View Full Version : The Ethics of Long Range Turkey Hunting

March 1, 2001, 08:13 AM
Consider this...
Hunters kill deer from less tham 50 yards while some hunters kill deer from 300+.
no one seems to be upset by the disparity. no one says "shooting a deer from that distance is wrong".
So why not shoot turkeys from 200 yards with highpowered rifles? A 25-06 or 257 is sure to end a turkeys day cleanly (the kill not the remains).
and if you are thinking " there wont be anything left to eat", well the trophy part is the beard and spurs. i'm sure they would still remain if the gobbler was taken by a 50 BMG.
We do hunt animals that we dont eat (big cats, bears, all sorts of african game) and all for the trophy so that argument wont fly.
so is it tradition? No. tradition is my state of SC was ditch hunting. dig a deep ditch, scatter corn in it, get in and blast a row of feeding gobblers w/ a 10 ga.


Art Eatman
March 1, 2001, 09:03 AM
There may be folks who only go for beard and spurs; I've never met any such so I dunno. One in a hundred? Every turkey hunter I've ever known or read about thinks of turkeys in terms of the difficulty of the hunt to get one close enough for a clean kill and the resultant sense of triumph--and food.

Center-punching a turkey with a high-powered rifle, just for the beard and spurs is the act of a low-rent, no-skill fool. I don't know any of those.

Wasting game is a crime; it can cost one's gun, gear and vehicle depending on circumstances. I'd turn in such a "trophy hunter" to the nearest game warden.

:), Art

March 1, 2001, 09:17 AM
My fuzzy recollection is that a much higher percentage of accidents (i.e., number of accidents per hunters in the field) occurs during turkey season than big game season. Much has to do with the tactics involved: donning full camo, going out into the woods, and then trying to sound like the game you are hunting. There are too many "mistaken for game" accidents already. We hear the cry, "Be sure of your target!" But the statistics speak.

Add high powered rifles to the mix? I don't think so. I'm in blaze orange when there are rifles or slug guns in the woods. Even if I fully trusted myself to not make a mistake, I'm afraid I don't trust you.


NRA Life Member
Hunter Safety Instructor
Cogito, ergo armo

[Edited by Legionnaire on 03-03-2001 at 12:59 PM]

March 1, 2001, 11:20 AM
XXSUPO wrote:

"Hunters kill deer from less tham 50 yards while some hunters kill deer from 300+. "

Thats because some states allow only shotgun hunting while others allow rifles. Where I hunt deer, rifles are not an option.

"So why not shoot turkeys from 200 yards with highpowered rifles? "

2 reasons: Safety and practicality. Other turkey hunters are in full camoflauge usually very close to where you would be shooting. If you nail a turkey with a body shot from a high powered rifle 200+ yards away what would be left to consume? I don't know many people that trophy hunt at all and no one I know trophy hunts turkey.

Turkey hunting is done at close range with shotguns and you go for neck shots. Its very dangerous because of the camofluage issue and other hunters are doing turkey calls so its easy to mistake one for your target if you are not careful. Wearing blaze orange is not really an option since the turkeys pick this color up very well and you would not see any turkeys walking around wearing this color. Its much better to just pick a spot sit very still and wait for them to cross your path.

March 1, 2001, 11:56 AM
Legionnaire makes a good point concerning safety. Safety aside, however, most states that I am aware of separate deer season from turkey season. I understand that one of the primary reasons for this is because in the past most turkeys were killed by deer hunters--no deer in their sights but they shot the turkey with their deer gun. If you are talking about using a rifle to "put meat on the table" and buying at the grocery store not being an option, there is no ethical issue associated with using a rifle to make the kill. In the world of sport hunting, I'm not so sure. The people that I know who have killed a turkey with a rifle did so while on a deer stand, and the turkeys were shot at long range. Deer and turkeys often feed in the same places at the same time when the deer are feeding in daylight. A lot of modern hunting involves feeding game which often translates to training the game to come to a particular place to feed and the hunter shooting it when the game comes to the place it has been trained to come to feed. I think there are serious ethical issues with that hunting technique regardless of the weapon used or whether the game is turkey or deer. Aside from the feeding technique, I don't think there is an ethical issue with the weapon itself--the reason shotgunners have "turkey loads" is that they keep trying to extend the killing range of the gun so that the turkey doesn't have to be called in so close. However, at some point, one has to ask where is the hunting skill involved in hunting turkey for long distant shots? If I am up in a tree stand overlooking a known area of turkey activity--let's say a natural food source-- and I take a 150 yard shot to bag a bird I've certainly used far fewer skills than the hunter who calls the bird in to 25 yards. You asked a good question, I apologize for my rambling response.

