Meridian Star

May 9, 2014

Gobblers that didn't survive Spring and why

By Otha Barham
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — The news I am hearing is that most area hunters did pretty well this recently expired spring gobbler season. Yet the birds were henned up early in the season where I hunted. They got pretty interested in our calling the last part of April. I managed to take two three-year-olds when the time got short.

    Some of you recall some informal testing I did on the newest Federal Heavyweight Turkey loads a couple of years back. I was so impressed with the shells as they patterned on paper that I discontinued my handloads with which I had taken the nation's grand slam and a wagon load of additional birds. There is no way I can duplicate what the Federal's can do with the new rear-opening FLITECONTROL wads. I even changed to 20 gauge to lighten my equipment and the results are amazing.

    The first bird I took this season was standing behind a light screen of brush. I thought he was maybe a bit over 30 yards. Turns out he was an honest 40 yards. In either case I would not have hesitated because I know what the specialized gun will do at even 50 yards. Sure enough, plenty of # 7 Heavyweight shot got through the brush (I found six pellets in the base of the gobbler's neck) and dropped the bird with only a quiver. Here is the news from today's shells; the shot wad was found lying under the deceased bird!

    For readers who might have missed my reviews of these shells in 2012, the wad opens at the rear instead of the front of the shot column and is many times heavier than the wads I and the loading companies used all my life. Of course the shot leaves the wad quickly, but the wad is so heavy that it bounces off a 40 yard target every shot (and off turkeys at that distance it appears.) There are no opening “ears” at the front end of the wad.

    Some will scoff at my use of #7 shot (not #7 1/2) until they learn that one “much heavier than lead” #7 pellet carries the energy of a single #5 lead pellet. And I am shooting a bunch more of the 7s. I am sure many will continue to use 5s or 6s because change is very painful or whatever reasons. And I agree it just don't sound right, does it? If anyone cares to test the patterns and penetration of the new shot as I did, feel free. But if you wish to use loads that have served you well all these years, please find success, happiness and an untroubled mind.

    Since Federal discovered the graces of their newfangled wad, other ammunition makers have rushed to compete. And most have done a good job, although I have not tested their products, except for the makers of Heavyshot (who cooperated with Remington for a while) and which I believe was marketing their “heavier than lead” loads first in the industry.

    I did test fire a couple of Winchester turkey shells (the company has more than one turkey load) and the 12 gauge ones I fired were able to keep tight patterns even with a shockingly powerful powder charge. A disadvantage of the Federal HEAVYWEIGHTs with the new wad is that a box of five retails for over $30 in places I have looked. My second gobbler fell at only 18 yards, so a target load of #9s would likely have sent him quite handily to his reward.

    Remember, I am not asking anyone to give a rat's ankle about shot size, effective range, new wads, improved shot, penetration, 40 yard patterns, etc., etc. But there are enough of us weird ones who are interested in the details, especially if we are handloaders, that we choose to mention them here every two years or so. Handloaders never like to touch off a shot and not know what is happening 40 yards out there in the atmosphere. Too many toms can run off gleefully, having dropped only a couple of feathers.