Mounting A Red-Dot Sight On Your Favorite Turkey Hunting Shotgun

Back in early spring of 1987, I outlined and scripted the video shown here ... "BIG GAME BIRD" . Then, for the next 6 weeks Bass Pro Shops videographer Steve Hargis and I lost a lot of sleep, and put a lot of miles behind us, as we hit the road for a number of turkey hunts that were taped specifically for this video. Several hundred hours of "field time" were invested in the production of this 55-minute turkey hunting video. The production covered scouting...locating...calling...guns and loads...and making a good shot.

As big as a 20- to 25-pound wild turkey gobbler may look when it comes strutting into range of a turkey hunting shotgun, it may seem odd that a lot of hunters actually "MISS" their target, often at 20 yards or less. But...if you hunt turkeys for very long, you are likely to witness just that happen...or you may even find yourself missing a shot or two.

You see...while a wild turkey gobbler may look like a "very big target" ... the actual "kill zone" is about the size of a vertical strip of construction paper measuring 2" by 8" ... the head and neck! If the center of your shotgun pattern density is a little high...a little low...a bit right...or a bit left, you will very likely hit the big bird...but unless you put a piece of shot or two in the brain, or have several pieces of large shot (No.4 or No. 5) hit the spinal column, you are likely to see that gobbler take wing and sail off down the mountain or across the valley.

Precise shot placement, centering the head and neck, are crucial to making a quick, clean kill of a wild turkey gobbler. Easily, the two main reasons for missing a turkey gobbler are excitement and fatigue. More often than not...turkeys don't come easily. It can take several days of scouting just to locate some huntable birds...then several days of hard hunting to finally find yourself exactly where the birds want to go...and to have them come to some skilled calling. Just to get a good gobbler within shotgun range can take most of a three or four week season. And when it finally happens...and one of the big birds come strutting into the open 20 to 30 yards in front of's not over until the big bird is down.

IMG_8833Wild turkeys have tremendous eyesight, and are quick to spot even the slightest movement - and when they do...they're gone in an instant. It's not unusual to sit there, aiming a shotgun for 20 or more minutes before getting that perfect shot...and by that time a hunter's arms can be literally worn out. Many try to rush the shot, and fire before the bead is locked right on a gobbler's head...or unknowingly swing past as they pull on the trigger...and the center of that pattern is then somewhere on the "other side" of that "kill zone" . In the excitement of finally getting the shot, or to slightly succumb to a week or more of hard hunting, it's not uncommon for the hunter to totally loose consciousness of where the shotgun bead really is as the shotgun fires.

The more a hunter treats the wild turkey as "Big Game" , the more successful he or she will become at tagging a good tom. That's exactly why I titled Bass Pro Shops' very first feature length video "BIG GAME BIRD".

To more precisely place those hard-earned shots on a good gobbler, more and more turkey hunters are mounting one of the electronic reflex red-dot sights on their favorite turkey hunting shotguns. In fact, true die-hard turkey hunters generally have a shotgun that's dedicated specifically to hunting wild turkeys ... and once they have it patterning exactly where they want it, especially if they've installed a red-dot sight on the shotgun, they're as protective of the sight and shotgun combo as they are of their favorite big game rifle and scope combo.

My favorite of the Hi-Lux Optics red-dot sights for hunting is the extremely rugged and reliable Max-Tac Dot, shown on an older Remington Model 870 pump 12-gauge shotgun above left. This is a shotgun that I have hunted with, off and on, since the early 1960's. It's something of a family heirloom, which I turned into my dedicated turkey shotgun a few years ago. It's just a 2 3/4-inch chambered full-choke shotgun...but with precise holds on a gobbler's head and neck, with a short magnum load of No. 5's deadly out to 30 yards. Adding greatly to that precision shot placement is the Max-Tac Dot sight...which will ALWAYS center the pattern exactly where that red dot is on the target.

Knight ML turkeyOne of my all-time favorite turkey hunting shotguns is the Knight Rifles muzzleloading TK2000 in-line shotgun shown in the photo at right. This modern in-line ignition smoothbore is built with what is referred to as a "jug choke". Keep in mind, when "trying to load" a muzzle-loaded shotgun through the muzzle...the tighter the "choke" the more difficult (or impossible) it becomes to actually force a wad through the constriction. Most "Special Purpose" breechloading turkey hunting shotguns feature an extremely tight .665" "Extra Full" screw-in choke tube. The actual bore of a 12-gauge (straight cylinder bore) measures .729". So, when that charge of shot, and wad, hit the rear of the choke just before exiting the muzzle, when all of those pellets pass through the .064" tighter constriction at the muzzle, the pellets are all directed inward. That's what creates those tight turkey patterns of a modern breechloading turkey hunting shotgun.

The jug choke of the TK2000 muzzleloading shotgun "kind of" works on the same principal. However, there's no constriction. The choke of this shotgun allows the shot charge to follow along the cylinder bore wall to the muzzle, but instead of running into a "choke" that quickly steps down in bore diameter, the "jug choke" of this shotgun actually enlarges in diameter. The "choke"opens to around .772"... for a couple of inches ... then returns back to .729". Again, this redirects all those hundreds of lead pellets inward, back toward the center of the shot column.

<>Without a tight constriction type of choke, the muzzleloading hunter can easily load this shotgun with just about any 12-gauge one-piece plastic wad that can be loaded into a shotshell - and the TK2000 throws some exceptionally tight patterns. Knight Rifles even mounts a set of open rifle sights on the shotgun - so it can be sighted to print the pattern right where it is supposed to go. Also, the receiver does come drilled and tapped for mounting a scope...or a red-dot sight. The Montana mountain gobbler shown in the above right photo was taken "up close and very personal" like on a hunt a couple of springs back...when I was testing the prototype of the extremely small and compact Tac-Dot red-dot sight, which was introduced later that summer. The sight worked great for taking this big tom. (The sight is so small it's hard to see in the above right photo.) For more on that hunt, go to - IMG_8931This spring, I'm loaning the shotgun to a good friend who works with Cooper Firearms of Montana - and he just happens to be a fan of red-dot sights. So, I mounted one of the Hi-Lux Optics advanced Micro-Max B-Dot models on the shotgun (shown at left).

This muzzle-loaded 12-gauge has been designed to be loaded with powder and shot charges that are on par with the performance of 3- or 3 1/2-inch magnum 12-gauge breechloading shotguns. And they generate pretty much the same degree of recoil. The gun is one I use to test how well new electronic sights will hold up to the recoil of a magnum shotgun - and on a number of outings I've been the one to throw in the towel after several dozen shots with the TK2000 and Knight's recommended turkey hunting load. The sight is doing just fine...and still keeping patterns centered right on a gobbler's head.

IMG_8894The heaviest load I shoot out of this shotgun consists of 110-grains of FFg Triple Seven behind a 3 1/2-inch one-piece plastic wad filled with 2 1/2-ounces of No. 5 shot. This is an honest 40+ yard turkey load. A couple of years back, I took a good gobbler at 47 yards with the shotgun and load ... dropping the tom where it stood. The photo at right shows a 25-yard pattern thrown by the shotgun and load...and thanks to the Micro-Max B-Dot electronic sight now on the shotgun, there's not a wild turkey gobbler out there that will escape this shot placement!

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