We as turkey hunters are very fortunate to live in this "modern era of turkey hunting". Over the last 20 years we have enjoyed not only the restoration of the wild turkey to huntable populations in 49 states but also the most robust innovative period in turkey hunting products in history.
A couple of years ago, Winchester introduced its 12 gauge Long Beard (WLB) turkey load. That shell was quite different from any that most of us had shot. The difference is the shot capsule that is composed of the shot charge, encased in a resin with a cap that seals it into the wad. The hull is sealed with a roll crimp on top of the fangible cap.
Upon upset, firing, the resin is fractured and becomes a buffer that keeps the shot from contacting the bore, deforming it, as it makes its way down the bore. Deformed lead shot can create "flyers" that distort the pattern. By keeping the shot round, it can fly straighter and form better patterns at the target.
This shell has become very popular with turkey hunters since its introduction. The only complaint from some hunters is that patterns are too tight at distances less than 40 yards. That's a complaint that many of us never thought we'd hear, after years of trying to get tighter and tighter hunting patterns. It is however a valid one. The shell was designed for longer distance shots.
Still target shooters have also adopted the WLB shell and several new records have been set over the last few years by shooters using it.
I have fired several hundreds of these shells in evaluations, practice and in competition and I can attest to the tight patterns they throw.
Most of us who've hunted for a while, enjoy calling the turkey in to ranges much less than 40 yards. It's really the chase that is the thrill. I would encourage anyone who wants to try this shell to shoot it with their existing set-up at ranges from 20 to 40 yards to see just how it performs for them.
We must also remember that no matter how dense the pattern, lead shot will run out of energy more quickly than tungsten-based shot. As ethical hunters, we should act accordingly.
Lastly, there is an unconfirmed rumor that the WLB shell will be available in 20 gauge for the 2017 turkey season. If that is the case, I suspect it will be unveiled at the SHOT show or at the NWTF Convention & Sport Show next year. Time will tell.