John's Journal...

Turkey Hunting with Bo Pitman of White Oak Plantation

Stuff You’ve Gotta Have

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Bo Pitman can’t remember when he hasn’t hunted turkeys. For more than 20 years, he’s guided and hunted turkeys at White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, a 30,000-acre-plus hunting lodge that has some of the best turkey hunting in the nation. From March 14th to the end of April, Pitman’s in the woods of White Oak hunting turkeys every day. With stands of hardwood timber, pine plantations and fields dispersed throughout the property, White Oak’s ideal habitat for the Eastern wild turkey. Each season, 30 to 50 hunters bag from 35 to 55 turkeys off this property. I don’t know any other place in the nation with more gobbling Eastern turkeys than White Oak. This week, we’ll ask Pittman what’s required to take a longbeard, and what we need to know to increase our odds for taking gobblers this spring.

The most-important element to consistently taking turkeys is a good cushion. I don’t care how tough you are, or how much you know about turkeys and turkey hunting, if you can’t sit still for long periods, you won’t take a turkey. I’ll sit for hours in the same place waiting for a turkey to show up. From time to time, I’ll even take a nap sitting up, knowing that the turkey may not show up for awhile. If you suffer from fanny fatigue, you can’t sit in one spot long enough to take a turkey. In my opinion, a good cuClick to enlargeshion is the most-important piece of gear a turkey hunter must have to take a tom. A good cushion is more important than a really-good gun and really-good shells. Because if you don’t have a good cushion, and you have to move around to keep your fanny from going to sleep, or to get comfortable, you’ll spook the turkey before you ever have a chance to shoot him. When you start considering the gear to buy, the first piece you need to consider is a good cushion to sit on, because if you get on turkey time and hunt a turkey in a way that will give you the best chance to take that turkey, you’ll spend more time using that cushion than you’ll use your gun, shells, turkey vest, GPS receiver, compass or even your boots.

Many times I’m asked, “What kind of gun should I use for turkey hunting?” The simplest gun you can use is the best gun. But various people have different reasons for using different guns. Some people have complications that dictate the type of gun and sighting device they need to kill a turkey. Personally, I like a single-barrelled gun with a bead on the end for sighting. That’s the simplest gun you can use for turkey hunting, and for me, it’s the best gun. But I’ve got one hunter who wears tri-focal eyeglasses. That poor fellow barely can see, and there’s no way he can see the bead on the end of the shotgun and the turkey at the same time. So, he uses a red-dot sighting device. But a sighting device like this creates complications. This hunter will come in from a morning of turkey hunting, put his gun in the case and place it in the trunk. Then he goes out golfing, comes home and puts away his golf clubs aClick to enlargend the shotgun. Two days later, he’s in turkey woods before daylight, takes his shotgun out of the case, gets ready to go hunting, turns that red-dot aiming device on and maybe finds the batteries are dead. Now, he has a shotgun and no way to aim it. I have quite a few hunters who use riflescopes on their shotguns. With the riflescope, you don’t have to get your cheek down on the stock to aim, and getting your cheek on the stock is a major problem for many people who’ve deer hunted often before turkey hunting. So, the scope solves this problem for them.

I hunt with another fellow, Mr. John E. Phillips, the owner of this website, who has a major problem canting his gun. He may be aiming at the turkey and looking at the bead, but he’s got the gun turned to the right or the left just slightly and just enough to miss a turkey. So, he uses a scope on his shotgun to keep him from canting the gun and to help him to shoot more accurately. But scopes and red-dot aiming devices have some complications. When a day’s rainy, the scope gets wet and your vision’s blurred when you look through the scope and try to put the crosshairs on the turkeys. If a piece of cane or broom sage is in front of the scope, between you and the turkey, it can obscure your vision and cause you not to be able to aim properly. If the turkey breaks to run, you have a really--difficult time swinging your gun and seeing the crosshairs in the riflescClick to enlargeope. There are more complications with scopes and other aiming devices than you’ll have with a bead on the end of a shotgun. However, some hunters are better off using some type of aiming device than the bead on the shotgun. When you hunt with a bead on the end of the shotgun as your aiming device, you have to get your cheek down on the stock. You must be able to see that bead and superimpose that bead on the turkey’s neck to shoot accurately. If you have a problem that keeps you from performing that maneuver correctly, you need some type of gun or aiming device that solves this problem. There are pluses and minuses with every shotgun and each aiming device. You have to decide what suits your needs the best and allows you to be the most accurate when you have a turkey in range.

The bottom line on guns and aiming devices – choose the gun and the aiming device that lets you shoot the most-accurately from 35 yards to where you’re sitting. Even though I like a gun with as few complications as possible, every turkey hunter should have a sling on his shotgun, especially those who hunt with me. As a guide, I prefer knowing that the person who’s walking behind me in the turkey woods has the muzzle of his gun pointing straight up in the air as he’s carrying it with his sling rather than having the loaded gun pointed straight at my fanny as we’re going through the woods. I’ve learned over the years that the guns and the turkey shells manufactured today, in most cases, shoot better than the hunters who carry them.

For more information on hunting at White Oak Plantation, call (334) 727-9258, or visit, or email

Tomorrow: Why Your Gun Doesn’t Shoot Straight

Check back each day this week for more about "Turkey Hunting with Bo Pitman of White Oak Plantation"

Day 1: The Cussing Gobbler
Day 2: Understanding Turkey Time
Day 3: Stuff You’ve Gotta Have
Day 4: Why Your Gun Doesn’t Shoot Straight
Day 5: Stingy Calling



Entry 392, Day 3