QUALITY TIME ON THE RANGE: PRE-TURKEY PREP…WITH A 28 GAUGE?!
By Skip Knowles
After using the A400 28 gauge Beretta and dropping greenheads like wet mops in the timber on a big hunt with Sitka’s Jeff Watt (look for that story soon) using HEVI Shot 7/8 loads of #5s, the wheels really started to turn before turkey season.
Plenty of my amigos switched to 20 gauges some time back to chase turkeys because we are getting old and our backs hurt…but mostly because of the murderous lethality of HEVI Shot. You simply don’t need the big gun anymore unless you are one of these guys wanting to shoot birds over 45 yards, and for my buddies, that’s not what it’s about.
So if a 20 gauge is much lighter and pleasant to hold up while that tom is working in, the 28 would be even better, right? But we would have to make sure on paper, first. Exciting as it sounded to chase a tom with a 28, I had no interest in a wounded bird situation.
Mike Miller, a Mossy Oak pro staffer, lives nearby here in the Rockies so I trotted on over and we started blasting at turkey targets at 30 yards, figuring we just wouldn’t shoot past that unless the results were terrific. Mike loves any kind of outdoor challenge and he started to get into the idea of the 28….but mostly, he just loved the way the elegant little featherweight gun feels, just like everyone else who has handled one.
Then we slammed away with some regular HEVI Lead Upland loads of #6s for Mike’s 12 year old son Brady to use in his little youth pump Mossberg 20 gauge. Last, we shot my A400 12 gauge with Magnum Blend HEVI 2 ounce 3” loads, the most awesome turkey load of all time.
This whole fun exercise was an eye opener for several reasons, and we learned a lot.
• First off, the 28 showed right away that any bird under 30 yards is going to die quickly. The photo with the little gun (the brown mini autoloader shot) is deceiving because we shot that target twice, so divide the number of pellet holes in that image in half—it’s still a dozen or more in the neck and head. Dead. Bird.
•We also learned that you really do need to pattern your gun! We’ve been told many times that shotgun impact areas can vary, even though it’s probably mostly caused by shotgun fit and how you personally hold the gun.
Being stubborn and usually in a rush, and having killed plenty of toms over the years without patterning every load, I didn’t really believe it necessary, because it seems like most shotguns, fancy or affordable, seem to work so well. In this outdoors business you’re always grabbing different guns on trips and we just haven’t had trouble killing waterfowl with any of them.
But to my surprise, I held mid-neck on the turkey and most of the shot ended up toward the base of the neck. This was repeated, to boot. So with this gun and load, I can hold on the bird’s head to do the most damage, instead of the traditional mid-neck shot. Probably because of the way I held the gun and aimed, the sight picture for me means this gun hits a little low.
•Then, when young Brady shot his gun, most of the pattern went over the bird’s paper head. Then he did it again. Excited young shooter jerking the trigger, right? No, we did not give him enough credit. Dad grabbed the gun and fired and most of his pattern was 6 inches high, too. So it’s the gun/choke/load combo. If we hadn’t done this field work, Brady may well have missed or wounded his first bird. No bueno, now he knows that with HIS gun, the kill shot is to aim at the base of the neck.
And better still we should make dang sure we get the bird in under 30 yards, preferably 15 or 20. More good info.
•Next, I picked up the 12 gauge and a HEVI-Choke extended range waterfowl choke and let her rip. WOW. More pellets in that birds head than you’d want to count and five in the brain area alone. One shot from that murderous combo put more holes in that target’s head and neck than the repeat shots with the 28! What an eye opener about the power of that combo. I have no idea just how far out that load would be lethal but you can see the results of one shot were spectacular. There would never be a wounded or lost bird with that setup if you do your job.
If the 28 gauge experiment doesn’t go well, that nasty efficient 12 gauge choke/load combo will be back in my hands quicker than you can say tailfeathers.
Time to hit the woods and put all this knowledge to use. TO BE CONTINUED…