Living in Sakatchewan I’m not much of a turkey hunter, but I like turkey guns. I like the performance of these short, fast-handling, well-balanced shotguns, which reach way out there with tight patterns that stay on a turkey’s neck and body. I particularly like the fact these guns work best with optics such as specialized turkey scopes, red-dots and my favorite, the Bushnell HOLOsight. Call me crazy, but I even enjoy the challenge of handling 31/2-inch magnum loads with the accompanying recoil and shoulder abuse.
Many of my friends are turkey hunting fanatics to the point of enjoying turkey hunting more than any other sport. These guys and gals have the latest shotguns and ammo, and they know how to get toms into range with a variety of calls and decoys. They pattern-test various loads and always have the best combination of turkey ammo and shotgun.
Contrast these diehards to many hunters who “make do” with their one and only shotgun, usually a 30inch barreled pump-gun. Specialized turkey guns do a better job, but countless birds bite the dust every season to full-choked shotguns that have also seen time in duck marshes and upland game fields.
Take Your Pick
There are three types of shotgun actions used for turkey guns. In order of popularity, there are semiautos, pumps and break-open single-shots. Twelve gauge is still the dominant choice, with 3- and 31/2-inch magnum chambers the most popular. There are also dedicated turkey guns in 10 gauge and 20 gauge, and most manufacturers camouflage their turkey guns with the latest Realtree or Mossy Oak designs.
Turkey guns usually have relatively short barrels with specially designed chokes that assist in creating super-tight patterns. Pistol-grip stocks are becoming more popular because they offer fast, one-handed control if the aiming position has to be relocated, and cantilever scope bases are available for mounting optical sights on many models.
One of the hottest turkey guns available today is the BENELLI Super Black Eagle II. This 12 gauge is decked out in Realtree APG HD camo and has an ergonomic pistol grip stock called the SteadyGrip. Benelli also offers the Super Black Eagle II with its Comfor -Tech stock, which features the special recoil-reduction benefits due to gel pad inserts and a special computer-designed butt-stock.
BROWNING offers turkey-specific shotguns, regardless of whether you prefer semiautos or pumps. Its 12 gauge NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation) Gold Ultimate Turkey semiauto in Mossy Oak Break-Up camo, has a 24-inch ventilated-rib barrel, HiViz TriViz fiber-optic sights and Dura-Touch Armor Coating. If you prefer pump-action shotguns, you can opt for Browning’s NWTF BPS, which shares many of the Gold’s features.
The 12 gauge FRANCHI I-12 in Realtree APG HD camo has a state-of-the-art gas-operating system and a special recoil-reducing gel butt-pad that dissipates recoil more than 40 percent. Franchi’s full-camo 720 semiauto in 20 gauge would also work well in the turkey woods.
H&R (Harrington & Richardson) offers two turkey guns, a semiauto called the Excell Auto Turkey, and its popular break-open single-shot called the Pardner Turkey. The semiauto is a fullcamo 12 gauge with a 22-inch vent-rib barrel and fiber-optic sights. The Pardner is made in 10 and 12 gauge, with 24-inch barrels and screw-in choke tubes. Pardners have hardwood stocks, with or without a camo-dip finish.
Hardcore turkey hunters have lots to choose from under the MOSSBERG brand. Its Grand Slam Turkey Series shotguns are available in pump-actions or semiautos, and your choice of Mossy Oak or Realtree camo. One of my favorites is the 12 gauge Model 500, a dependable working-man’s pump gun with 20-inch barrel and fully adjustable fiber-optic sights.
REMINGTON’S 12 gauge Model 11-87 semiauto is the basis for its Sportsman ShurShot Synthetic Turkey gun. It features a 23-inch barrel, TruGlo fiber-optic sights and Realtree APG HD camo. The special ShurShot thumbhole-style stock offers pistol-grip control and an oversized recoil pad.
The Remington 870 is one of the simplest, most reliable pumpaction designs in history. I go a long way back with 870s, having used them in animal damage control work in Saskatchewan for decades. By far the “sexiest” of Big Green’s pump turkey guns is the 870 SPS Super Mag Max Gob bler. This unique shotgun features the recoil reduction of the excellent Knoxx SpecOps pistol-grip stock that has to be shot to be believed. This stock eats up kick like magic. The Super Mag Max Gobbler is dipped in Realtree APG HD camo and has a 23-inch barrel with Williams fiber-optic Fire Sights.
WINCHESTER also has a pair of out standing turkey guns. The first, the Super X3 NWTF Cantilever Extreme Turkey semiauto in 12 gauge, is dipped in Dura-Touch Armor Coating for maximum protection from the elements. This Mossy Oak camo shotgun comes with a TruGlo Red Dot scope and 24-inch barrel.
The second, Winchester’s Super X2 Turkey, is one of the fastest-cycling 12 gauge semiautos on the planet. This shotgun doesn’t beat you up, even with heavy loads. I’ve shot the Super X2 a few times and enjoyed the amazing recoil- reduction and fast-handling properties of this fine shotgun. No roundup of turkey guns would be complete without mentioning the amazing technology ammunition manufacturers employ to ensure tight, even patterns for these great shotguns. Although expensive initially, good tur key ammo is a bargain when you consider how much hunting costs these days. Fortunately, very few shots are fired during most turkey hunts, unlike typical waterfowl and upland game bird shoots.