John's Journal...


How to Solve Black-Powder Turkey-Hunting Problems

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: When hunting with my black-powder shotgun, I always wait until the bird comes in 10 to 12 yards closer to me than I do if I hunt with a conventional shotgun. My killing ground becomes 10 to 20 yards. I've chosen to play the game of hunting turkeys with black powder this way because I've bagged enough gobblers that I don't need to shoot every tom I spot. I consider playing the game fairly more important than bagging a bird. The rules I set up for hunting a tom with black powder help to stack the odds even more heavily in the turkey's favor.

Cocking the hammer on a black-powder shotgun creates two problems - a movement problem when you pull the hammer back and a noise problem when you cock the hammer. Both actions will scare off a gobbler. To solve these problems, I cock the hammer when the out-of-sight turkey reaches 30- to 40-yards away. I leave the hammer cocked until the bird comes into my killing ground or he walks off.

Click to enlargeA few years ago, I hunted with my friend, Cecil Carder, a manufacturer's representative for outdoor products. We hunted the Cedar Creek Ranch near Rochelle, Texas. I shared my plastic cup waddings with several other writers who went on the hunt after they saw how tight my gun patterned compared to their guns when they used felt waddings. Just at daylight, Carder called in a nice gobbler I missed. I had no excuses to offer. But after the gobbler ran off, I reloaded. Carder and I went to hunt another turkey. After using a pre-load to pour the powder down the barrel, I reached into my possibles bag to find my shot cups. However, apparently I had given away all of them. Although I hadn't brought any felt wadding with me, I did have plenty of overshot waddings. When Carder asked how I would load my gun, I didn't have a clue as to what to answer him. I studied the overshot waddings and decided that if I stacked six on top of each other and forced them down the barrel and tight against the powder, they would have the thickness of a felt wad. I realized I'd lose the cushioning effect that the felt wadding would provide. Because of the rigidity of the six cardboards, if I did take a shot at a tom, many of the No. 6 shot would be deformed before they came out of the barrel. But I didn't really expect to get another shot at a gobbler that day anyway. I'd never tried this particular loading system for a black-powder shotgun. I wouldn't advise using overshot waddings for overpowder waddings. Click to enlargeHowever, I didn't have an option if I wanted to hunt. I then poured in the shot and used another overshot wadding to cover the shot. An hour later, we heard turkeys gobbling across the fence from us.

"Let's back away from the fence, and try to call these turkeys into this pasture," Carder recommended. "If the gobbler thinks he has to fly across the fence to reach the hen, he'll fly the fence. But if he believes he can come to the edge of the fence and let the hen see him, he'll try to pull her under the fence to him. Let's back off about 75 yards before we begin to call." Carder demonstrated his mastery of the push-button box call as I heard the gobblers approaching. When the birds' wings beat the air, I knew Carder had successfully called the turkeys over the fence. But as the two toms advanced, they started to shy away from our calling position. "You better take the shot," Carder instructed quietly. The closest turkey stood at 20 steps. The second bird followed 10 yards behind the first in a straight line. When I squeezed the trigger, the first gobbler flew off as the second turkey flopped.

"What a shot!" Carder exclaimed. "That's a good 30- to 40-yard shot with a black-powder shotgun. I can't believe you shot the second turkey, instead of the first turkey." Not wanting Carder to know I had shot at the first turkey and missed, I did the only honorable thing I could. I lied as I explained, "I should have taken the first turkey. But I had a better shot at Click to enlargethe second one." This explanation seemed to satisfy Carder. Although I don't advise using overshot waddings in place of overpowder waddings, if I hadn't used the overshot cardboard waddings to cover the powder, I couldn't have bagged a bird, even with the best of luck.

To learn more about turkey hunting, call Night Hawk Publications, (205) 967-3830 or write 4112 Camp Horner Road, Birmingham, AL 35243 to order John E. Phillips' three turkey-hunting books, "Turkey Hunting Tactics," "The Master's Secrets to Turkey Hunting" and "Outdoor Life's Complete Book of Turkey Hunting." You can visit to read book excerpts.


Check back each day this week for more about GETTING LUCKY ON TURKEYS WITH BLACK POWDER

Day 1: The Enjoyment and Challenge of Hunting Turkeys with Black Powder
Day 2: How to Solve Black-Powder Turkey-Hunting Problems
Day 3: How I Play The Game of Turkey Hunting with Black Powder - Rules #1-3
Day 4: How I Play The Game - Rules #4-7
Day 5: What To Do When All Else Fails



Entry 294, Day 2