I may never hunt another wild turkey as long as I live. There’s just no way that another hunt could come close to the adventure of my first–and the “Benelli On Assignment” cameras caught it all on tape (see sidebar).
When I arrived in South Texas in mid-April to test a switch-barrel 12-gauge Benelli Super Black Eagle II on wild hogs and turkeys, I fully expected that hunting a four-legged beast would be a “gimme” and that the Rio Grande turkey tag would be the true test to fill. My initial assumption couldn’t have been more wrong.
Simply shutting down the Kawasaki Mule ignited a burst of pre-dawn gobbling from a roost in an old oak tree about a quarter-mile away. It was quite an exciting sign that punctuated the first few minutes of the hunt.
We made our way down the trail to a clearing beside the tree and found a large, hollow bush that we could get into without being seen. Still under the cover of semidarkness, Benelli’s Joe Coogan managed to post a Jake decoy with just enough time to join the cameraman and me in the bush as eight birds took flight. They landed about 125 yards away and immediately began strutting and courting a single hen. Sporting a veritable horse’s tail for a beard, the largest Tom stepped up and took control.
|Model:||Benelli Super Black Eagle II|
|Purpose:||Turkey (slug barrel optional)*|
|Operation:||Inertia Driven recoil|
|Magazine capacity:||Three rounds|
|Receiver Material:||Aluminum lower, steel upper|
|Gague, Chamber:||12 gauge, 3 1/2 inches (12 gauge, 3 inches*)|
|Barrel Length:||24 inches|
|Barrel Features:||(1:28 twist)*|
|Sights:||Ventilated rib with front and mid bead, receiver drilled and tapped to accept Weaver base; (adjustable rear and fixed-blade front sights)*|
|Barrel Finish:||Advantage timber; (matte blued steel)*|
|Stock finish:||Advantage Timber|
|Drop at heel:||2.25 inches; (2.50 inches)*|
|Drop at comb:||1.38 inches; (1.63 inches)*|
|Length of pull:||14.38 inches|
|Checkering:||Airtouch molded into foreend|
|Pistol Grip:||Rubber-coated SteadyGrip|
|Recoil pad:||Black ComforTech Gel|
|Sling studs/swivels:||Sling loops in stock, swivels: swivel on cap|
|Weight, empty||7.3 pounds; (7.4 pounds)*|
|Overall Length:||45.6 inches|
|Accessories:||Owner’s manual, five Crio Chokes, choke-tupe wrench, stock-shim kit, case; (optional slug barrel/receiver MSRP: $535)|
|*All parenthetical information above refers to optional rifled slug barrel/receiver|
A smaller bird strutted our way to investigate the decoy after a bit of encouragement from Coogan’s call. A quick slap of the decoy with his wing was just enough to put off the gobbler, and he turned to walk back to the pack. An easy opportunity through a clear field of fire notwithstanding, Coogan and I exchanged a knowing look that granted him safe passage.
As if t
he smaller Tom reported his findings to the rest of the flock, one by one, they disappeared into the far tree line almost as quickly as they showed up. We were busted. But I had no idea the show was far from over, and in 10 minutes, I was to receive the surprise of a lifetime.
“GOBBOLOBBOLOBBOLA!” ripped off the big Tom that had somehow silently circled around behind us. Let’s just say that hearing that thunderous disruption of silence about 7 or 8 feet over my left shoulder caused me to nearly jump out of my skin, and I’ll leave it at that. Amazingly, not one of us moved a muscle. Still unaware of our presence, the big Tom led two companions straight along the edge of our bush on our left. My shotgun was pointing 120 degrees away, and the hole in the bush would prevent any kind of shot from my left shoulder, where the gun rested.
Enter the SteadyGrip (April 2006, p.66). Slow as molasses on a winter day, I brought my right hand back to my left hand, replacing it on the Super Black Eagle II’s vertical SteadyGrip. Just as slowly, I moved my left hand out to the forend as I transferred the butt to my right shoulder. The leader, then about 30 yards away, soon had a 3 MOA red dot resting on his neck, courtesy of a Burris SpeedDot.
A mere 45 minutes into the hunt, my first turkey, a Rio with a beard just shy of a foot long, was on the ground being trounced and kicked by a pair of vindictive would-be heirs to the throne.
