does my muzzleloader, and it has produced gobblers from Alabama to Michigan. When the trigger is pulled, the bird dies. With it, my choice is to shoot birds at 30-35 yards. It has a full choke, but not the extra-full turkey choke found on many muzzleloading shotguns.

It is like an old friend. The stock fits well against my cheek, and nestles comfortably against my shoulder, and my good right eye lines up easily with the fiber optic sight.

The 12 gauge is a bit lighter than a muzzleloading shotgun to carry, and on a cross-country hike to find gobblers after the initial dawn action, that regular shotgun can be a big point in its favor. However, the muzzleloader has an extra-tight choke, and can easily kill birds at 50 yards if I choose to take a shot at that distance (which I’ve only done once). Make a decision which one to use and pattern it well.

Either firearm is fine by me, and in all honesty, shooting a gobbler isn’t what tugs me gently into the turkey woods before dawn. It is the opportunity to attempt calling another bird within easy shotgun range. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but for me, being there and having a gobbler circle me at dawn is what my hunt is all about.

Pulling the trigger and killing the gobbler is nothing more than a heavy layer of frosting on my turkey-hunting cake.


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