GETTING LUCKY ON TURKEYS WITH BLACK POWDER
The Enjoyment and Challenge of Hunting Turkeys with
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
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.
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 as
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
"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."
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 www.nighthawkpublications.com/hunting/hunting.htm
to read book excerpts.
TOMORROW: HOW TO SOLVE BLACK-POWDER