The hard part out of the way and after much celebration, we headed back to the 100-yard range at camp. I swapped out the original shotgun barrel for a blued-steel rifled slug barrel in a matter of minutes. It was a simple process of disassembly and reassembly with the slug-barrel/receiver unit, which was topped by a Burris scope. I
decided that was as good a time as any to get my accuracy testing done.
Being a lot more of a precision rifle guy than a shotgunner, I admit crisp, lightweight triggers have spoiled me. While I’ve pulled the triggers of a great many shotguns in my time, I have never been very impressed by the link between finger and gun on any of them. I would say that my Super Black Eagle II had a trigger that was above average, considering its peers. To my finger, it exhibited a noticeable amount of creep as well as a bit of stacking. On the up side, it broke cleanly and consistently within 2 ounces of the 6-pound, 6-ounce average of 10 digitally measured pulls.
Shooting groups from the bench, the trigger did get to me a little bit, and I am sure that translated to the targets. But in the field–where it counted–I was more than satisfied thus far.
Since the Super Black Eagle II has been patterned for accuracy in these pages before, I chose to limit my testing to the slug barrel at 100 yards. I used the same 3-inch magnum shells from Federal Premium with the 1-ounce Barnes Expander HP slug that I planned to use on pigs. I also used a 2 3/4-inch Hornady load with a poly-tipped 300-grain SST slug, as well as a 2 3/4-inch load from Remington with a 1-ounce Barnes Copper Solid HP slug.
I had to rely on the factory velocity ratings to calculate estimates of muzzle energy because the portable chronograph that I brought along stopped functioning after the first five rounds. That said, the Super Black Eagle II and its swapped slug barrel performed quite admirably on the range, producing five-shot groups that averaged 2.81 inches for the Federal slugs and 3.18 inches for the Hornady SSTs. The Remington ammo produced exceptionally consistent groups, averaging 2.38 inches.
Throughout the hunt, I would go on to put about 300 rounds of rather hot loads through the gun in almost every position imaginable–from a mechanical rest on a bench down to the unsupported prone position, I did not experience a single malfunction during the shooting. I did have a single anomaly with one of the first Hornady shells shot prior to the accuracy testing. The gun jumped considerably more than on any of the other shots, and the paper downrange showed a perfect profile of the keyholed SST slug, down and to the right about a foot. I cleaned the barrel and began shooting groups, never to have it happen again.
|Benelli SBE-II 12-Gauge Slug Gun At 100 Yards|
|Factory Load||Velocity* (fps)||Energy (ft-lbs)||Accuracy (inches)|
|Federal Vital-Shok, 3-inch, 1-ounce Magnum||1525||2262||1.83||3.61||2.81|
|Remington Copper Solid 2 3/4-inch 1-ounce Solid Magnum||1450||2045||2.05||2.66||2.38|
|Hornady SST 2 3/4-inch, 300-grain||2000||2664||2.24||3.89||3.18|
|NOTES: Accuracy listed is for five consecutive, five-shot groups fired from a mechanical rest. *Velocity and energy calculations are based on factory-provided averages. Average temperature: 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Average humidity: 60 percent.|
With nearly four full days of hunting left, it was off to the “easy part”–or so I thought–hunting feral hogs. It would take us to the very last hour of the hunt to find a suitable pair of hogs rooting through the tall Texas grass.
Stretching my spine to aim over the grass from the kneeling position, I fired a single shot at a distance of about 35 yards. But as the Inertia Drive system (October 2006, p.52) sopped up the stout recoil from the 3-inch Federal Magnum load, I knew the shot was bad. The pig dropped from a hit just below the spine, squealing its head off, only to get u
p a minute later and start running.
With our cameraman in tow, Coogan and I sprinted through the field in a manner really only befitting an episode of “COPS.” We tracked him through a thicket of trees and emerged to see a set of black ears and the ridge of his back in the grass just about 100 yards away. No time to waste, this would be a standing shot. Pulling the SteadyGrip back to bring the butt tight into the shoulder, I lined the crosshairs on the spine, exhaled, and started to squeeze the trigger as I lowered the point of aim. The single slug echoed a resounding thud as the tusker dropped for the last time.
I really have to hand it to the engineers at Benelli, those guys know a thing or two about minimizing felt recoil with their recoil-dampening Inertia Drive system and the ComforTech recoil pad on the butt. My longest day on the range left a pile of about 110 empty hulls on the ground, but at no time during the shooting did the gun begin to feel uncomfortable. Even on the flight home, my shoulder was feeling no pain.