Turkey Hunting 101. CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON
You’ve contracted a case of Spring Fever and want to hit the woods in search of gobbling toms. Fantastic. This article is going to give you a basic understanding of what goes into choosing a shotgun to do just that. Now, I know a lot of guys hunt turkeys with archery equipment, but that deserves an article all on its own. For this article, I am going to assume that hunting with a shotgun is likely the way you will do it.
A bit of warning here. If you have been around gun and hunting culture for even the most minimal amount of time, you’ve no doubt realized the almost endless options for equipment and as equally as endless arguments between hunters in what works best, down to the smallest minutia. You will not find that here. This is K.I.S.S overview. Not every question will be answered, and not every option given. Trust me though, this is all you need to be comfortable in knowing your walking into the woods with a shotgun that can get the job done. This and some proper gun safety training, but that’s on you.
Onto the shotguns. I put this list of 12 gauge guns together with the first-time turkey hunter in mind. That said, in following the old saying “variety is the spice of life,” I’ve included a classic pump shotgun, auto loader and even a double barrel field gun, all priced under a grand.
When considering which choke to use, use a full, or turkey hunting specific choke. Read more about chokes here.
Remington 870 Express Super Magnum Cost: $399.99
In the 50 years the Remington 870 has been on the market, it has risen to the status of one of the most legendary shotguns of all time. Think of it like an old Ford F100 pickup; an affordable workhorse that can do dang near anything you need it to do.
I’ll admit that I am a bit biased towards this gun, but it’s easy to see why. For less than $500.00 you can get a gun that, depending on your states laws can be used to hunt most game species in the lower 48. The gun that I have been carrying since I was 14 has put more than its fair share of whitetail deer, wild turkey, Canadian goose, ducks, pheasant, squirrels and rabbits into the freezer. With a simple change of barrel and the appropriate shot load for the game you are chasing, this gun opens you up to a lifetime of hunting for very little money.
The 870 features a stout yet smooth receiver providing enough weight to the gun to inspire confidence in its construction and operation, without it feeling like you’re swinging a railroad tie when shouldering it.
This truly “do it all” gun can be shot using 2-3/4”, 3”and 3-1/2” inch shells. My recommendation? A 3-inch shell in No. 5 fired through a full or turkey choke will throw a couple hundred pellets down range to make sure any turkey you put on the ground stays there.
Berretta A300 Outlander $799.99
To be honest, I don’t really have a lot of experience with semiauto shotguns. Back in my misspent youth during the 90’s, a Berretta was considered an exotic gun, meant for those with more money than you. These were also the guys that usually shot the most ducks, and served up a walloping at sporting clays tournaments when the rest of us were still shooting pumps. At $799.00, I was pleasantly surprised to see this Berretta priced at under a grand, in a handsome walnut finished stock. An even better value to the budget minded shooter, its offered up as a Matt Black model with synthetic furniture and will set you back just $699.00. That’s a hell of deal for a brand new semiauto shotgun.
The A300 is an updating of the Berretta 391 and is made at its Maryland factory. Lighter and sleeker than its predecessor, it has a newly designed piston and exhaust valve assembly which makes cleaning a breeze.
While I haven’t had the chance to spend too much time with this gun, it gives an impressive first impression right out of the box. A dream to shoot and is light weight with a low profile making it easy to swing onto targets. A fantastic waterfowl and sporting gun, it seems it would be right at home in the turkey woods too.
Mossberg Silver Reserve II $719.99
This last pick is a bit out of left field, but I’ve always been one to buck convention. You don’t see over/under shotguns mentioned vary often when talking turkey hunting, wish is a shame, because once you spend some time shooting a o/u, you try to find every reason to do it again. There is just something special about shooting them. It’s almost ceremonial. Firing both barrels, breaking open the receiver to eject rounds; the subtle whips of gun smoke making their way up to you nose. It takes you back to a different time.
O/U shotguns fly in the face of convention, with many hunters believing you have to be shooting 3.5” magnum rounds from a shotgun to be successful. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
While it may be moderately priced, this gun bats way above its weight in the looks department. Black walnut checkered stocks, silver finished receivers detailed in classic scroll engraving, chrome plated chambers and bores make this gun look far more expensive than it really is.
I would stick with a full choke for hunting turkeys. While I am unsure if screwing in a turkey choke would have any negative affect on the gun, it just feels wrong. Sometimes tradition is good, and if you have never fired one of these nostalgic shotguns, that first breaking open of the receiver will make you a believer.
I’ve always believed in going into the field knowing as much I can about the species I intend to hunt, the better the hunt is. It helps build a context for the hunt itself, and inserts the hunter into the long scope of the history the animal has had on the landscape. For a bit of background on the wild turkey itself, make sure to read our 2 Page History: The Wild Turkey.