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Bourjaily: Confessions of a Turkey Misser
A guest post from Shooting Editor and Shotguns columnist Phil Bourjaily
Turkey season started last week.
They say you should write about what you know, and one thing I know way too much about is missing wild turkeys. Until you’ve pointed a shotgun at a stationary bird’s head, pulled the trigger and watched it fly off, you genuinely believe (as I used to) that it’s impossible to miss a turkey. It’s not.
What’s worse, once you break the ice and whiff that first bird, it gets ever easier to miss.
You miss because turkey chokes are so tight they throw patterns the size of a volleyball at 20 yards. After my closest miss (5 yards) I shot a pattern at that range that made one hole you couldn’t fit a golf ball through.
And, you miss because you raise your head to get a better view of the bird falling over, except that when you lift your cheek off the stock, the shot goes high.
Like any shooter, I decided my problem had to be lack of gear. First I added a middle bead to my shotgun and used it as a rear sight. That worked fine, until one day it didn’t, and I put clamp-on iron sights onto the rib of my gun. From there, I went to a peep sight with the rear aperture unscrewed and thrown away. Peep sights are lightning fast, surprisingly precise, and all but forgotten by today’s hunter, which is a shame. Peeps may be great and underrated, but it turns out I can miss with those, too. Since then I’ve put scopes and red dots on my guns.
I thought optics had finally cured me. I went a long time without a miss. I shot birds from 12 to 51 yards, standing, strutting, walking, running and once, under circumstances I will not go into here, flying. Then I missed, having gradually developed a habit of not only looking up, but of dropping the gun out of the way for an even better view.
The solution to the problem is not more gimmicks, of course, but better shooting. My turkey guns still have optics --- an Aimpoint 9000 on one, a Nikon Turkey Pro 1.5-4.5 on the other. My most important weapon in the war on missing, however, is the mantra taught to me by shooting instructor and hardcore turkey hunter Marty Fischer: “Kill them through the gun.” It’s a succinct, effective way of telling yourself to keep your head on the stock and follow-through with the shot. I repeat it to myself as turkeys walk into range. Fischer, a long-time competitive clay shooter, prefers the familiar view down an unadorned shotgun rib when he hunts turkeys.
Confession time: off the top of my head I can come up with seven misses and I’m sure there are more I’m blocking out because they’re too painful. Does anybody out there want to admit to missing turkeys too, just to make me feel better? And who else besides me puts sights on a turkey gun?