Larry Case: Shotgunning with the best in the Show-Me State

Dave Miller, pictured, the shotgun product manager for CZ-USA and a skilled shooter, recently showed outdoors columnist Larry Case the joys and challenges of hunting turkeys in Missouri.
Dave Miller, pictured, the shotgun product manager for CZ-USA and a skilled shooter, recently showed outdoors columnist Larry Case the joys and challenges of hunting turkeys in Missouri.

"I am a pilgrim and a stranger/Traveling through this wearisome land" - "I Am A Pilgrim," Merle Travis

Do you enjoy traveling? Many of you out there do, but I confess that I may not be the best traveler in the world.

To be honest, I never traveled much until starting down the outdoors writing trail a few years ago. What I find now is that I may enjoy the destination (usually for hunting or a gun-related activity), but getting there may not be a party.

Airports and flying don't seem to be on my list of favorite things, but it is all part of traveling and what we endure when we leave our own backyard. When I get home from a trip, I usually vow it will be a long time before I leave again.

Before I know it, I am looking at the horizon and dreaming.

That's what happened a few weeks ago when I ventured out to the Show-Me State of Missouri for some turkey hunting.

I'd been discussing this trip for a while with Dave Miller, the shotgun product manager at CZ-USA (, a firearms manufacturer headquartered in Kansas City, Kan. CZ-USA is the U.S.-based subsidiary of the Czech Republic company that makes a long list of firearms, including rifles, pistols, submachine guns and some very fine shotguns. (Many of the latter are made in Turkey, which has a long history of making fine shotguns.) CZ-USA also owns Dan Wesson Firearms, which has produced excellent revolvers and pistols for years, including some fine 1911s.

Last year I wrote about a shotgun feat by Miller that I do not expect to be equaled anytime soon. He broke no fewer than 3,653 clay targets in an hour to set a Guinness World Record. I was there, I saw it, and to say the least, it was impressive.

Miller is what I would call a rabid shotgun shooter. He lives and breathes it.

Besides doing all the shotgun product manager stuff for CZ-USA, he is their demonstration and exhibition shooter. I don't know how many days a year he spends on the road firing shotguns, but it is way more than I want to be away from home. Saying he fires a shotgun is like saying Michelangelo painted a few pictures.

So when he called me this spring with an invitation to hunt some Missouri turkeys, I was all for it, but secretly I was a little nervous. If this guy went after turkeys the way he does clay targets, could I keep up with him?

Miller has no faults in the hospitality department. He secured an absolutely beautiful piece of property for us to hunt on (many thanks to owner J.W. Page) not far from Kansas City. He also found stunning lodging a mile from where we hunted, the Laurel Brooke Farm Bed & Breakfast near Weston, Mo. We were set!

The day I arrived, he drove me out to see the hunting area. We also took time to unlimber the shotguns we would be using. We chose the CZ 612 Magnum Turkey Shotgun, and by the end of our shooting session, I was glad we did.

Any shotgunner needs at least one good pump gun, and the CZ 612 may be the one for you. It weighs an amazing 6.8 pounds (that is light!), has a 3 1/2-inch chamber for those who want to shoot the big shells (it also takes 3- and 2 3/4-inch varieties) and features an action I don't believe is equaled by any shotgun in this price range.

"This is the smoothest, most reliable action on a pump shotgun since the Model 12," Miller said. "It is very durable and easy to operate."

After carrying and hunting with the CZ 612 for five days, I had to agree. The gun is hydro-dipped in Realtree Xtra Green camo and comes with an extra full choke (for turkey hunting) and a modified choke. I would have no problem taking this shotgun upland bird hunting - or waterfowl hunting, for that matter.

When you take all of this into consideration with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $429, this shotgun is hard to beat. If you can find a better-made pump shotgun at this price, you should buy it.

I decided to put an optic on one of the shotguns we carried and chose the Trijicon MRO Red Dot Sight. You have heard me talk about the MRO before, and I believe this is an excellent optic for a spring turkey gun. This sight allows for lightning-fast target acquisition, has a five-year battery life and is extremely rugged because Trijicon optics are built to military specs. Miller and I did not baby the shotguns or the optic on this trip, and they came through it just fine.

While the hospitality of all the Missouri people was wonderful, the Missouri turkeys I came across were not as friendly. They were acting a little snobbish and did not want to walk in and be decently shot.

On the first morning after a very long ordeal with a particularly uppity gobbler, Miller pulled a rabbit out of his hat. With a strategic decoy placement, he coaxed the old reprobate gobbler to come right in.

I admit to some fear I might miss in front of a shotgunner like Miller, but the CZ 612 spoke and the turkey went down as if struck by lightning. (Whew!) I think Miller was as happy as I was.

Good friends, beautiful country, a good shotgun and some turkeys to talk to. It doesn't get much better, folks. Think about Missouri if you are considering a road trip for turkeys - I think the state's annual harvest is something like 45,000.

Me? I'm glad to be home, but you know, I have been thinking about a little trip down to

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va., has been a devoted outdoorsman all of his life and is a contributing columnist for The Times Free Press. You can write to him at

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