John's Journal...


The Enjoyment and Challenge of Hunting Turkeys with Black Powder

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Maybe I could have shot the tom turkey when he approached at 30 yards. But 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.

I watched this bird for 20 minutes at less than 30 yards. However, I didn't place my cheek down on the stock until the tom stepped behind a tree at 15 yards. The longbeard had crossed the line into my strike zone. Now I had to wait for the bird to step out. Time passed slowly, like waiting in a rocking chair on the front porch to be called for dinner. The gobbler had no reason to move from behind the tree. As my impatience grew, I slid my hand off the stock. I left my shotgun propped on my knee as I gently scratched in the leaves. The tom gobbled as he assumed the hen that had called to him earlier had begun to feed. Just as I reached my hand back to the stock, the turkey took two steps toward me and away from the tree that had shielded him. When I squeezed the trigger, the hammer fell, and the cap ignited. The Pyrodex powder sent the No. 6 shot blistering the air straight to the turkey's wattle. The bird tumbled. I had bagged my third black-powder gobbler of the season.

Click to enlargeI use a Connecticut Valley Arms (CVA) black-powder shotgun with a full choke screwed in the end of its barrel to hunt turkeys. Many of the companies making black-powder rifles also produce black-powder shotguns. For success, you must know how the gun will pattern before the critical moment when you have a gobbler in your sights, and the hammer falls. I load equal amounts of powder and No. 6 shot by volume. I carry a plastic shot cut as my overpowder wadding. The shot cup will hold a tighter pattern and prevent deformity of the shot as it travels down the barrel. I use a Lohman's (now a part of Kolpin Outdoors) gun vise to keep my shotgun steady and to make sure I aim accurately at the target at 20 yards after I've loaded my gun. I shoot the gun from the gun vise three or four times to see how the shot will pattern from 10 yards out to 20 yards, which most black-powder shooters consider their killing range. I've taken a gobbler before at 40 yards with black powder but not deliberately.

During one hunt, I shot at a 3-year-old long-bearded gobbler 15 yards from my stand on the edge of an open field. When I squeezed the trigger, I only saw a cloud of smoke after the powder had ignited. Believing I'd killed the turkey, I quickly stood up. I spotted a bird flopping in the field. However, the gobbler appeared much further away than he had when I took the shot. I raced toward the bird thinking to myself that, "This old gun must pack a punch to blow that gobbler back 20 yards from where I've shot him." As I approached the turkey, he didn't appear Click to enlargeas large as he had when I first squeezed the trigger. When I rolled the bird over, I saw that in addition to the tom's shrunken body, his 8-inch beard had shriveled to 3-inches-long, and the bird had lost at lest 2 years of age. I heard Bo Pitman, lodge manager at White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, walk up behind me laughing.

"That may be the luckiest shot I've ever seen," Pitman observed. "You saw the big, mature, long-bearded gobbler with sharp spurs I shot at, Bo," I told him. "Instead I've got a jake. I don't understand what happened." Then Pitman explained that, "Just as you squeezed the trigger, John, the gobbler saw you and squatted. At the same time, a jake appeared just above the hill. When the jake craned his neck to see why the older longbeard had vanished from sight, the jake lined-up perfectly with the older gobbler. You shot and missed the longbeard. But the jake must have caught a stray pellet in his head. I don't believe I've ever seen a gobbler taken at 40 yards with a black-powder shotgun before, even by accident."

Click to enlargeI've learned from the pattern board that I consistently can bag turkeys from 18 yards and put four to 12 pellets in the kill zone. After that distance, the black-powder guns I shoot only deliver two to five shots to the kill zone. When I decide to hunt turkeys with black powder, I generally limit myself to that 18-yard range.

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 1