Change is a good thing

As humans we don’t like change. Truth be told — at this point in my life — change is a bad word. Keeping everything the same is a goal to strive for, which for some seems boring, but so be it.

Yet, when it comes to fishing and hunting, I embrace change or I prefer the challenge.

Doing the same thing over and over again can be boring, so I suggest this spring we all change things a bit.

It can be as simple as only taking one style of call hunting; possibly hunting public land; taking somebody who has never hunted before with you; or listening to the world wake up on a spring morning.

This past week I stopped into Western New York’s newest sporting goods store, Valley Outdoors. Nestled at the four corners of the village of Cassadaga, I found everything in big-box stores, but right in our backyard.

After trading a few hunting stories with Adam and his staff, the topic of turkey guns was brought up. Of course, I stated that it seems like every season I still go back to my 12 gauge, after either starting the season with a smoke or bow. Then what seemed like a choir of folks started singing the praises of spring gobbler hunting with a .410.

First, the .410 is the smallest of “common” gauges that can be found in U.S. shotgun gauges. I was first introduced to the .410 when I was knee high to a grasshopper in the field behind my grandparent’s farm. Like most youths, it was the first shotgun I have ever shot.

It wasn’t until later that I had the opportunity to get into the .410 again. It was back in the day when I was shooting registered skeet. In registered skeet, to qualify for registered shoots, one had to shoot 100 rounds and your score for the 100 would place you in a class. Don’t much remember how I shot that day, but I do remember shooting .410, .28, .20 and .12 gauge to get classified. Again, back in the day, a shooter could have one gun over/under that offered “tubes.” There were .410, .28- and .20-gauge tubes that actually screwed into the inside barrel of your shotgun. Of course, many of us just used four different guns. In my case, it was a Remington .1100, each shotgun being in each gauge.

Over the past few years, turkey hunters across the country have been customizing .410s to hunt spring turkeys. My first thought was, OK we can get the gun and choke, but what about the load that will take down a spring long beard. Today ammo manufacturers are custom producing spring turkey loads for .410.

Hunters have been using versions of stick and string to chase everything from upland game to bears for centuries. Heck, I have been hunting spring longbirds with my hunting bow for some time.

Having hunted behind and produced video on many archery spring gobbler hunts, I can tell you first hand, if you really want to step up your game and see just how good a spring turkey hunter is, try to get a turkey out to 25 yards with a quarter size target that doesn’t stand still very long.

While I know several hunters who chase spring gobbler with a .20 gauge and are very successful season in and season out. I also know they are some of the best all-around hunters I speak to every year because they have to wait for just the right moment to pull the trigger, not just blast one at 40 yards in a field.

Again, why would one want to give these pea-brain-sized critters another adventure or just give yourself a disadvantage? Personal choice and challenge.

After shooting both Stevens and Mossberg’s version of .410 spring turkey gun and proper load, I truly believe that a turkey can be killed within 20 yards given the proper setup.

The new loads for the .410 have changed over the years along with new pellet material. Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) and Federal’s new Heavyweight TSS loads were the talk of the turkey woods for all hunters, but for those who have taken up the .410, these two have opened a new style of spring gobbler hunter. At 18 g/cc, TSS is the densest shot material available. Lead is 11.3 g/cc.

One of the loads I have found success is a 3-inch .410 with ⁄‹/16 ounce of No. 9 shot.

It seems that it’s common knowledge for those in the know that the .410 push is really credited as Tungsten Super Shot. Tight-patterning and dense enough that No. 9 shot can make lethal hits out to 30 yards in the right conditions, ammo manufacturers Federal and Apex expected to sell plenty of .12- and .20-gauge TSS loads, but they were unprepared for the run on .410s. They sold out fast, leaving a lot of hunters unable to find out what the excitement is about.

The good news is there will be a lot more .410 TSS from Federal and Apex this spring, as well as brand-new TSS loads from Browning. And there will be guns for it, too, and even choke tubes.

You can kill turkeys with a .410 and lead shot. You can also call them very close and kill them with your breath if it’s bad enough, but that’s no way to fill a gobbler tag. Loaded with any non-TSS shot, the .410 makes an extremely limited turkey gun. After see information regarding patterning .410 lead, steel, and Hevi-Shot loads, it’s pretty much concluded that even in the best case, 20 yards would be my maximum .410 range

TSS changes everything. Because the pellets are so dense, even 9-shot makes clean kills, equating to lead 5s in penetration. Going down to 9s allows manufacturers to fit 270 to 295 pellets in a 3-inch .410 hull, leaving room for a tough, full-length shot cup and buffering to protect the bore and improve patterns. What’s more, the hard TSS pellets aren’t prone to deformation like lead.

Trulock chokes is one of the companies that is offering .410 chokes, and what we have seen is real tight choke (.640) will not work for .410s. Turlock has found that a .390 tube works with TSS loads. As the .410 becomes more common and sought after, more companies will hit the market, but remember when looking for a choke keep it around the .390 number. Of course, it’s important to pattern your gun and try different loads to make sure you are totally comfortable with your equipment.

Some wouldn’t call hunting turkeys with a .410 and TSS a challenge, because you’re not giving up much of anything. But also some would say killing a turkey with a .410 is the best way to do things, but others would be open to the challenge of getting a longbeard into that magic 20-25 yard range.


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