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Old June 2, 2024, 11:08 PM   #1
bamaranger
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turkey load lethality

A very common discussion among turkey hunters is appropriate shot size and maximum range for turkey shotguns. I stumbled up on this article recently and it has to be the most comprehensive and scientific study of LEAD turkey loads ever done. If you are a TSS shooter, we know, TSS is a game changer. It is also super expensive. If you shoot lead, (like me) you read on.

The researcher, guy named Tom ROSTER, wrote this up for Outdoor Life Magazine. Roster shot a large number of live domestic turkeys, as well as 200 domestic turkey head/necks (all acquired from processing farm). He then conspired with a vet hospital to X-Ray those heads/necks and count pellets and broken bones resultant pellet strikes.

I have read some amazing stuff on the web concerning opinions/experience on turkey loads and turkey ranges. One guy shoots #8 trap loads. Another guy shoots ballistic gelatin and claims #6 lead can kill to 70 yds. Somebody else shoots layers of cardboard in a shot box. EVERYBODY posts their pet load and how lethal it is (me included)

ROSTER's study uses real turkeys, and scientific method and statistical evaluation. If you're a gobbler hunter, I strongly encourage you to read this study. I am not tech savy enough to post a link, but found the study by searching : "Tom Roster lethality study turkey loads outdoor life" Perhaps someone more competent can post a real link.
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Old June 3, 2024, 07:00 AM   #2
stagpanther
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What about something like Hevi-shot bismuth/steel (which is faster)? Does that tungsten load accelerate wear of the bore? Just curious.

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Old June 3, 2024, 11:36 AM   #3
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wear

I have not shot Hevi-shot and ROSTER did not in his study. He did shoot an all steel load, logged results and made conclusions.

I can only comment on what I see in the numbers. A quick check shows that Hevi is slightly denser than lead. Additionally, Hevi normally contains a tungsten mix which would contribute to hardness as well. Thus I would think, Hevi in a pellet v. pellet comparison would be superior to lead. To what degree I cannot say. A local retired WCO of my acquaintance shoots Hevi and is a fan.

I read chatter concerning pure TSS. There are comments about slightly bulged barrels on older fixed choke guns. True or not I cannot say. I know that it is advised to shoot a TSS rated choke tube if you shoot "space shot". I know that properly loaded TSS shotshells use a special wad to address TSS and tube/barrel wear.

ROSTER's study is about lead and to a slight degree, steel. His lead findings will ruffle some feathers (pun intended) but agrees with observations and conclusions I surmised over the years. I saw this description of shooting gobblers on another thread and like it...."you are basically shooting at a marble on the end of a soda straw".... OK, maybe two soda straws. That analogy represents the skull and spine, made of bird bone. I cannot prove this, but suspect that a gobbler, being a ground bird that flies, has denser bones than a bird that has evolved to fly first and walk otherwise. Gobblers don't migrate incredible distances and incredible heights. They are not geese or ducks. They are not a small ground birds like grouse or pheasants. You've got penetrate that gobbler bone to get to the brain/spinal cord underneath to anchor the bird on the spot, or minimally, to allow you to recover him easily. ROSTER's study actually addresses pattern/pellets/penetration to establish what distances that happens with what lead pellet size. ON LIVE TURKEYS AND TURKEY PARTS. Gel is gel and simulates flesh...no bone. Cardboard is cardboard.....period. Those mediums allow comparison of pellets. ROSTER shot real turkeys and allows the evaluation of loads/pellets on gobblers.

I have always been suspect of the old wing shooting mantra of "pattern fails before penetration" when applied to gobblers. ROSTER's study addresses this very concept.... and muddies the water. For certain, you can shoot gobblers with a load of round headed sewing pins, and if he's close enough, you'll bag him. Keep your shots under 30 yds and you can shoot nearly any shot size, load and choke you want and collect your gobbler. But at 35 yds and beyond, certainly 40 and beyond, you had better understand what is happening.

I believe ROSTER'S study will help you do that!

Last edited by bamaranger; June 3, 2024 at 11:39 AM. Reason: more detail
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Old June 3, 2024, 01:07 PM   #4
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I've never shot a turkey at 70 yards. In fact, that's about my longest shot at a deer with a lever action 30-30.
I've never shot a turkey at 50 yards. Probably not even 40 yards.

A 20 gauge roll crimper costs about $25.00. You'll need some Longshot powder, wads for steel shot, and felt 28 gauge wads to fill up all the empty space in the 20 gauge shell. Then get a pound of #9 TSS18 shot. Price... about $70 and it's going to make you 16 1 ounce shells You don't need more payload than that!

So your shells are about $5.00 each, because you reload.

Out of an IC choke, these things will group amazing. Not much point in choking down more than that.

At 35 to 40 yards, any good lead turkey load in 12 gauge is perfectly fine. Heck, even a #5 pheasant load is enough. They are not dinosaurs.
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Old June 3, 2024, 04:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
I believe ROSTER'S study will help you do that!
The few times I went on an actual turkey hunt I always carried hevi-shot. Still have a few shells in an old box as you can see from the picture. I know next to nothing about turkey hunting--but even from the outset knew that it was pretty much folly to hunt with lead shot.
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Old June 3, 2024, 06:53 PM   #6
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If you are hunting with a 12 ga shooting 3" shells at 40 yards or less ammo choice and even choke isn't particularly hard. #4, #5, or #6 lead from a standard full choke tube will get the job done. If you want to shoot farther than 40 yards then choices become more important

If you want to hunt with a 20 ga then an aftermarket extra full choke tube and the more expensive ammo starts to become important. You can't pick up just any box of ammo from Walmart, but IME there are some reasonably priced options out there without having to pay $10+ per shot.

