What? Did I read that correctly? After years of efforts to reintroduce and restore the wild turkey to the woods and fields of the U.S. and working to promote ethical hunting methods, did I just see what I thought I saw?
Did I really see an advertisement by a turkey choke manufacturer promoting 50 yard shots at the majestic wild turkey gobbler? Surely, that's an error or a mistake made by some over eager ad writer. Surely after several decades of promoting ethical hunting, woodsmanship, calling and considering the kill of a gobbler as a plus and not the only important part of the hunt, we are not about to throw all of that away and encourage hunters to take 50 yards shots.
A few years ago a 25 yard shot was what most of us considered to be ethical. That was of course before the advent of tungsten-based shot. With shotshells like Hevi-Shot and others that use heavier than lead shot in them and with the development of much better turkey chokes, a modern turkey hunter can feel confident in taking a 40 yard shot, if that becomes necessary.
Having spent the better part of 3 decades hunting wild turkeys and having been engaged in the sport of still target shooting for the past 13 years, I can testify that no matter what choke or commercial shotshell you use, pattern quality falls off very dramatically after 40 yards.
The NWTF has been instrumental and very vocal in promoting shots at no further than 40 yards. That organization has a real stake in promoting ethical hunting practices. Toward that end, it established the sport of still target shooting to encourage manufactures of shotshells and turkey chokes to develop better products to reduce the number of crippled and lost birds.
Both shotshell makers and choke tube makers responded to this call. From the earliest days, 40 yards was established to be the furthest an ethical hunter should shoot and hunters were encouraged to call them in even closer, not only to insure a clean kill but also to enjoy the full experience of the hunt. It's not just about killing a turkey.
What everyone at the NWTF and the shooters who have participated in still target shooting can attest to and agree upon, is that patterns fall apart quickly just feet over 40 yards, no matter what commercial shotshell or choke tube is used.
Patterns that have excellent 10” core density and wider 20” fringe pattern at 40 yards will disburse into very large clouds of shot just a few yards further on and at 50 yards become so wide that huge holes in them are prevalent. In my work with various shotshells and chokes I've seen this time after time over the years.
Will modern tungsten-based shot travel further than 40 yards and retain enough energy to kill a turkey? Absolutely but the shooter is much more likely to wound the bird and lose him. The turkey in turn will in all likelihood suffer an agonizing death, days, weeks or even months later from infection caused by the shot that is within his body.
That is not what hunting turkeys is all about, not what we as ethical turkey hunters should be doing and not what any manufacturer should be promoting.
I'm not often critical of marketing efforts of any manufacturer because I know that we as consumers will sort through all of the hype eventually. However, with the growing population of new turkey hunters it's important that we who've been in the sport for a while, make certain that the ethical standards that so many have worked so hard to establish are maintained.
We must never allow our desire to be successful, if we define that as shooting a turkey, outweigh our desire to be good sportsmen. Too many good folks have given up too much to allow this to happen.