March 1, 2001, 12:29 PM
I would say the skill lies in having the visual acuity to detect a small, dark turkey at 200yds! I have absolutely no problem with shooting a turkey at any distance with any weapon bigger than a .22rf. My dad routinely uses a 7mm-08 using 100gr HP for head shots. I personally use a 12gauge pump, but that's only because that weapon suits my deep woods hunting area. Should I be allowed to hunt a more farm-like area, I have no problem using a rifle.
Then again i eat everything I kill ('cept chucks and I'm thinking about it.) No one tells me how to hunt except the Dept of Fish and Game.

March 1, 2001, 01:07 PM
Probably should keep quiet, but I'll throw in my opinion. I don't believe it is any more or less ethical to kill a turkey with a bow, shotgun, rifle or handgun. More or less challenging perhaps, but no ethical difference. If you are legally hunting and make a clean kill you are doing nothing wrong. If it's an edible animal and you don't want the meat just donate/give it to someone that does (I'll keep mine).

I often hear hunters effectively say "If you don't hunt like I hunt your unethical" (or in so many words). This applies to weapons (bows vs firearms), baiting (legal in many states), use of dogs (rabbit, deer, birds) and tactics (human drives, treestand, stalk). As long as you are within the local hunting laws and are safe and courteous, I say use the method you like best. Hunting is a pretty one-sided affair, you have weapons and the quarry does not. Using a less effective weapon is no more sporting or ethical IMHO.

March 1, 2001, 01:14 PM
so if the issue is pulling the bird in to a close range why are people ever trying to extend the distances of turkey loads.
if the issue is saftey then dont you think an optical sight on a rifle is a better tool to identify a target that a bead on a shotgun. dead is still dead. 12 ga. or 25-06.
i have never hunted the bird before. this will be my first year and yes i will be using a shotgun (centurion II). i just think there is this mystical thing w/ turkey hunters that i dont understand yet.
i guess i'll understand better around mid april.

Art Eatman
March 1, 2001, 02:14 PM
XXSUPO, I think the pertinent comment is that on these long range shots you mention, they are mostly opportunities which arise while deer hunting. I haven't read of folks deliberately setting out with a rifle and an idea of long range shots for a turkey.

If by "extend the range of turkey loads", you mean shotguns: Better opportunity for a clean kill is a large part of it. Shotgun pellets lose energy quickly, so keeping the cluster of shot together for another ten yards or so is a Good Thing.

My twenty-year old eyes are forty-six years older; I wear trifocals. Youthful vision plus iron sights at shorter ranges can work in many areas of hunting. But, you darned betcha I'm gonna use a scope!

One thing I've not seen mentioned here on TFL: The use of scopes instead of iron sights has cut way, way down on guys shooting a hunting buddy at dusk...Ever think about how much that little vee of white teeshirt, right below your chin, can look like a deer's tail? Blam! followed by, "Oops!" = Serious bummer.


March 1, 2001, 03:44 PM
I'm with poodleshooter and Kerth.

You hunt, the turkey dies...either way you kill it, the turkey is going to be no happier if you use a shotgun, or a .223 to kill it. The guy who uses a rifle doesn't have to wear as much camo, and doesn't have to get ass close, but is it not just a challenging. The guy with the rifle has to make a serious shot on somthing smaller than a raquet ball...he's not using a gun that sprays a pattern the size of a basket ball wither, he has one little pellet, and he's got to make it count.

March 1, 2001, 03:55 PM

I see your point, but here's my concern. I recognize that the rifle shooter doesn't need the camo, doesn't need to get as close, etc. But the rifle shooter needs to be aware that there are others in the woods dressed in full camo making noises like turkeys!