If you want to hunt with a 28 or .410 at ranges anywhere near 40 yards that is where the expensive TSS shot is a game changer.

I'm not saying it doesn't make 12 and 20 ga shotguns more effective at longer ranges. Just that I'm happy with the performance I get with less expensive ammo, especially in 12 ga.

Personal preference, but I'm sold on a short barreled 20 ga as a turkey. shotgun. The light weight and compact gun are worth the small premium for the ammo that I use. I'm OK with limiting myself to 40 yard shots.
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Old June 3, 2024, 10:23 PM   #7
bamaranger
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yes, yes and folly

Oh yes, as I stated towards the end of my post, limit your range, say under 35-40 yds, and any reasonable load with full choke will suffice. My observations these days is much spring gobbler hunting is done from blinds with decoys in open fields and food plots. Place the dekes at 15 yds or so, and even birds hanging up another 20 or so out (35-40 yds total) are vulnerable. Hunting with such a set up, one can control to some degree, their shot distances. You can even set out subtle range markers.

I just totaled up and averaged all my turkey kills over 50 years of hunting. Average distance....31 yds. However, that average is a bit deceiving. For reasons I cannot completely explain, early in my hunting, say the first 25 years, I had a number of kills at under 25 yds. That skewed my average a good bit. I suspect that with the loads and chokes of the day, I was holding off on my shots till birds were within total certain range. In recent years, certainly the last 15, I am killing more turkeys at distances around 40 yds plus a couple. Killing them cleanly for the most part I might add, ....with lead.

I figure there's two reasons for that. One, loads and resultant patterns have improved, giving me confidence to take longer shots. Two, as my eyes have slipped with age, I have switched from basic iron sights, to LPV scopes on my turkey guns. The LPV's allow for VERY precise aiming, delivering those improved patterns exactly on target (when I do my part). As things have developed to allow me to shoot (a bit) further, the ROSTER study allows me to determine the most effective way to do that. Make no mistake, bamaranger is not endorsing shooting gobblers at extreme long range. Spring gobbler hunting is still a short range game and and that is one of the aspects that makes the sport so addicting. But, ROSTERS study will allow you to add some yardage to your shots that will permit taking birds consistently a bit further than you might have in the past.

Finally, until the advent of Hevi shot and TSS, shotgunning for gobblers was done with lead, and many, many gobblers fell to a load of lead shot. I still shoot lead, modern wads and tweaking of charges has taken lead about as far as it can go, and well ahead of where it was a mere 10 yers ago.
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Old June 4, 2024, 06:05 AM   #8
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My impression after reading the article was really it was more about the shooter's ability to be sure of the relative distance to target and its consequences than about one type of shot being absolutely superior to another. I'm pretty good at estimating distances without a laser, but not good enough to reflexively know the difference between 30 and 40 yards, or 40 to 50 yards especially in the excitement of the moment when I have singular focus on a target.
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Old June 4, 2024, 12:57 PM   #9
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article

Hey, thanks for at least taking the time to read my suggestion! My take was ROSTER concluded that #5 shot produced the best combination of pattern density and necessary penetration, especially past 35 yds.

A long time ago, I shot the old Activ shotshell, an all plastic hull. Actually there was a thin steel wafer in the rim, but it was not visible. Activ offered the heaviest payload ever offered then or now, in a 3" shell.....2-1/4 oz. That's not a typo. Abiding by the "pattern then penetration" mantra, I shot #6 and it was indeed a dense cloud of shot. When Active folded, I bought all I could find, and shot turkeys with all but a few. With all that shot in the hull, something had to give, and I also suspected that the velocities for that payload were pretty low, especially from my 21" barrel. I had to pin and stomp quite a few gobblers, that were anchored, but not necessarily done. I began to wonder about penetration and lethality.

When I had shot all my Activ shells up, I began searching for another load. I'd read good things about the Win XX Supreme HV and an acquaintance gave me a couple with #5 shot to pattern. They did quite well, providing denser patterns than other 2 oz loads from other makers. And, with the 1-3/4 oz payload, they were faster. I bought a box w/ #5 and hunted them and the difference in anchored v. DRT was immediately apparent. I became a big fan, and still hunt that load a bit. When Winchester released the XR/HV load a decade or so later, they patterned even tighter, perhaps too tight for me, but I hunt the XR HV #5 load a lot, especially in early season and light foliage.

I no longer shoot #6 shot in 3" magnum. Numbers wise, I am getting the same pellet counts with XR 1-3/4 #5 shot as I was getting with 2-1/4 oz of #6 in the old Activ shells from 30 years ago. And the #5's are bigger and faster! Hence, better penetration at distances past 35 yds.

Consider the math, there are over 500 pellets in a 2-1/4 oz load of #6 lead shot. A 1-3/4oz load of #5 has about 325. (that's all from memory, I might be a wee bit off) Despite the fact the Active #6 load had 175 more pellets in the shot cloud, the two shells deliver near identical patterns.
And the modern shell does it with bone breaking #5's.

We've come a long way.
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Old June 17, 2024, 05:40 PM   #10
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Tom Roster did a great series of seminars on how to shoot steel shot when it became required for migratory bird hunting. I was lucky enough to attend one. He's good, seriously good.
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