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OPINION | ARKANSAS SPORTSMAN: Gear shines during turkey season

by Bryan Hendricks | April 29, 2021 at 2:13 a.m.

Using tungsten super shot, my 20-gauge has relegated my 12-gauge to the shelf for turkey hunting.

My gun is a Winchester SX3 20-gauge turkey hunting model featuring a barrel with a cantilever rail for mounting optics. The entire gun wears Mossy Oak Infinity camo. The barrel comes with excellent factory sights, but I added a Truglo Dual Color Open Dot electronic sight.

Additionally, I use a Trulock Turkey Federal Heavyweight #7 choke, which is designed for No. 7 TSS. My preferred load is 3-inch Federal with 1 1/2 ounce of No. 9 TSS.

The combination makes a 12-gauge obsolete. Many hunters who use TSS insist the 28-gauge and .410-cal. make a 20-gauge obsolete. I won't argue, but I'm not ready to cross that bridge.

I obtained the SX3 cheaply last summer. It wouldn't cycle because the original owner failed to clean the factory anti-rust lubricant from the barrel. Burnt lubricant clogged up the gas ports, preventing excess propellant gas from cycling the action. A thorough cleaning fixed that problem in about 15 minutes.

With Nos. 7 and 9 TSS, I tested a lot of different chokes from multiple manufacturers, but the Trulock conspicuously outperformed them all.

The final component in this system is the Truglo Dual Color Open Dot sight. With an easy-access dial, you can select multiple reticles in green or red. At the lowest setting, it is very bright in the woods for most of the day. I prefer a basic green dot. I sighted it in last summer at 50 yards.

In early April, hunting with Joe Volpe of Little Rock in Canadian County, Okla., I killed a big Rio Grande gobbler at around 20 yards. Any gun with any load will kill a turkey at 20 yards, so TSS was a neutral factor.

On Friday, I killed an eastern gobbler in Arkansas. My eyes deceived me. The gobbler was close enough for me to accurately estimate his beard length without magnification. I estimated it to be 40-45 yards away. I prefer to call gobblers close, but this one wouldn't come closer, and it was, I believed, within my pattern range. I centered the dot on the head. One shot took the gobbler down as if its legs had been yanked with a rope. It didn't so much as flap a wing.

I got up and began walking to the gobbler. I walked, and walked, and walked. I walked down one hill and up another. Some steps were shorter than others, and I also walked around obstacles, which increased the number of steps above the actual straight-line distance. Not having a rangefinder, I don't know the actual distance, but I took 76 steps.

I would not knowingly shoot at a turkey from that far, but for this one time, the 20-gauge proved itself equal to a 12-gauge, without the weight and without the recoil. TSS was definitely the determining factor.

Decoys

For many years I used Primos She-Mobile decoys, but this year I switched to Avian-X. They are much more lifelike and are available in multiple poses, like resting hen and breeding hen.

Volpe uses Avian-X, too, as he did for our Oklahoma hunts. They helped both of us bag gobblers, and Volpe said his Avian-X jake decoy was the deciding factor for the Arkansas gobbler he killed April 21.

Volpe said he talked to an Arkansas wildlife officer who uses Avian-X and Nebraska decoys. Nebraska decoys look more lifelike, but according to Volpe, the wildlife officer said gobblers ignore the Nebraska dekes and go straight to the Avian-X dekes.

I used an Avian-X on Friday, but it was not a factor because I put it in a bad spot. The five gobblers I called up couldn't see it. I credit the three Eddie Horton box calls and a David Taylor copper friction call for bringing in those gobblers.

Boots

The Irish Setter Hunt, a waterproof, snakeproof boot, is the best hunting boot I have used.

It is very durable, but also very light. Its flexible underfoot reduces fatigue and enhances comfort.

Instead of laces, it has wire cables that tighten with a twisting ratchet. To loosen the cables, simply pull out on the ratchet knob. It eliminates the tedious process of pulling out laces to reduce tension and then having to retighten them inch by inch.

The boots fit snug but not tight, providing armorlike protection to the knee.

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