Art's point about scope use cutting down on "mistaken for game" accidents is well taken. And frankly, I'd like the opportunity to try hunting turkey with a rifle (can't here in NY). Nevertheless, given that the incidence of "mistaken for game" accidents is much higher during turkey season than it is during deer season - even in shotgun only areas - I have concern. The "ethical" question is not about taking a turkey by one means versus another (I should have been clearer on this earlier). It is about taking care to not put others at unnecessary risk.


March 1, 2001, 04:31 PM
yeah, and that point is well taken...I don't think anybody (or anybody smart) would shoot at a clump of camoflauge simply because it makes a turkey noise, but many people do use decoys, and somebody setting their sights on a turkey (read:decoy) may not pay any attention to the clump of plant matter(read:hunter) behind it.

A while ago in one of my hunt rags there was a study about turkey decoys with bright blue heads, the real turkeys didn't seem to notice or care at all. Not like a grey, but an obnoxious blue. Maybe some regulations that don't allow red-headed turkeys would cut down on some of the accidents??(do it for the children:D) Maybe people should just be sure of their target? A turkey is definately not worth shooting some one over..( a deer though, now thats a diferent story completely:D)...

I actually don't care either way...49 states have a wild turkey population...I live in Alaska, it's the only one that dont:) But if I did hunt turkeys I would like to use a rifle. I like long range "sniping" better...I'd really like to take a turkey from 100 or so....that would be a thrill.

Art Eatman
March 1, 2001, 08:24 PM
A bunch of us in hunt camp were bulling about accidental shootings while hunting. My father's comment was, "Nothing looks like a deer, like a deer looks like a deer." It sure seems to me that the same holds true for a turkey. People don't have horns like a buck, and they're a lot bigger than turkeys.

If a hunter doesn't get some form of the proverbial buck fever, and takes the necessary time to properly identify a target--and what's behind it!--then accidents are unlikely.

All in all, given the total number of hunters in the U.S., there are fewer accidental shootings every year. There has been a steady decline since hunter-ed, hunter-safety, hunter-orange clothing has come into requirement or use.

Texas is almost all private-lands hunting. It is very uncommon for hunters on a tract to not know where their fellow-hunters are located. It seems to me this would be more of a problem on public-land hunts.


March 1, 2001, 09:23 PM
i am sure that alot of people that do get shot by accident are on the wrong property.

Arizona Fusilier
March 1, 2001, 11:46 PM
"i just think there is this mystical thing w/ turkey hunters that i dont understand yet."

You got that right. I also started to get into Turkey hunting recently (haven't bagged one yet). Like everything else, I went out and got some books on the subject first. I was instantly exposed to a completely different hunting culture.

Hard-corps turkey hunters are a unique breed, and there seems to be a definitive subset of ethics involved in this. As has already been mentioned, they appear to be rooted in hunter safety. Despite that, they still have some conflicting notions amongst themselves. Some maintain hunting with a rifle is an absolute moral outrage, others use small-caliber rifles, bows and arrows, and black powder, out to a range of 60 yards or so. When using shotguns, some say 40 yards is the outer limit for a reliable kill, other say it is unethical to shoot a turkey beyond 30 yards. Some experienced hands have described incredible stalking methods using every ounce of fieldcraft, others maintain you should never, ever, stalk a turkey. Some advocate novel techniques such as "charging" and scattering a flock then calling them back to you as they try to regroup, others say this is an extreme tactic of the impatient rookie. At any rate, I think you get the point.

I personally have not made up my mind on any specifics, except perhaps modern shotgun loads make 40 yards more realistic then before. My personal ethical choice is to consume my prey as opposed to trophy hunting, and like others have mentioned, know of no one who does not do the same, even if they'd like a nice rack (or beard and spurs). Consequently, the long range shot with a center-fire rifle is out of the picture (and illegal here in Arizona). When the time comes, I will use either my 12 gauge shotgun, or my .22 WMR (if that legal season is available) in a manner consistent with:

1. My safety
2. Other hunters safety
3. Taking my prey in a clean, efficient manner

And to use the classic Fort Benning qualifier, the exact technique would depend on the terrain and situation.

Hope you get your turkey.