If you're currently a bird hunter – upland or waterfowl – chances are you already have a shotgun you can use for turkey hunting. If you’re a new hunter, here are some tips for buying a shotgun.
The most important features to look for when buying any shotgun are:
When buying a new gun for turkey hunting, or even assessing the appropriateness of you current gun, here are the things to consider:
Both pump and semi-automatic shotguns can be equally effective for hunting turkeys, but each has advantages (and disadvantages) over the other. If price is a primary consideration, you may choose a pump. If you have a smaller frame or are buying for a youth, you may choose a more expensive semi-automatic that will be softer and more comfortable to shoot.
Pump vs. semi-automatic actions
can jam when ejecting shells
must manually cycle action for second shot
automatically cycles action for second shot
In shotguns, the smaller the number, the bigger the gun or gauge. A 10 gauge shotgun has a bigger bore than a 12 gauge shotgun, which is bigger than a 20 gauge shotgun. Also, the larger the gun, the bigger the shotgun shells – meaning more pellets and gunpowder.
But larger guns create more recoil (kickback) and can be uncomfortable for some to shoot. Choose a gauge you can shoot comfortably during longer practice sessions at the range, and not just when you take a single shot at a turkey.
12 gauge shotguns
20 gauge shotguns
What about a 10 gauge?
You can use a shotgun as big as a 10 gauge to hunt turkey in Oregon. And that used to be a popular weapon for turkey hunting. However, advances in 12 gauge shells – including 3-inch and 3 ½-inch shells – have made the 10 gauge obsolete for most applications. Besides, they kick like a bear.
Many turkey hunters prefer a shorter barrel length (22-26 inches) to maneuver in a blind or heavy cover.
Most turkey hunters prefer a better sight on their shotgun than the typical one or two metal beads on top of the barrel. Turkeys are normally a stationary target – unlike a flushing pheasant or a decoying duck – and ideally you want to shoot them in the head for a clean kill that doesn’t spoil the meat. That’s a pretty small target you’re aiming at.
Here are two popular kinds of sights to help you acquire your target and shoot accurately:
The variety of available shotgun shells can be dizzying, and there are more being introduced all the time. But taking into account the size of your shotgun and your intended target will help you narrow the choices to a more manageable number.
When you buy shells, the box they’re in will be labeled with the gauge, shell length, amount of shot inside the shell (in ounces), the size of shot and how many feet per second the load travels. Some of this information may also be printed on each shell to help you identify loose shells.
Select shells that are the right gauge and length for your gun.
For example, if your older gun is chambered for a 2 ¾-inch shell, you cannot use a 3-inch shell. However, if your gun is chambered for a 3-inch shell, you can use a 2 ¾-inch shell.
"Shot" refers to the pellets within a shell. Pellets come in different sizes depending on what they’ll be used for – the smaller the pellet number, the larger the pellet. Weird, huh?
Shooters might use shot as small as #9 for very small birds like quail, or as large as #2 for large birds like geese and swans. For comparison, there are 585 #9 lead pellets in an ounce versus only 90 #2 pellets in an ounce.
For turkey hunting, shot sizes 4, 5 and 6 will all work.
Though turkeys are big birds, the target area (head and neck) is relatively small. Having a high energy load with a tight shot pattern is key to a clean kill. However, there are trade-offs between the having most and biggest pellets, the longest shells and the fastest velocity, and recoil.
Many newer turkey-specific loads come in long 3 ½-shells, with velocities up to 1,400 feet per second, and are designed to be used with specialized turkey chokes. These high-powered loads will kill a turkey but can be difficult and uncomfortable for some hunters to shoot.
It will take some trial and error to find the right shells for you and your gun. We’ll go over this more when we talk about patterning your shotgun.
By definition, a choke is a tapered constriction that shapes the spread of the pellets as they leave the gun. A less-constricted choke throws a wider patter, and a more-constricted choke shoots a tighter pattern.
Some older shotguns have fixed chokes that are an integral part of the barrel. Most newer guns come with a selection of interchangeable chokes that look like small metal tubes and screw into the muzzle. The amount of constriction varies among the chokes tubes, allowing a hunter to change how their gun shoots based on what they’re hunting.
For a big, stationary targets like turkey, a full choke is the best choice and is usually included with the purchase of a new shotgun. This choke concentrates the pellets into a small pattern, ensuring more pellets hit the target zone (the turkey's head).
There also are specialized turkey chokes that are extra-full. These chokes shoot a dense, narrow pattern that may be more effective at longer distances.
Hunting involves a deadly weapon that can kill more than just your target. Hunting and handling your gun safely MUST be a top priority.
Start by learning these four gun safety fundamentals and you’ll be well on you way to a lifetime of safe hunting.
If you’re new to hunting, a hunter education class can be a great way to learn about, and PRACTICE, hunting safety concepts.
Hunter education is required for hunters younger than 17, but plenty of adults take it, too. You can take a course in person, online or with a workbook. In each case, you also must complete a hunter education field day where you will practice and be tested on how well you handle a gun.
You can learn more about the different ways to take hunter education, and find a list of upcoming class, on MyODFW.com.
If you’ve never handled a shotgun before, they can be a little intimidating. That’s why ODFW offers basic shotgun skills classes throughout the year to help increase your comfort level with shotguns. In these classes you’ll learn how to handle a shotgun safely, and get plenty of practice actually shooting a gun.
ODFW provides the all guns, ammo, safety equipment, and coaching and instruction you’ll need to help hone your shooting skills.