John's Journal...

15 Yards or Less 50 Yards or More: The Toughest Ranges for Turkeys

What Happens When You Take Long Shots

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Knowing your distance from the turkey when you prepare to take the shot and resisting the urge to shoot when the bird is too close or too far away drastically will increase your odds for taking a tom each time you hunt. This week, we’ll see how 15 yards or less and 50 yards or more are the toughest ranges for taking toms.

The majestic bronze baron stood at 52 yards when I squeezed the trigger. I used a 1.5-4X scope on my 3-inch-magnum shotgun, which made me confident in my ability toClick to enlargemake the shot.  However, I wouldn’t have taken the shot had I known the bird’s distance was at about 50 yards. Originally I’d assumed the turkey was at about 32 to 35 yards. But I drastically misread the distance. After the shot, I jumped up and ran toward the gobbler. I noticed a deep dip in the ground about 20- to 25-yards wide that I hadn’t seen when I prepared for the shot. When I arrived at my flopping longbeard, I couldn’t believe the distance I’d shot or that I’d downed the tom. I never deliberately would have shot at a turkey 50 yards or more from me because I’d have little chance for success. But I’d taken this shotsitting at ground level, which kept me from seeing the small ditch between me and the bird. Since this optical illusion made me believe the turkey was close to me, when he began to cluck and look for the hen nervously, I took the shot. You’ll find taking long shots at longbeards a low-percentage game. I’ve killed turkeys at 50 yards or more, but I honestly can say I really never have intended to bag a bird at this range. I usually don’t want to take the chance of wounding a bird, spooking a bird and therefore educating a bird and running off a gobbler I may have called in closer.Click to enlarge

When taking a long shot at a tom, you greatly reduce your odds for success and your ability to call that same bird in that day or that week. If you pattern your gun at 40 yards and then again at 50 yards, you’ll see how much the pattern opens-out and how many holes you’ll have in a pattern when you add the additional 10 yards to it. With most guns, even out to 40 yards, you’ll have big holes in your pattern through which a gobbler can duck. Turkey hunters often make the mistakes of patterning their guns only at the distances they want to shoot. Many times turkey hunters may have to take shots from distances they prefer not to shoot. When you estimate your distance from a turkey, you may not always make an accurate judgment. You may misjudge the turkey’s distance by as much as 10 feet, or as I did, as many as 20 feet. I’ve noticed the longer I watch a gobbler, the bigger and the closer he seems to be. When you first see a gobbler at 40 to 50 yards, you instinctively may tell yourself he’s too far away for you to make the shot. But the longer you watch the bird, the more you’ll argue with yourself. Then your mind may tell you that the tom turkey . . .  Click to enlarge   
* looks so big and tall he must be closer than you think;
* doesn’t have any brush between you and him;           
* appears nervous, and if you don’t take the shot, you never may get the shot.
But when you squeeze the trigger, you’ll watch your gobbler fly-away into the air. You’ve just talked yourself into taking a shot you know is too far, but you’ve felt you can make it if you get lucky. Nine times out of 10, the odds are against your making the shot, and you will destroy your chances of bagging that bird at any other time in the day.

As long as you don’t squeeze the trigger, you still have a good chance of bagging a bird standing just slightly out of your gun’s range. I’ve seen a turkey before . . .        
* get nervous at 50 yards and walk away from me. Then in a little while, after the turkey has calmed-down, I’ve called him into 30 yards or less.    
* putt and run off after spotting me, not knowing for certain what he’s seen. Once the bird’s moved out of sight, I have re-positioned myself, changed calls and taken the same tom I haven’t shot at when the tom was 40- or 50-yards away. Close shots and long shots seldom take turkeys. Know the range at which you shoot effectively. Don’t push your limit by either trying to take a gobbler too close or too far away. 

Check back each day this week for more about "15 Yards or Less 50 Yards or More: The Toughest Ranges for Turkeys"

Day 1: That Turkey Out-Quicked Me
Day 2: What Happens Up Close
Day 3: Why the Up-Close and Personal Shots Are the Easiest to Miss
Day 4: When You Play With the Gobbler
Day 5: What Happens When You Take Long Shots


Entry 500, Day 5