Gear Guide: How to Prepare a Shotgun for Turkey Hunting
April 23, 2014
When turkey season rolls around and those gobblers get your trigger finger itching, it's important to make sure your shotgun is ready to help you bring home some tasty sandwich meat.
If you're like me and thousands of others, the thought of buying a dedicated turkey gun to kill one Tom per year just doesn't make sense. Specialized shotguns are great, but odds are you don't have to look far to find a boom stick that's capable of harvesting a Thanksgiving centerpiece.
There's nothing like a good all-purpose shotgun like the old standby Remington 870s and Mossberg 500s. Both pump guns have a glorious experience in all varieties of shotgun applications — and it doesn't take much time or money to transform them into bona fide turkey slayers.
Once your bird meets its leg tag, returning your trusty old pump gun to its pre-turkey hunting configuration only takes a few minutes to make it ready for virtually any other application.
Recently, I had a chance to hunt Illinois turkeys with the Remington 870 Super Mag that I've employed as an all-purpose tool for years now — but this was its first chance to harvest a bearded gobbler. Out of the box, the 870 is more than capable of putting delicious white meat on the table, but a few temporary modifications will greatly increase your chances of enjoying a feast of wild bird.
Check out these ways to prepare a Remington 870 shotgun for turkey hunting, and you'll be ready to harvest a bird you can be truly thankful for.
Sling Attachment & Sling
Regardless of the hunting application — whether taking aim at turkeys, wildfowl or whitetail — it only takes a few minutes lugging a heavy scattergun through the woods to realize a sling will make the hunt much more comfortable.
quick detach sling attachment point mounts between the receiver and stock, providing a solid mounting position for the sling of your choice. Similar variations include looped attachment points, but I prefer the quick detach variation for the ability to multi-purpose the same slings I employ on my rifles.
Slings also come in virtually any variety under the sun, but my experience with the Magpul MS3 QD
sling continues to grow. On rifles, I run the sling in a single-point style, attached to the end plate of the lower receiver. With a heavier and longer shotgun, I run it in a two-point configuration for better weight distribution.
Magazine Followers & Plugs
As a rule of thumb, I always prefer to use a low-drag follower in all of my magazine-fed shotguns. Regardless of the application — whether hunting, competition or personal defense — the off-chance that a malfunction occurs because of a feeding issue is not a welcomed event. Nordic Components
makes a low-drag follower (pictured here) that\'s earned my trust in every environment.
However, many states require the shotgun to hold a total of only three rounds. In that case, a magazine plug is required to meet conservation laws. A variety of plugs are available, and I prefer to stick with OEM plugs that are tailored to the specific gun, such as this plug from Remington
A traditional bead sight can get the job done, but this year I was truly grateful to be equipped with a Trijicon Trijidot
. This season I harvested my turkey at approximately 6:30 a.m., and using a regular bead sight during the low-light sunrise conditions would have made it very difficult to pick up the bead. The fiber optic Trijidot absorbs even the smallest amount of light to produce a bright green or red front sight.
Other turkey hunters may opt to use dedicated optics such as red dot sights or magnified scopes. While a dedicated optic may be ideal, it's difficult to mount an optic especially if your shotgun's receiver (like mine) isn't drilled and tapped for optics.
Using the correct load is one of the biggest advantages you can give yourself in the turkey hunting arena. While many types of no. 4, 5 or 6 shot have plenty of lethality, most ammunition manufacturers are producing premium, high velocity loads specifically for taking down turkeys.
This year I loaded my 12-gauge 870 with Winchester\'s LongBeard XR
. Based on my patterning and success with a one shot kill at 30 yards, these 3-1/2-inch, 2-ounce loads earned my confidence to use the remaining ammo for next season — and even stretch the distance if a bird hangs up.
Replacing the stock on a shotgun is certainly not necessary for killing a turkey, but personal preference and comfort can quickly outweigh necessity. Depending on your length of pull, you may prefer a longer, shorter or adjustable stock to fit your shooting style and body size. Some stocks such as the Magpul SGA
are adjustable to length of pull, cheek height variability and sling attachment.
Turkeys have excellent vision. Don't let that gobbler spot your black shotgun amidst a background of earth tones. There's a good chance your all-purpose shotgun doesn't feature an OEM-standard camo pattern.
When blending in is important, a quick and non-invasive option is to wrap it up with camo tape. But don't be mislead by the word '˜tape.' There are plenty of non-invasive options on the market, such as McNett Camo Form
(pictured here in RealTree Max-4
pattern), that will enable your black shotgun to hide in plain sight without leaving a sticky residue. It also provides a grippy texture that can prevent your hands from touching frosty gun parts on cold mornings in the field.
Simply wrap up your gun with any one of a handful of different wrap patterns, and you'll be blending into the tree line in no time. Just make sure to apply a light coating of oil to the finish to prevent any unwanted moisture from rusting underneath the wrap.
Selecting the right turkey choke is important, especially as distances stretch. Keeping your pattern dense will increase the chances of putting food on the table that isn't plastered with lead. The ability to group a precise pattern relies upon a dedicated full, extra full or ideally a turkey-specific choke.
I opted to use a standard Remington full choke
I had on hand, which worked well out to 30 yards. I was able to deliver a clean head shot and only put 1 piece of lead in the meat. But even a full choke has limitations, and if you need a take a longer shot I suggest using a dedicated turkey choke such as one from Carlson\'s
or Hunter's Specialties
, among others.