How To/Pro-Tips

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The Turkey Hunting Shotgun

Today’s turkey hunter usually carries a very specialized shotgun. The words “portable” and “powerful” sum it up the best. A dedicated turkey gun should be lightweight for easy carrying. Most are equipped with slings. They tend to have short barrels so they can be easily maneuvered in heavy cover and blinds. Most have a dull finish and many of the newest models are finished in a non-glare camouflage pattern. This is extremely important if you have to move your gun a few inches to line up on an in-range gobbler. Most have rifle-type sights and many have low-power scopes mounted on them. The “power” part comes from big loads and tight chokes. The three-inch 12-gauge magnum is most popular and many hunters choose the 3 1/2-inch 12 and 10 gauge guns. Super-tight “turkey-full” chokes deliver 80% or tighter patterns at 40 yards. This is a very different gun from the shotguns intended for flying targets. It is a true turkey-hunting specialist.

Elk Gun Basics

A good elk rifle should be defined by practical, use-compatible terms rather than solely by ballistic theory. Everyone loves to debate cartridge performance but let’s get off that tired old horse and onto a real one. Riding in a saddle scabbard is tough on guns, mounts and scopes. All components should be strong and well bolted together. (Never leave your rifle in the scabbard if you leave the horse. Few rifles are tough enough to take a good wallowing from a 1,200-pound horse.) If you hunt on foot, lightweight rifles have appeal, but don’t sacrifice steady holding, “shootability” and structural strength for the sake of a few ounces. Scopes must be strong and strongly mounted, reasonably efficient in low light and weather impervious. Elk hunting is tough on rifles and scopes. Assuming a rifle is chambered for an elk-adequate cartridge, a steady performer that is reasonably accurate, absolutely consistent and can take some abuse and keep on shooting well is my choice for an ideal elk rifle.

Going Against The Grain

Sometimes you can’t avoid high-pressure hunting situations and it’s deal with the crowd or don’t hunt. Maybe you can’t beat ’em, but you don’t have to join ’em. These are the times for long-shot options. Look for some really ugly and uninviting segment of hunting country. If it has some decent cover and a little water, it could be an elk hotspot — at least right then. The elk are trying to get away from the crowd as well. Maybe this “bad” area isn’t holding a lot of animals, but how many bulls do you need to tag out? Another play is to hunt in ridiculously easy areas — right along roads and in little brushy draws in open and accessible areas. Most elk hunters want to “climb the highest mountain.” The elk just want to be left alone. Elk are not as good as whitetails at occupying tiny little niches of odd-spot cover but under enough pressure they’ll give it a try.

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