Generally, if a bird is in range, it’s because the hunter lifts his or her head off the stock. This action usually happens when just sighting with a front barrel bead. Hunters are less prone to do this with a rear sight or other optical sighting device.
I can’t remember the first time I missed a bird, but I believe it was after I’d already bagged eight or nine turkeys. Up to that point, the sight on my turkey gun was the factory front bead. After that turkey walked, I started thinking an optical device was the way to keep that miss to a one-time thing. And that sent me on a journey through several sight systems.
The first stop in my search was a removable fibre-optic-front- and rear-sight system. Since I used the gun for multiple species, I wanted to be able to easily remove the sight. I started with a rear sight that was attached to the rib with a plate and screws. The system worked well and offered a fair amount of adjustment, but I discovered while hunting that it could be accidentally adjusted (mine moved upwards a half-inch), rendering it useless.
Next, I tried a snap-on fibre-optic sight, but without any adjustment, it wasn’t the answer. The last thing a hunter wants in the excitement of a gobbler displaying is to have to remember to shoot high or low, to accomodate the sight.
Red dots and holo sights
Non-magnifying reflex sights, commonly known as red dots, have morphed into electronic sights with more colours and technology. Turkey-specific models are available now that co-relate the size of the dot to the size of a turkey’s head at 40 yards. If you are only using the scope for turkeys, this is definitely the way to go.
The advantage of red dots is quick target acquisition. Adjustability is another bonus. The disadvantage is the need for batteries. If your battery dies, you have no sighting aid at all. And like all optical sights, rain is its enemy.
Holographic sights have gained a big following. Having only a rear reticle, these are easy to use and offer quick target acquisition, but they also depend on batteries. However, even if the battery fails, it’s simpler to resort to sighting down the barrel than it is with a red dot.
An optical scope doesn’t depend on batteries and is always ready. It offers quick target acquistion and adjustability, plus it gathers more light (to enable shooting at first light), and magnification.
Ideally, a turkey scope is a low-power fixed or zoom model. I prefer a plain reticle, or a crosshair and circle, as it’s less cluttered than models with distance compensation. Be sure the scope is a shotgun model, or at the very least, has long eye relief. You do not want to find out post-purchase that your forehead is too close to a short-eye-relief model.
The downsides of scopes include the additional weight, and the difficulty of using them in the rain, however, new technologies claim to address the latter issue.
The latest innovations in scopes are turkey-specific models with a specialized reticle to ensure the bird is in range.
All in one?
An old adage says beware the hunter with one shotgun. I wasn’t quite in that boat, but I did use one 12 gauge for turkey, waterfowl, and pheasants, as well as with a slug for deer. Putting the scope on every fall for deer season and taking it off again before turkey season was a pain, and resighting ate up more expensive sabot slugs than I would have liked.
I eventually settled on a fixed-power 2X scope for turkey, the same one I use for deer hunting. My solution involved buying another gun for all other hunting. I also use the new gun with a snap-on fibre-optic sight for turkey hunting if the forecast calls for rain. It’s a great compromise. Not only does this combination cover most situations, it gave me a reasonable excuse to buy another gun.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 edition of Ontario OUT of DOORS. For more features like this, subscribe today.