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Liberty and (Turkey Hunting) For All

turkeyBy Horace Gore

The Illinois legislature is considering state house and senate bills that would allow hunters to use .410 and 28-gauge shotguns for spring turkey hunting. Both bills toy with the idea that young hunters and others who are recoil-shy need smaller gauges to hunt turkey. I got interested in these legislative bills and looked up the hunting rules for Illinois. An Illinois hunter would have to have a PhD in mitigated circumstance to hunt legally.

Spring turkey hunting is not for the young and meek. A successful Illinois hunter must have the ability to call a turkey (no baiting) and such a hunter should be able to shoot a 20-gauge with No. 4 shot in 3-inch shells. Most head/neck shots are a surety when you use a simulated hen decoy, which is legal in Illinois.

.410, 28-gauge not recommended

I have shot a .410 and 28-gauge for many years, and neither shotgun is recommended for turkey hunting. I don’t even recommend the .410 for quail, but I have used a 28-gauge for doves and quail with success.

In my many years of hunting, I have known of only one hunter who bagged a spring gobbler with a .410. He was a young guy who applied to hunt on the Kerr WMA in about 1971. The hunter showed up in green J.C. Penny coveralls, carrying a Stevens single shot .410. Everyone giggled and made faces until the hunter came in about 9 a.m. with a big Rio Grande gobbler with a 10-inch beard!

I know spring turkey hunting. Through the years I have bagged about 40 Rio Grande turkeys and one Eastern turkey with an 1897 Winchester 12-gauge pump shotgun. I never recommend anything less than 12-gauge, unless the hunter is younger than 12 years, and then it’s a 20-gauge with 3-inch shells.

Leave ’em at home

My philosophy for spring turkey hunters is to leave the .410 and 28-gauge at home. Any level-headed hunter can take a gobbler at a decoy hen with a full choke 20-gauge with 3-inch shells and a head/neck shot. However, without a decoy you can never tell what the distance will be, and a 12-gauge covers all situations.

Texas as a hunting state has never lamented over the gauge and shot for hunting turkey or any other game bird. There has always been a confidence that the hunter will take a gun that’s capable of putting a gobbler on the ground, or a dove or quail in the bag. Texas hunting rules rely on common sense, and my suggestion would be that Illinois do the same, rather than have hunting regulations thicker than lawyers in a phone book.

Brandon Ray photo