On the surface, shooting a gobbler seems simple. In reality turkeys sometimes present tricky or even intricate shots. If you’re not prepared, that seemingly easy bird can rubber-neck away instantly, ruining your opportunity for a kill shot.
Our typical practice methods cause some of the problem. We sit at a comfortable bench with a solid rest and squeeze off rounds at a stationary target. You might shoot a few turkeys with such ease, but not many, especially with your back to a tree. Silent turkeys, back-door birds, heavy cover and human error often leave us with difficult opportunities.
Here’s how to prepare for the worst.
This is the easiest trick shot for right-handed shooters, as it’s far easier to twist left than right. Still, a shot at 90 degrees to your left is tough. You can turn that way, but can you hold the position and remain steady?
Twist your arms and torso slowly and steadily, making no unnecessary movements. If possible, slide your body around the tree a bit to reduce the sharp angle. You’ll be contorted and off balance, so don’t rush. Identify the first solid shot and fire. Also, be careful not to let your trigger-hand thumb get too close to your nose or slide your face too near the scope. Broken noses and scope eye can ruin a hunt.
This can be tough, if not impossible for righties. Moving your torso to accommodate a sharp right-angle shot will give you away. The best solution is to learn to shoot with your off hand. That way, if a gobbler comes to your weak side, you can slowly switch hands and still shoot him.
Practice before the season with target loads. Get comfortable holding the gun in opposite fashion and looking through sight or optic. Squeeze the trigger slowly and get accustomed to the sensation of firing “backward.” As you become proficient at switching hands and firing, work up to turkey loads.
One caveat: If you shoot a pump or auto-loader, be careful about the action blowing spent powder back in your eyes at the shot.
Maybe you moved, or perhaps your buddy did. Whatever happened, turkeys often start to rubberneck away before you’re ready to shoot. That’s no big deal in the open, but it can be tricky in thick woods.
Follow the bird’s head with your gun or sight while simultaneously looking ahead and picking an open shooting lane. When the gobbler steps into it, shoot him. If you fire instinctively without identifying an opening, you might miss and hit a tree, sapling or brush, or worse, wounding the gobbler.
Prepare for this scenario as a bird approaches or when you set up. Judge foliage and other cover and note good openings where you can shoot a turkey unobstructed.
If you use a tight-shooting choke and a bobbing bird is within 20 steps, you might want to lower your point of aim and shoot the gobbler in the neck or body. It’s not classic, but it’s better than whistling a quarter-sized swarm of shot past his head.
This should rarely happen, but I get caught with my gun down every year. Your natural reaction is to panic, but that’s a mistake.
If a bird appears and your gun is on your lap, remain still and assess the situation. Often, he’ll search for the hen he heard or continue walking. Or, if you’re using decoys, he might fixate on those. Either way, raise your gun as slowly and carefully as possible, making sure not to jerk or flinch. You’ll likely be able to get into position after a few seconds. If the gobbler still presents a good shot, take him. If he catches your movement or gets nervous, remain calm and continue to raise your gun slowly.
Above all, avoid hasty or stupid shots. Spooking a gobbler won’t ruin your season — missing or wounding him can.